President Obama should try to help Indonesia qualify for the 2023 World Cup:

For those that do know, President Obama grew up for part of his childhood in Indonesia with his step father and mother. It was there that he learned the Indonesian language which he used to be fluent in.

President Obama’s step-father was Indonesian-born, Lolo Soetoro, and from 1967 to 1971 (age 6 to 10), President Obama lived in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, with his step-father, mother, and step-sister. He would eventually move back to Hawaii, and his mother, Ann Durham, and his step-sister, Indonesian-born, Maya Soetoro-Ng, would come to Hawaii a year later. Both his mother and step-sister would return to Indonesia in 1975, leaving President Obama in Hawaii. His mother was very well educated and specialized in economic anthropology and rural development of Indonesia.

While both his mother and his step-father are no longer alive, Maya Soetoro-Ng still is. And thus, President Obama’s Indonesian roots continue.

But, what does President Obama, basketball, and his Indonesian roots have to do with each other and the 2023 World Cup? Well, President Obama is a basketball fan and former basketball player, and after leaving the Oval Office in 2017, President Obama, FIBA, and the NBA worked together to transform basketball in Africa, creating a new version of Africa’s continental club tournament, the Basketball Africa League (BAL). And, with basketball gaining more and more popularity in Africa, it begs the question of which area President Obama will try to help improve next in basketball?

One such place may be in Kenya. While Kenya is of course in Africa, and thus benefits from these developments, Kenya itself needs to develop better domestic basketball. President Obama shares a special connection to Kenya with many family members, and his father having been from Kenya. Kenya just qualified for the 2021 Afrobasket and will be 1 of the last 16 African nations in the running to qualify for the 2023 FIBA World Cup. So, of course, this is awfully tempting. However, President Obama really should direct his immediate attention to a much more important project, and that is developing basketball more in Indonesia!

Indonesia will be one of three co-host nations for the 2023 World Cup, and thus will host two preliminary round groups and one second round group in Jakarta. And, while the other co-hosts, Japan and the Philippines, have already received their automatic qualification, Indonesia will only receive an automatic qualification if they finish top 8 in the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup, which they will host next year.

Indonesia has a not very good basketball history. Indonesia finished 4th place at the FIBA Asia Cup in 1967, but has never done as well since. Indonesia have never qualified for the World Cup or the Olympics, and had not qualified for the FIBA Asia Cup, until this year as the host, since 2011. In 2011, they finished 13th out of 16 teams, losing all 3 group stage games, to Jordan, Syria, and Japan, but winning both of their classification games over Bahrain and India. Since then, Indonesia has seen the renaming of their league to the Indonesian Basketball League (IBL), with lots of restructuring, and had seen one of their IBL teams compete in the regional ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) for a while, and actually win the league in 2019. Currently, no Indonesian side competes in the ABL.

These changes to the structure of professional basketball in Indonesia has brought a lot more opportunity to Indonesian basketball players. Plus, there have been many naturalized basketball players as a result, as lots of foreign basketball players seek to find professional leagues that will pay them money and are legit. And, this temporary residence often leads to certain players being naturalized, if they have little chance to play for their home nation. FIBA allows one naturalized player per a team, and thus Indonesia will be choosing from a list of naturalized players to use at this upcoming 2021 FIBA Asia Cup, which will help them out tremendously. So, already, not only does a better professional league bring more talent and thus better competition, but it also potentially brings national team players too.

However, while Indonesia’s professional circuit has been helping out, it does appear that is not doing enough yet for their national team. Prior to Indonesia becoming the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup host nation, Indonesia was trying to qualify for the FIBA Asia Cup the old-fashioned way. And, in their first part, they went 5-0, with close wins over Malaysia and Thailand, a win over Singapore, and dominant wins over Brunei and Cambodia. The next round saw them finish 1-1, with a loss to Malaysia and a big win over Macau. The next round saw them go 3-2 (as the 1-1 record carried over) with a wins over Singapore and Thailand, and a loss to Guam. This meant that Indonesia would advance to the next round of qualifiers again, where this time they faced World Cup calibre competition for the first time (however, to be fair, Guam is might be this calibre too). The first two games saw Indonesia lose to South Korea and the Philippines by 30 points and more. Luckily, Indonesia got to play Thailand, and beat them again. Indonesia got to play these three again, and would perform much better, losing to South Korea and the Philippines by less than 30 points and defeating Thailand by more than they had this qualifying campaign. This did not qualify Indonesia for the FIBA Asia Cup, but did qualify them for one more extra qualification round, however, Indonesia would later be named the host, and thus Indonesia are now qualified.

So, where does that leave Indonesia and their hopes for qualifying for the World Cup in 2023? Well, it leaves Indonesia with a better chance than they have had since maybe 1967. All Indonesia needs to do, is finish top 8 of 16 nations at the FIBA Asia Cup to qualify for the World Cup. And, if they cannot do this, they can still qualify through the normal qualifications like everyone else. This means that essentially, if Indonesia goes 1-2 in group stage, and then wins 1 game in the knockout stages, Indonesia will be in the World Cup for the first time. This may not seem like a lot, but considering that Indonesia has only played two games against nations already qualified for the FIBA Asia Cup and lost by 20+ twice, and 30 or more twice, this means Indonesia has to greatly improve in the next year to make their team competitive for the FIBA Asia Cup, and the World Cup qualifiers if they have to go through this route.

And, while President Obama may not be able to transform Indonesian basketball within one year, his influence could see a rise in popularity and sponsorship dollars go to the IBL, which would bring in more star players and raise the level of competition for the 2021-2022 season, which is exactly what Indonesian players need to get better. A year of higher level competition would go a long way in helping Indonesia finish top 8, as just two games against the Philippines and South Korea saw Indonesia improve by a +9 margin across their 3 games in that stage of qualifiers. If Indonesia can continue to improve their margins throughout the year, Indonesia could find itself being competitive with the best teams in Asia, and thus able to defeat teams 9-16, a much more likely scenario. And, an extra year of IBL investment and popularity for the 2022-2023 season, with higher level of play would give Indonesia a better chance to put up a good performance in the World Cup in their home country, should Indonesia qualify. Considering that the Indonesian national football (soccer) team has not qualified for the FIFA World Cup since 1938 and the Olympics since 1956, and has only qualified once for each with 1 tie and 2 losses across the competitions, this would be a prime time for basketball to make its mark on Indonesia and a new generation. Already hosting the World Cup is a big deal, but having their national team there will inspire even more Indonesian youths to pick up basketballs and start practicing to possibly make Indonesia a consistent basketball power in the future.

An interesting idea to be had for improving Indonesian basketball in the immediate future, would be to have former college basketball head coach and President Obama’s brother-in-law, Craig Robinson, help out with Indonesian Basketball. He is an analyst, and has worked for two NBA teams. And, for the distant future, another project President Obama could help with, is to reinvigorate the FIBA Asia club championship, like he did in Africa. It is currently called the FIBA Asia Champions Cup, and was last held in 2019. But, it tends to only have a limited amount of clubs. An expansion of this league, with more avenues for qualification would greatly impact basketball in Asia, and would help out with countries like Indonesia. If this competition could get the CBA (PR China), the B.League (Japan), the NBL (Australia), the NBL (New Zealand), the PBA (Philippines), the Iranian Basketball Super League, the KBL (South Korea), the Lebanese Basketball League, and the ASEAN Basketball League (Southeast Asian regional league), plus all the other Asian leagues through qualifiers to play, this would create a really good opportunity for IBL teams to not only make more money and become more popular, but also to play higher level basketball. And, if FIBA ever gets the NBA and Euroleague, plus winners of the other continents to join in and play in the FIBA Intercontinental Cup, a club world cup for basketball, we could finally see a basketball world champion for clubs, and the IBL through a revamped FIBA Asia Champions Cup could have a legitimate shot to play for it!

Still, it is tempting I am sure, for President Obama to focus his attention on Kenya, as they look to compete in their first Afrobasket since 1993, where they finished their highest ever ranking, 4th place. Kenya, like Indonesia, has never qualified for the World Cup or the Olympics in men’s basketball. But, unlike Indonesia, through the revamp Basketball Africa League, Kenyan clubs now have a realist shot to compete for their continental club championship. In fact, Kenya had a club in the qualification tournament, but it failed to qualify. Nonetheless, Indonesia definitely has more upside in the immediate future, and President Obama could really help his former home city see their National Basketball Team on the world’s biggest stage, the World Cup in 2023. Who knows, maybe Kenya and Indonesia will both be there, but Indonesia is not only far more likely, but it is also more important. After all, not having one of the host nations there would feel sort of strange.

FIBA should change their Qualification Set-up for the World Cup:

For the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup, FIBA decided they were going to change the way basketball national teams qualified for the World Cup, by allowing national teams to play home and away games like in FIFA, with qualifying windows mid-season. The reason for this, according to FIBA, was to give players more of a summer break, as well as to give nations more of an opportunity to host competitive games. But, while the home and away qualification games have been a great idea, there has been one glaring mistake that has led to big name basketball nations being at a disadvantage for having good players.

This mistake by FIBA has been that the NBA and Euroleague, the two best leagues in the World, do not take time off from their season to allow players to compete for their nation in the World Cup Qualifiers. This led to defending Eurobasket Champions, Slovenia, and other big name nations like the 2016 Olympic fifth place team, Croatia, not making it to the World Cup. The reason for this, is that a lot of nations are small around the world, and thus they do not have as many players that play at a high level. This results in a major drop off between their best team and their second best team, and thus, if they have to use their second best team, they go from a top ten team to not even top thirty in some cases.

Take for example Slovenia. Slovenia’s A team has gone 17-2 winning Europe and finishing fourth at the 2020 Olympics since 2017! Their top team features NBA star Luka Dončić and Euroleague star Zoran Dragić. Other notable players include NBA player Vlatko Čančar, as well as two players who play in neither league, Klemen Prepelič and Mike Tobey. The three NBA and Euroleague players averaged 48.9 points of the 100.8 points Slovenia averaged at the Olympics. And, keep in mind that if Valencia had qualified for Euroleague for the 2021-2022 season, like they have done in the past, that would mean that Slovenia’s NBA and Euroleague players would have accounted for 78.1 of the 100.8 points Slovenia scored on average, as that is where both Prepelič and Tobey play. And this is where the problem lies with the qualification. If you noticed in just this one example, you can see that the current World Cup Qualifiers not only incentivize nations to have players not in the best leagues, it also punishes those that do have them in the best leagues. And, thus, it rewards nations that have their best players in secondary leagues or nations that have very few players in the NBA and Euroleague.

For example, countries like the Czech Republic and Poland were able to keep a majority of their main players, because their main players were worse. Czech Republic only lost 18% of their scoring and Poland lost no percentage of their scoring for the 2019 Qualifiers, from the 2017 Eurobasket. Meanwhile, Slovenia lost 53.8% of their point scorers, Croatia lost 57.9% of their scorers, and Serbia lost around 98.1% of their scorers from Eurobasket 2017! Luckily for Serbia, they qualified for the World Cup, but only on the last day of qualifiers. Some nations were lucky like Russia, who often had some of their Euroleague players play for them in the qualifiers, especially if they were players for Russian teams in Euroleague. But, for the most part, most of the nations that had top talent lost a majority of their scorers because their players were in Euroleague or the NBA.

Now, for bigger nations like Spain and France, or the USA, Australia, and Canada, this was not a major problem because they have so many teams they could field and still be really good. The USA could probably have around twenty different teams and still qualify, not because other nations are bad, but because the USA is by far the deepest nation in basketball talent in the world. It still affected these nations, and they would have struggled against other nations best players that did not have them either, and as it is, they struggled against nations they usually defeat. But, overall, we saw all of these sides go 10-2 in qualifiers.

And, there is some merit to be had, that to prove you are the best nation, in a way, it is more accurate to prove it if you have to use more of your players. Because, in national basketball play, sometimes it is unfair to judge how good a country is off of just 12 players, when that country may not have the best 12, but does have a really good 100. Italy is a good example of this. They have really good players throughout, but their best 12 is not usually as good as Croatia’s best 12, even though Croatia has less good players. So, is it fair to label Italy as worse, if it is only their top 12 that is worse? But, that is not the point here. The point of the World Cup and national team competitions is for each nation’s best to compete against each other. And, what is unfair, is when countries with less good players are able to play their best 12 while the better country is limited in their players.

Thus, the 2019 World Cup left us without Croatia, Slovenia, Latvia, Finland, Georgia, and Israel, all nations that had really good NBA and Euroleague stars. And, while that may not seem like a big deal, it is crushing for these nations, because a lot of these nations are smaller, and thus they do not always have great teams. Some nations only have one good team every twenty years or so. And, it is quite unfair that the reward for creating basketball players good enough to play in the NBA or Euroleague is a harder World Cup qualification.

And, not only is it not good for theses nations, but it also is not good for the sport as a whole. If the best players and nations are not at the World Cup, that means it is less competitive, less watchable, and thus less popular. The best nations should get in. And, that is not to say that some of the nations would not have gotten in anyway, after all, both Poland and the Czech Republic finished top 8 at the 2019 World Cup, but it is to say that they had an unearned advantage against presumably better nations like Slovenia and Croatia.

Yet, there is a solution to this madness. FIBA should keep the home and away qualifiers. And, while it would be better for basketball if the NBA and Euroleague took time off for two weeks twice in their season to complete these qualifiers, because neither will, it is best if FIBA finds another solution. Luckily, basketball is a sport that can be played many times in a week. Thus, FIBA should have their qualifiers one year after the Olympics for 6 games in July, and one year before the World Cup for 6 games in July. It would look like this for 2027: 6 games in July 2025 and 6 games in July 2026. During this period of time, there is often not as much happening in sports, and this would allow players to have most of July, August, and September off. Instead of having qualifiers mid-season, you would finish them all in the off-season, making sure the best players played for their national teams. Then, you could have the continental tournament and qualifiers in August or September if need be, like they always were. It would be great if FIBA changed it for 2023, but they had already signed a contract to have this qualifying format until 2023. Plus, a shorten in between would require all the qualifiers to be done in 2022 July, or to have it in different months. But, it is possible, and FIBA would be best to change it for 2023 if possible, because I think most people want to see Slovenia in the World Cup for 2023!

Edit: this original post left out many nations. For example, Cameroon, Greece, DR Congo, The Bahamas, and so many other nations will be missing their best players too. Plus, Nigeria as well. So, it is going to affect a lot of nations. And all of these would be good in the World Cup if they qualified given their talent. The reason for not mentioning every nation is because it would take too long to bring up. Another one is Latvia for example. So, hopefully readers can use these examples and apply it to other nations that will be at a disadvantage for having players in big name leagues too.

Basketball (5×5) Roundup at the Olympics:

The Olympic tournament for basketball just finished up and in it, we saw the USA win Gold in both Men’s and Women’s, with France receiving Silver in Men’s and Bronze in Women’s, and with Japan receiving Silver in Women’s and Australia receiving Bronze in Men’s.

This Olympic Basketball brought about some themes we have not seen lately. One, the USA Men’s Basketball team struggled to win a lot of their games, and so too for the Women’s. While both won the Gold Medal, it was not with perfection, which the USA Men’s and Women’s have become accustomed too since 2008 in the Olympics.

For both the Men’s and Women’s, the Olympic Gold Medal had been won with perfect records since 2008 including the exhibitions. However, both lost in exhibitions, with the Men finishing 2-2 through exhibitions and the Women having lost once. This was surprising and showed that the Olympics were going to be very difficult. For the Men, they found that out in Game 1, losing to the French. And, while the USA would win the rest of their games, it often came due to heroics from a player or two, after finding themselves down or tied. For example, Kevin Durant led the way for most of the Men’s performances. For the USA Women, they went through undefeated, but every group game was close. The USA beat Nigeria by 9, Japan by 17, and Australia by 11, but they all could have been closer and took good fourth quarters by the USA, except with Nigeria who actually themselves had the good fourth quarter to make the score closer. The USA Men’s finished 2-1 in Group Stage, but with a +82 point differential, while the Women’s finished 3-0, but only with a +37 point differential. Both the Men’s and Women’s had very good quarter-final and semi-final wins. However, the Final for the Men was tense finishing with the USA winning 87-82. And, while the Women won by 15, their Final showed that Japan is very talented.

Does this mean the World is catching up to the USA? This question is actually quite misleading because the World has been close with the USA for some time now, so much so that in 2006, neither the USA Men’s or Women’s won the World Championship (now called World Cup), and so much so that in 2019, the Men would finish 7th at the World Cup.

But, what it does show is that there are more top tier nations out there in basketball. In Women’s we saw an African nation compete well against the best nations from elsewhere, something that is a newer development that we saw in the 2018 FIBA Women’s World Cup as well. Nigeria and Senegal have been playing better and better, and Nigeria’s performance, while a 0-3 record, showed great competitiveness to compete against the world’s best. Their Olympic performance proved that their top eight World Cup performance was not a fluke. Furthermore, Japan finished with the Silver medal, a great achievement for Asian basketball (not including Australia/New Zealand which joined in 2017 with the rest of Oceania). It appears that all continents can now truly compete in women’s basketball at a high level.

And, we saw this in men’s basketball too, with regards to the number of nations that were really good. Asian basketball, not including Australia and New Zealand, still does not quite compete as well as the Yao Ming days with PR China, but Japan did look much improved. However, what we did see was the a reemergence for some, and the arrival of for others, of basketball nations on the world stage. Nigeria’s win over the USA in the exhibitions, plus their competitiveness in the Olympic Group Stage demonstrated that Nigeria is an elite nation for the future, a nation that can compete against any nation and have a realistic shot at winning. And, we saw Italy reemerge as this as well with their dominate display. Furthermore, Australia finally got a medal, and Slovenia proved they are not a one hit wonder with their 2017 Eurobasket Championship.

It appears that there are more nations than ever before in Men’s and Women’s Basketball that are at an elite level. And, this is good for basketball, because it signals that basketball is improving across the world.

The next three years will be fun for FIBA. There is the 2022 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup to take place in Sydney, Australia, followed by the 2023 FIBA Men’s Basketball World Cup that will take place in the Philippines, Japan, and Indonesia. And, it culminates with the 2024 Olympics in Paris, France.

The 2022 Women’s World Cup will be great because it will be hosted at the 2006 World Champions, Australia. This will mean that a women’s basketball powerhouse will have home court advantage that will make the tournament exciting.

The 2023 Men’s World Cup will be extra special as well, as the tournament will be hosted in possibly the country where basketball is most popular, the Philippines, along with Japan, and emerging basketball nation, Indonesia. Indonesia has not received their automatic qualification, as they have to finish top eight in the next FIBA Asia Cup, but regardless, it will be good to introduce high level basketball, either with their national team playing there, or just with the World Cup there in Indonesia. This World Cup will be hosted by the fourth (Indonesia), eleventh (Japan), and thirteenth (Philippines) most populated countries in the World! All three countries have over 100 million people with Indonesia having more than 270 million, Japan having more than 125 million, and the Philippines having over 110 million people (Check out this article on the 2023 World Cup: https://kindertruthandhonesty.com/2021/08/09/who-to-watch-in-the-2023-basketball-world-cup/).

And, the 2024 Olympics in Paris, France will be extra special for men’s and women’s basketball as we will see the defending Silver medalists (men’s) and the defending Bronze medalists (women’s) go for Gold! Just like in the Australian Women’s World Cup for 2022, having the Olympics in France will mean that one of the favorites to win the Gold Medal in both men’s and women’s will be playing in front of a home crowd. This will make the basketball tournament extra special.

The best moments at the Olympic Basketball Tournament had to have been the Australian Men’s finally getting their first medal, the Bronze, the Japanese Women’s getting Silver, and of course the USA winning both the Men’s and Women’s Gold, which both helped the USA win the overall Gold Medal Count for the Olympics. The effort of Kevin Durant for the men especially helped propel the USA all the way, proving his USA legendary status, with the MVPs in the 2010 World Championship, and in the 2012, 2016, and 2020 Olympics. Plus, Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi added to their impressive resumes too with their Olympic Gold Medals.

Who to Watch for the 2023 Basketball World Cup:

The top teams going into the 2023 Basketball World Cup at this stage of qualification would have to be this list in order:

  1. USA: The USA is too good. They have won the Olympic Gold Medal the last 4 times, and they won the 2 of the last 3 World Cups. If Greg Popovich is coaching, he will seek to cement his legacy in the International Game by winning a World Cup. The thing about Head Coach Popovich is that with him the USA may not be perfect, but will do well, such as with their 2021 campaign going 7-3 across all games, but winning the Gold Medal!
  2. France: France has some really good talent coming up, and by the time 2023 rolls around, they should be able to use it. One such talent is Victor Wembanyama, a 7’2″ 17 year old, who is a top NBA draft prospect. Plus, their oldest player from this year’s Silver medal team is going to be 36 years old, which means that France will have most of their lineup back, playing at top level. And, this 36 year old is Nando de Colo, whose game is largely suited for an older person anyway, so it probably will not affect him as much.
  3. Serbia: Serbia did not qualify for the last Olympics, but ironically, this may have been one of their better seasons, with them having the NBA MVP, Nikola Jokić. Serbia has many top players and will be difficult to beat for any team.
  4. Slovenia will be back looking to win the World Cup with Luka Dončić. There is a question as to whether Zoran Dragić will be back, and if he is, maybe he can try to convince his brother, Goran, to come back to the national team.
  5. Australia: Australia now have a medal at the Olympics, and they will look to do the same in the World Cup. Australia did not have all their top players at the Olympics either, so it will be interesting to see how good they can be in 2023. Plus, Australia now is a FIBA Asia member since 2017, as all of FIBA Oceania is part of FIBA Asia, and this means that Australia will be from the host continent, so will be the best Asian team there.
  6. Greece: Greece will hopefully have the Antetokounmpo brothers, as well as their other stacked lineup. Greece failed to qualify for the Olympics, but they still will be one of the favorites to win the World Cup 2023.
  7. Italy: Italy looked really good in the Olympics, with a well balanced lineup. They have many good scorers from the Italian League itself, which shows how good Italian basketball is from top to bottom.
  8. Turkey: Turkey has a good team coming up and their oldest player from their current team will be 36. This means that Turkey’s successes now should come in 2023 too.
  9. Spain: Spain may continue to be one of the best teams in the world, or they may not continue to be one due to the Gasols retiring from the national team and due to other players getting older. Either way, they should still be good if Ricky Rubio is playing.
  10. Lithuania: Lithuania is consistently a top basketball nation, and nothing should change in 2023.
  11. Germany: Germany has been doing very well as of late, and their Quarter-final run in the Olympics without a lot of their best players suggests this nation could go further in the World Cup.
  12. Nigeria: Nigeria should have a lot of upside going forward with many American-born Nigerians playing for the D’Tigers and with Nigeria developing their basketball even more domestically in the country.
  13. Canada: Canada has the potential to be really good, but never seems to be. So, we will see if they can perform well.
  14. Latvia: If Latvia can get to the World Cup, they have a lot of talent that can dominate the competition. Also, congrats Latvia on winning the 2020 Olympic Gold Medal for Men’s 3×3 basketball.
  15. Croatia: Croatia is consistently very underperforming in basketball, as they tend to be in association football (soccer), but maybe they can use their talent to make a run in the World Cup like they used to do in basketball, and like they did in 2018 for the FIFA World Cup.
  16. Russia: Russia is still really good at basketball. They can make a run in the World Cup. But, I may have been unfair not to put someone else in the top 16. For example, Mexico beat Russia in Olympic qualifiers, and Mexico has some really good players coming up, a lot of them American-born Mexicans like Jaime Jaquez Jr., a star play on the UCLA Bruins Men’s Basketball team who are 2021-2022 preseason #1. And, The Bahamas has a stacked lineup if they can get their team out, featuring Deandre Ayton and Buddy Hield. There are so many more nations that are looking very good, and Argentina and Brazil could prove to be really good for 2023 like they usually are.

There is so much talent in the world, and of course, some of these nations may not even qualify or do well, while others may do very well at the World Cup that are not listed on here. Below is a list of continents and the high performers right now in each continent, plus some of the interesting nations that could be surprises:

FIBA Americas (includes North America and South America): Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, The Bahamas (if all players play), Dominican Republic, Mexico, Uruguay and Puerto Rico could all do very well next World Cup if they qualify. There are of course more teams that can do well, like Chile, Panama, US Virgin Islands, Cuba, and Colombia. Qualifying out of the Americas is sort of a sign that you can compete in the World Cup by itself. In fact, Jamaica and Nicaragua both have been playing well, and Belize is a traditional basketball nation, and all three of these nations have already been knocked out. One team that does not look as impressive, but is still left in qualifiers is Paraguay, and Bolivia, El Salvador, and Costa Rica are three nations that improved tremendously over the qualifiers, but will not make it to the 2023 World Cup. Ecuador and Guyana were two other nations that also put up good battles in the qualifications, but failed to make it.

FIBA Africa: Senegal, DR Congo (if all their players play), Cameroon (if all their players played), Tunisia, Angola, Morocco, and Egypt all have teams that could do well. There are other interesting nations too, like Uganda, Mali, the Central African Republic, Rwanda, South Sudan, and the Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire). Mali has been really good at the youth levels, like they are in association football (soccer). The Central African Republic is a traditional basketball power of Africa and has been improving as of late. Uganda did well in last Afrobasket, but lost all 3 games very closely in a tough group. Rwanda is a big basketball nation, and their economy is booming. They have invested a lot into basketball. Ivory Coast has traditionally been good at basketball, but they never do anything in international competitions outside of Africa. However, this does mean they are likely to qualify from Africa. South Sudan is home to many good basketball players and if all their eligible players played for them, they would be similar to Nigeria, very good and able to compete with most nations.

FIBA Asia (includes Asia and Oceania): New Zealand, PR China, Lebanon, IR Iran, South Korea, co-host Japan, and co-host Philippines (with Jordan Clarkson) could all do well. Guam may be an interesting nation to do well with their American influence, while Chinese Taipei (Republic of China) could have a good team if Jeremy Lin decided to play for them. Indonesia is a co-host and they should not do well, but they would be interesting to see in the competition. Qatar is a former 3×3 World Championship nation, so they have good talent if they come together, but somehow have already been knocked out of 2023 World Cup qualifying. West Asia tends to be very strong with Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan all doing well, in addition to Israel and Turkey, but Israel and Turkey both play in Europe. Kazakhstan is always one of the more interesting nations in Asia, as they play in Europe for some sports, and they have a club team that competes in the Russian/Regional VTB United League so they have players that play at a high level. And, India, like Indonesia, is a country that FIBA Asia wants to do well, while Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are still left from the Gulf nations, and these nations usually have at least one really good player through naturalization.

FIBA Europe: All of Europe is good for the most part and most of the nations here could have been mentioned, if they have not been already. Any nation that qualifies from Europe would be considered a good team at the World Cup, simply by virtue of making it through Europe. Some top nations not included were Finland, Czech Republic, Great Britain (they have good players, just never put it together), Poland, Ukraine, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Estonia, Belgium, Sweden, Iceland, Netherlands, Switzerland (if Clint Capela plays for them), Israel, Hungary, Denmark, and Portugal. Armenia and Austria were both good candidates to qualify for a World Cup, but did not enter/left the qualifications, so will not be at the 2023 World Cup.

Nations Left with a Chance to Qualify:

FIBA Asia (5 or 6 nations will qualify from the qualifiers, while 2 or 3 nation will automatically qualify for a total of 8 nations qualifying from Asia):

Lebanon, Bahrain, Indonesia, IR Iran, Kazakhstan, Jordan, PR China, Syria, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia, Guam, Chinese Taipei (Republic of China/Taiwan), Guam, India, Saudi Arabia, and Palestine. Japan and the Philippines have already qualified. Indonesia could automatically qualify if they finish in the top eight of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup (held in 2022 due to COVID-19 delays). Chinese Taipei and Guam play each other, with only one being able to stay in the competition, while Saudi Arabia, India, and Palestine will be playing for a place to continue in qualifications with two spots going to two of these three nations.

FIBA Americas (7 nations will qualify from the Americas):

Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, USA, US Virgin Islands, Cuba, Colombia, Paraguay, Chile, The Bahamas, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Panama, Mexico, Dominican Republic, and Canada.

FIBA Africa (5 nations will qualify from Africa):

Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, DR Congo, Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire), Cape Verde, Egypt, Guinea, Kenya, Mali, Rwanda, Senegal, South Sudan, Tunisia, and Uganda.

FIBA Europe (12 nations will qualify from Europe):

Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Ukraine, Turkey, Sweden, Luxembourg, Belarus, Portugal, Latvia, Romania, Montenegro, Denmark, Iceland, North Macedonia, Switzerland, and Slovakia. Currently, two out of three teams will continue in their qualifiers from the Sweden, Luxembourg, and Portugal group, the Latvia, Belarus, and Romania group, the Montenegro, Denmark, and Iceland group, and the North Macedonia, Switzerland, and Slovakia group. The other teams are already in the next round of qualifiers.

Keep up to date with the Qualifiers because by the time you read this, some of these nations may have already been eliminated. You can find this information on Wikipedia, although you can also find it elsewhere too, if you do not trust Wikipedia (FYI, Wikipedia is usually really good for Men’s FIBA and FIFA World Cup Qualification information and updates).

For the latest tournament recap, check out: https://kindertruthandhonesty.com/2021/08/09/basketball-5×5-roundup-at-the-olympics/

Caeleb Dressel finishes as the top performer at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics:

American swimmer, Caeleb Dressel, finishes as the top individual performer at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The male swimmer from Green Cove Springs, Florida, USA, won five Gold Medals, finishing with golds in the Men’s 100 meter Butterfly, Men’s 100 meter Freestyle, Men’s 4×100 meter Freestyle Relay, Men’s 4×100 meter Medley Relay, and Men’s 50 meter Freestyle.

Australian swimmer, Emma McKeon, finished with the most individual medals at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, though, with seven medals. She finished with the Gold Medal in Women’s 100 meter Freestyle, Women’s 4×100 meter Freestyle Relay, Women’s 4×100 meter Medley Relay, Women’s 50 meter Freestyle, and she finished with the Bronze Medal in Mixed 4×100 meter Medley Relay, Women’s 100 meter Butterfly, and Women’s 4×200 meter Freestyle Relay. Emma McKeon is from Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia.

As their own nations, Caeleb Dressel would have finished as the #17 nation behind South Korea, but ahead of Poland, while Emma McKeon would have finished #22 (#23 if Caeleb is included as his own nation) behind Jamaica, but ahead of Spain.

There were other very notable performances, but these two stood out the most.

Source: Olympics.com, “Olympic Medal Count”, Tokyo 2020: Multi-medalists: https://olympics.com/tokyo-2020/olympic-games/en/results/all-sports/multi-medalists.htm

Late Night Heroics propels USA to the Top of the Gold Medal Count!

It all started off with the USA having no medals on the first day for the first time since the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics. The USA looked doomed from the outset with the #1 Women’s Soccer Team falling to Sweden to open up their Olympic campaign, with the #1 USA Men’s Basketball Team losing two exhibitions and the opening game of their Olympic Campaign, and the #1 Women’s Basketball team losing one game in their exhibitions. Furthermore, the Men’s defending 3×3 World Champions did not make the Olympics, the defending 100 meters World Champion, Christian Coleman, was suspended, and so was the the US Olympic Trials Women’s 100 meters champion, Sha’Carri Richardson. In other words, there were lots of uphill battles for what many had considered to be events the USA would win in.

Then, the USA got into the heat of the Olympics. The USA would fail to win a gold at skateboarding, surfing, would not win as many golds as expected to in swimming, the men would not win a gold in athletics (track and field) until the last night, the best gymnasts of all-time, Simone Biles, would not be able to compete in a lot of her events, and so much more. It was an uphill battle the whole way. Couple that with the fact that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) had become even more dominant, it seemed that while the USA may comfortably win the medal count, their new arch nemesis at the Olympics, the PRC, would win the Olympic Gold Medal Count!

But, the USA did not give up at all. It came down to the last day, and really the last two days, where the USA found themselves down by five to start off the second to last day. The USA would play five finals that Saturday (USA’s Friday Night/Saturday Morning), winning in Men’s Basketball 87-82 over France, winning in Women’s Water Polo 14-5 over Spain, American Nelly Korda winning the Women’s Golf Gold with -17, and then both the Men’s and Women’s 4×400 meters relay teams winning Gold as well! However, while the USA won 5 Golds, the Chinese would add on two more Gold Medals! This meant that the USA would go into the last day needing three gold medals, as the USA found themselves down by two!

The last day featured six finals for the USA, two of them the USA were favorites in. As it stood, the USA tying the Gold Medal Count would put them in the lead because they had more Silver medals, but the USA wanted to go out in style. And, their successes came back to back to back. First, the USA Women’s Basketball Team won their seventh Gold Medal in a row defeating host nation, Japan, 90-75! Okay, now the USA was down by one Gold Medal! The Chinese still had a boxer left, so this was going to be difficult!

The USA would pick up an unexpeded Gold Medal in Women’s omnium track cycling with Jennifer Valente winning Gold! This made the USA and PRC tied on the Gold Medal Count, with the USA being first on the tiebreaker.

Following that, the USA Women’s Volleyball Team won their first Olympic Gold Medal with a 3-0 win over Brazil! This all happened within two hours! The USA would move into first place in the Gold Medal Count with that win, and luckily for the Americans, the last PRC athlete to compete for a Gold had already lost in between the three USA Gold Medals, and the USA would win the Gold Medal Count, 39-38! This is in addition to winning the Silver Medal Count, the Bronze Medal Count, and the overall Medal Count! With the Men’s Water Polo Gold Medal Final having ended, the tallies are in and here is the ranking table by Gold Medals and all medals for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics:

Rank: Nation: Gold Medals: Silver Medals: Bronze Medals: Overall Medals:

  1. United States of America: 39: 41: 33: 113
  2. People’s Republic of China: 38: 32: 18: 88
  3. Japan: 27: 14: 17: 58
  4. Great Britain: 22: 21: 22: 65
  5. Russian Olympic Committee: 20: 28: 23: 71
  6. Australia: 17: 7: 22: 46
  7. Netherlands: 10: 12: 14: 36
  8. France: 10: 12: 11: 33
  9. Germany: 10: 11: 16: 37
  10. Italy: 10: 10: 20: 40
  11. Canada: 7: 6: 11: 24
  12. Brazil: 7: 6: 8: 21
  13. New Zealand: 7: 6: 7: 20
  14. Cuba: 7: 3: 5: 15
  15. Hungary: 6: 7: 7: 20
  16. Republic of Korea (South Korea): 6: 4: 10: 20
  17. Poland: 4: 5: 5: 14
  18. Czech Republic: 4: 4: 3: 11
  19. Kenya: 4: 4: 2: 10
  20. Norway: 4: 2: 2: 8
  21. Jamaica: 4: 1: 4: 9
  22. Spain: 3: 8: 6: 17
  23. Sweden: 3: 6: 0: 9
  24. Switzerland: 3: 4: 6: 13
  25. Denmark: 3: 4: 4: 11
  26. Croatia: 3: 3: 2: 8
  27. Islamic Republic of Iran: 3: 2: 2: 7
  28. Serbia: 3: 1: 5: 9
  29. Belgium: 3: 1: 3: 7
  30. Bulgaria: 3: 1: 2: 6
  31. Slovenia: 3: 1: 1: 5
  32. Uzbekistan: 3: 0: 2: 5
  33. Georgia: 2: 5: 1: 8
  34. Chinese Taipei (Republic of China or Taiwan): 2: 4: 6: 12
  35. Turkey: 2: 2: 9: 13
  36. Greece: 2: 1: 1: 4 and Uganda: 2: 1: 1: 4

38. Ecuador: 2: 1: 0: 3

39. Ireland: 2: 0: 2: 4 and Israel: 2: 0: 2: 4

41. Qatar: 2: 0: 1: 3

42. Bahamas: 2: 0: 0: 2 and Kosovo: 2: 0: 0: 2

44. Ukraine: 1: 6: 12: 19

45. Belarus: 1: 3: 3: 7

46. Romania: 1: 3: 0: 4 and Venezuela: 1: 3: 0: 4

48. India: 1: 2: 4: 7

49. Hong Kong SAR: 1: 2: 3: 6

50. Philippines: 1: 2: 1: 4 and Slovakia: 1:2:1: 4

52. South Africa: 1: 2: 0: 3

53. Austria: 1: 1: 5: 7

54. Egypt: 1: 1: 4: 6

55. Indonesia: 1: 1: 3: 5

56. Ethiopia: 1: 1: 2: 4 and Portugal: 1: 1: 2: 4

58. Tunisia: 1: 1: 0: 2

59. Estonia: 1: 0: 1: 2, Fiji: 1: 0: 1: 2, Latvia: 1: 0: 1: 2, and Thailand: 1: 0: 1: 2

63. Bermuda: 1: 0: 0: 1, Morocco: 1: 0: 0: 1, and Puerto Rico: 1: 0: 0: 1

66. Colombia: 0: 4: 1: 5

67. Afghanistan: 0: 3: 4: 7

68: Dominican Republic: 0: 3: 2: 5

69. Armenia: 0: 2: 2: 4

70. Kyrgyzstan: 0: 2: 1: 3

71. Mongolia: 0: 1: 3: 4

72. Argentina: 0: 1: 2: 3 and San Marino: 0: 1: 2: 3

74. Jordan: 0: 1: 1: 2, Malaysia: 0: 1: 1: 2, and Nigeria: 0: 1: 1: 2

77. Bahrain: 0: 1: 0: 1, Saudi Arabia: 0: 1: 0: 1, Lithuania: 0: 1: 0: 1, North Macedonia: 0: 1: 0: 1, Namibia: 0: 1: 0: 1, Turkmenistan: 0: 1: 0: 1

83. Kazakhstan: 0: 0: 8: 8

84. Mexico: 0: 0: 4: 4

85. Finland: 0: 0: 2: 2

86: Botswana: 0: 0: 1: 1, Burkina Faso: 0: 0: 1: 1, Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast): 0: 0: 1: 1, Ghana: 0: 0: 1: 1, Grenada: 0: 0: 1: 1, Kuwait: 0: 0: 1: 1, Republic of Moldova: 0: 0: 1: 1, and Syrian Arab Republic: 0: 0: 1: 1

The USA winning Gold Medal in Men’s and Women’s Basketball, and the USA winning the overall Gold Medal Count was a reminder to the World that the USA is still the #1 athletic country on the planet. But, this close Olympics and the close Women’s and Men’s Basketball tournaments, plus the difficulties in aquatics and athletics (track and field) has proven to the World that the Olympics is highly competitive. So many nations had so many great athletes. The USA’s victory should come not only with celebration, but also respect for the other nations that pushed them to achieve the most Golds, Silvers, and Bronze, and therefore the most overall medals at the 2020 Olympics. And the feeling of trailing the PRC until the last hours of competition should be a reminder to the Americans just how dominate the PRC has become in sports. The 2022 Winter Olympics will prove to be a challenge for all nations as the PRC looks to prove its worth in the Winter as well. Will the USA or PRC be able win the 2022 Winter Olympics Gold Medal Count? Maybe? Either way, the USA, PRC, Japan, Great Britain, and the Russian Olympic Committee deserve tons of credit for all getting more than 20 Gold Medals and more than 50 medals overall. The Russian Olympic Committee proved that they have a long list of athletes to choose from to continue their dominance, while the British proved they were still a force to be reckoned with. And, the Japanese showed that they were third best, a valiant effort given that the PRC and the USA were the only two nations ahead.

The best part of the USA winning the Gold Medal Count at the 2020 Olympics, though, had to be the attempt of other nations to troll the USA’s focus on overall Medal Count to do the USA’s domestic rankings for who was doing the best in the Olympics under the false pretense the USA was doing that because they were down. Rather, the USA has always looked at this more, and with finishing on top of the Gold Medal Count as well, the USA proved that they can prove those who discredit their accomplishments wrong. It may have taken the last night, but the USA sure used up all their time to conquer the 2020 Tokyo Olympics!

Source: Olympics.com: “Olympic Medal Count”, Tokyo 2020: https://olympics.com/tokyo-2020/olympic-games/en/results/all-sports/medal-standings.htm

Check out Caeleb Dressel’s achievement as well as the top individual performer: https://kindertruthandhonesty.com/2021/08/08/caeleb-dressel-finishes-as-the-top-performer-at-the-2020-tokyo-olympics/

The Olympic Men’s Basketball Gold Medal Final Preview and the Olympic Men’s Basketball Bronze Medal game:

Skip directly to Matchups to just read about each matchup this weekend:

Olympic favorites going into the Medal Games:

Gold Medal Final Teams:

1. USA: 4-1 (9 Points): +115 PD; 507 PF 392 PA; Loss to #7 France 76-83 and wins over #23 IR Iran 120-66, #12 Czech Republic 119-84, #2 Spain 95-81 in the Olympics Quarter-finals, and #3 Australia 97-78 in the Olympic Semi-finals. 

2. France: 5-0 (10 Points): +54 PD; 433 PF 379 PA; Wins over #1 USA 83-76, #12 Czech Republic 97-77, #23 IR Iran 79-62, #10 Italy 84-75 in the Olympic Quarter-finals, and #16 Slovenia 90-89 in the Olympic Semi-finals.

Eliminated from Semi-final, with Bronze medal game left:

3. Slovenia: 4-1 (9 Points): +84 PD; 512 PF 428 PA; Wins over #4 Argentina 118-100, #42 Japan 116-81, #2 Spain 95-87, and #17 Germany 94-70 in the Olympic Quarter-finals, and a loss to #7 France 89-90 in the Olympic Semi-finals.

4. Australia: 4-1 (9 Points): +52 PD; 434 PF 382 PA; Wins over #22 Nigeria 84-65, #10 Italy 86-83, #17 Germany 89-76, and #4 Argentina 97-59 in the Olympic Quarter-finals, and a loss to #1 USA 78-97 in the Olympic Semi-finals.

Eliminated from Quarter-finals:

5. Italy: 2-2 (6 Points): +7 PD; 330 PF 323 PA; A win over #17 Germany 92-82, a loss to #3 Australia 83-86, a win over #22 Nigeria 80-71, and a loss to #7 France 75-84 in the Olympic Quarter-finals. 

6. Spain: 2-2 (6 Points): -1 PD; 337 PF 338 PA; Wins over #42 Japan 88-77 and #4 Argentina 81-71, and losses to #16 Slovenia 87-95 and #1 USA 81-95 in the Olympic Quarter-finals. 

7. Germany: 1-3 (5 Points): -40 PD; 327 PF 367 PA; Loss to #10 Italy 82-92, win over #22 Nigeria 99-92, and losses to #3 Australia 76-89 and #16 Slovenia 70-94 in the Olympic Quarter-finals. 

8. Argentina: 1-3 (5 Points): -46 PD; 325 PF 373 PA; Losses to #16 Slovenia 100-118 and #2 Spain 71-81, a win over #42 Japan 97-77, and a loss #3 Australia 59-97 in the Olympic Quarter-finals. 

Eliminated from Group Stage:

9. Nigeria: 0-3 (3 Points): -33 PD; 230 PF 263 PA; Losses to #3 Australia 65-84, #17 Germany 92-99, and #10 Italy 71-80.

10. Czech Republic: 1-2 (4 Points): -49 PD; 245 PF 294 PA; Win over #23 IR Iran 84-78, and losses to #7 France 77-97, and #1 USA 84-119. 

11. Japan: 0-3 (3 Points): -66 PD; 235 PF 301 PA; Losses to #2 Spain 77-88, #16 Slovenia 81-116, and #4 Argentina 77-97. 

12. IR Iran: 0-3 (3 Points): -77 PD; 206 PF 283 PA; Losses to #12 Czech Republic 78-84, #1 USA 66-120, and #7 France 62-79.

Official Rankings thus far: 1. France, 2. USA, 3. Slovenia, 4. Australia, 5. Italy, 6. Spain, 7. Germany, 8. Argentina, 9. Czech Republic, 10. Nigeria, 11. Japan, 12. IR Iran. 

For more information on teams 5-12, check: https://kindertruthandhonesty.com/2021/08/01/olympic-favorites-going-into-the-quarter-finals/

  1. The USA has to be #1 after their dominant performance over #3 Australia, 97-78. The USA had extra help for Kevin Durant from star player Devin Booker. With all the players Team USA has, they are the most deep team and are finally showing it. Their win against #2 Spain was the turning point, in a convincing second half display as the final score was a comfortable 95-81 victory. And, again against the Aussies, the USA had another big second half performance. Furthermore, in both second quarters, the USA had big runs to bring a double digit deficit to either a tie at half as with Spain, or a 1 possession deficit with Australia. The USA’s only loss at the Olympics came to France, a team they get to play in the Gold Medal Final. The USA has been looking better and better while the French have been looking worse and worse.
  2. France are currently the official #1 team at this Olympics being the only undefeated nation left. Can the French beat the USA? Yes, because they have already beaten the USA once. The French, however, have had major issues with turnovers in the knockout rounds. Luckily, they greatly reduced them against Slovenia, so they look better on this front now. But, their win over Slovenia seems to have come, partly due to three major factors by Slovenia. One, Slovenia shot 11 of 20 from the free throw line for a whopping 55%. Two, Slovenia shot 10 for 30 from the 3 point line for just 33.3%. Three, Luka Dončić appeared to be hurt in the fourth quarter, and could not contribute as much as he could have. The French have now had two games in a row where they barely survived. Against Italy, their scoreline may suggest a comfortable win, but the score only became that way after the final minute of play. And, against Slovenia, a last second layup was blocked by France’s Batum to secure the win. Ever since the IR Iran game, France has been looking worse each game. Also, there now appears to be a lack of depth on the French team as three players, Vincent Poirier, Petr Cornelie, and Andrew Albicy did not even play against Slovenia. However, two of their players did not play against the USA either in their big win over the #1 team in the world in the group stage (Andrew Albicy and Frank Ntilikina), so maybe they have the same depth as before.
  3. Slovenia is the third best team with Luka Dončić healthy, and probably should have beaten France. But, they lost their first game with their A team since before Eurobasket 2017.
  4. Australia looked good in the first half, but they are so undisciplined, that they gave up a big lead in the second quarter, and then did not even really show up in the second half. If Luka Dončić does not play in the Bronze medal game, Australia should probably win their first medal at either the Olympics or World Cup for men’s basketball.

Matchups:

Olympic Gold Medal Preview: #7 France verse #1 USA (7 August 2021 11:30 Tokyo Time; 4:30 AM 7 August 2021 Paris time and 10:30 PM 6 August 2021 Washington, D.C. time)

The USA and France will be playing each other for the second time this Olympics, and the third time in the last two major competitions, the other being the 2019 World Cup. So far, France has won all of them, with an 89-79 World Cup Quarter-final victory and an 83-76 Olympic Group stage victory for France over the USA. In the recent past, their seems to be a common theme, and that is that France can defeat the USA, but cannot defeat Spain or Argentina or Serbia, while the USA can defeat Spain, Argentina, and Serbia, but cannot defeat France. This is similar to the Greek dilemma the USA faced when they could defeat Spain, but not Greece, while Spain could defeat Greece, but Greece could not beat Spain. With that being said, it is tough to say if France really can beat the USA again. The USA is peaking at the right time. Their wins over IR Iran and the Czech Republic after losing to France seemed more like big wins because of their competition, albeit it that their win over the Czechs was actually quite impressive given how the USA shot 75% from the field in the second half. But, after their Spanish victory, most people could tell that the regular dominant USA team was back. And, their win over Australia solidified that! The USA against both Australia and Spain were down in the second quarter by double digits and came back in both to make the game either a tie or a one possession game at the end of the half. And then, in the third quarter, the USA raced out to big leads. Against a team like Australia which had profited off of big quarters this Olympics, it did not seem like this could work, but it did.

In the mean time, France put up a good win over the Czechs after their USA victory, and all looked good for France. But then, the French beat IR Iran in a very poor fashion. It was tough to tell if this was due to France resting a lot of their key players for a lot of the game, or if it was a worrying sign that France had started to play worse. Either way, it showed that their depth may be weaker than previously thought. The French ended up getting Italy, and while the French defeated Italy by 9 points, it was more like the French defeating the Italians by a one possession score, because that is what it was in crunch time. And, with 20 turnovers against the Italians, it seemed like France really got out of there quite lucky because Italy actually played more disciplined. And then came the Slovenian game, which most favored Slovenia following France’s recent performances. And, remember, Italy actually looks like the fifth best team at this Olympics, so it is not that France’s win was worse than the USA’s win over Spain, it is just that it was less impressive given how the USA was much more dominant against Spain. Yet, the French improved on turnovers only having 8 turnovers against Slovenia, and then they benefited from poor free throw shooting by Slovenia, poor three point shooting by Slovenia, and an injury to Slovenia’s best player part way through the fourth quarter. While improving on not getting as many turnovers is a bright spot for France, their last second block to win the game with all of the bad stats and situations Slovenia was in, is a worrying sign because that is less likely to happen against the USA. France should not be counting on Kevin Durant to have injury problems in the Gold Medal game, and if he does, the French will probably have to play better than winning on a last second blocked shot by just one point. In other words, the French not only cannot rely on such luck, but they also cannot rely on that luck producing the same winning results as the USA should be better should these circumstances happen to them.

Still, however, there are three things the French have that the USA does not have. One, the French are better defenders. Two, the French are undefeated with a win over the USA. And three, the French have had tougher games to get to the Gold Medal game, but not by much. And, another plus, after the less turnovers against Slovenia, is that the French have less of a turnover problem now than the Americans. But, the USA have the better offense, the more depth, and more people that can score. And, the USA is playing better, while the French have been playing worse. Furthermore, the USA has the best player left that can win Gold, Kevin Durant.

Player Comparisons:

Height; Team; Average Points (P), Rebounds (R), Assists (A), Blocks (B), Steals (S), +/- (+ or -), Efficiency (E), Minutes (M)

France:

C: Rudy Gobert: 7’1″ (2.15 m); Utah Jazz (USA): P: 11.4, R: 9.6, A: 1.4, B: 1.0, S: 0.8, +6.8, E: 19.0, M: 25.2

C: Moustapha Fall: 7’2″ (2:18 m); Olympiacos B.C. (Greece): P: 3.8, R: 2.6, R: 1.0, B: 0.6, S: 0.0, +4.4, E: 5.8, M: 12.0

C: Vincent Poirier: 7’0″ (2.13 m); Real Madrid (Spain): P: 6.8, R: 3.5, A: 0.5, B: 0.0, S: 0.5, +6.8, E: 9.0, M: 12.6

PF/C: Petr Cornelie: 6’11” (2.11 m); Élan Béarnais Pau-Lacq-Orthez (France): P: 1.7, R: 2.0, A: 0.7, B: 0.0, S: 0.0, +3.3, E: 3.3, M: 6.0

PF: Guerschon Yabusele: 6’8″ (2.03 m); Real Madrid (Spain): P: 5.0, R: 3.6, A: 1.2, B: 0.2, S: 0.2, -4.0, E: 4.8, M: 15.9

SF/PF: Nicolas Batum: 6’8″ (2.03 m); Los Angeles Clippers (USA): P: 8.2, R: 6.0, A: 2.8, B: 1.2, S: 1.2, +5.8, E: 14.8, M: 29.2

SG/SF: Evan Fournier: 6’7″ (2.01 m); New York Knicks (USA): P: 19.2, R: 3.2, A: 2.6, B: 0.0, S: 0.4, +8.0, E: 14.4, M: 27.7

SG/SF: Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot: 6’7″ (2.01 m); played for the Brooklyn Nets for the 2020-2021 season (USA): P: 8.6, R: 3.4, A: 1.2, B: 0.0, S: 1.6, +7.4, E: 11.0, M: 20.7

SG/PG: Nando de Colo: 6’5″ (1.96 m); Fenerbahçe (Turkey): P: 13.8, R: 4.4, A: 6.0, B: 0.0, S: 1.6, +6.0, E: 17.4, M: 24.4

PG: Frank Ntilikina: 6’4″ (1.93 m); played for the New York Knicks for the 2020-2021 season (USA): P: 1.0, R: 1.0, A: 1.7, B: 0.0, S: 0.3, +3.3, E: 1.7, M: 10.0

PG: Thomas Huertel: 6’2″ (1.89 m); Real Madrid (Spain): P: 9.6, R: 2.2, A: 3.4, B: 0.0, S: 0.2, +6.4, E: 9.0, M: 18.4

PG: Andrew Albicy: 5’10” (1.78 m); Herbalife Gran Canaria (Spain): P: 0.0, R: 0.7, A: 1.0, B: 0.0, S: 0.3, +6.3, E: 0.3, M: 11.4

USA:

C: JaVale McGee: 7’0″ (2.13 m); played for the Denver Nuggets for the 2020-2021 season (USA): P: 6.3, R: 1.3, A: 0.0, B: 0.5, S: 0.5, +1.3, E: 7.5, M: 5.0

PF/C: Bam Adebayo: 6’9″ (2.06 m); Miami Heat (USA): P: 6.4, R: 5.6, A: 1.4, B: 0.8, S: 1.4, +12.6, E: 11.4, M: 18.4

PF: Draymond Green: 6’6″ (1.98 m); Golden State Warriors (USA): P: 4.2, R: 2.8, A: 2.4, B: 0.2, S: 1.0, +9.4, E: 8.8, M: 18.1

SF/PF: Jayson Tatum: 6’8″ (2.03 m); Boston Celtics (USA): P: 14.4, R: 2.6, A: 1.4, B: 1.4, S: 0.4, +13.2, E: 12.6, M: 20.4

SF/PF: Kevin Durant: 6’10” (2.08 m); Brooklyn Nets (USA): P: 19.0, R: 5.2, A: 3.8, B: 1.2, S: 1.2, +14.8, E: 23.0, M: 25.9

SF/PF: Jerami Grant: 6’8″ (2.03 m); Detroit Pistons (USA): P: 1.0, R: 1.3, A: 0.8, B: 0.0, S: 0.3, +7.8, E: 2.5, M: 4.9

SG/SF: Keldon Johnson: 6’5″ (1.96 m); San Antonio Spurs (USA): P: 1.0, R: 0.8, A: 0.8, B: 0.0, S: 0.0, +1.3, E: 2.0, M: 5.6

SG/SF: Khris Middleton: 6’7″ (2.01 m); Milwaukee Bucks (USA): P: 6.2, R: 2.0, A: 1.8, B: 0.0, S: 1.0, +5.0, E: 7.4, M: 16.4

SG/SF: Zach LaVine: 6’5″ (1.96 m); Chicago Bulls (USA): P: 10.6, R: 2.4, A: 4.0, B: 0.0, S: 1.0, +11.2, E: 14.8, M: 19.9

SG: Devin Booker: 6’5″ (1.96 m); Phoenix Suns (USA): P: 10.8, R: 3.8, A: 2.0, B: 0.4, S: 1.6, +16.0, E: 12.6, M: 20.3

SG/PG: Jrue Holiday: 6’3″ (1.91 m); Milwaukee Bucks (USA): P: 12.0, R: 4.8, A: 4.4, B: 0.8, S: 1.4, +14.0, E: 16.8, M: 24.8

PG: Damian Lillard: 6’2″ (1.88 m); Portland Trailblazers (USA): P: 11.2, R: 3.0, A: 3.2, B: 0.0, S: 0.4, +10.6, E: 10.4, M: 23.5

Short History of Both teams: France has won two silver medals at the Olympics (1948 and 2000), as well as had two third place finishes at the World Cup (2014 and 2019). France has won one Eurobasket (2013), and has gotten second place twice (1949 and 2011), and third place six times (1937, 1951, 1953, 1959, 2005, and 2015). The USA is the most successful basketball nation in the world, having won five World Cups, fifteen Olympic Gold medals, and seven FIBA Americas Cups. Furthermore, the USA has gotten two silvers and one bronze at the Olympics, has finished in second three times and has finished third four times at the World Cup, and has finished second once at the FIBA Americas Cup.

Prediction/Favorite: The USA should win this Gold Medal Final because they have the momentum, are the better overall team, have the best overall player (Kevin Durant) between these two teams, have the deeper roster, have more experience winning major World Tournament events, and with the addition of Devin Booker to the scoring mix we saw against Australia, this means that the USA has now proven to have six guys capable of high scoring games this Olympics: Kevin Durant, Jayson Tatum, Jrue Holiday, Zach LaVine, Damian Lillard, and Devin Booker. Furthermore, the USA have even more players that average a double digits in point scoring in the NBA such as Khris Middleton, Bam Adebayo, Jerami Grant, and Keldon Johnson. While Draymond Green and JaVale McGee may not average double digits currently, they have in the past and are really good defenders. Draymond Green, Jrue Holiday, Bam Adebayo, and Kevin Durant have been the best defenders with good contributions from Devin Booker and Jayson Tatum. The top performers have been Kevin Durant, Jrue Holiday, Zach LaVine, Jayson Tatum, and Bam Adebayo, with Devin Booker now being up there as well after his great performance against Australia.

However, France has the better defense, the best defender, the best free throw shooters, and the best points per a game scorer between the two teams. Rudy Gobert is the best defender in the Olympic Final. He has consistently ranked as the best big man with the best points per 100 possessions against while in in the NBA. In other words, Rudy Gobert gives up the least points while in. He disrupts 2 point shots, and will lower the USA’s field goal percentage most likely. Yet, how will France defend against the 3 point shot? The answer is what they did to Luka Dončić, which is put Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot, Frank Ntilikina, and Nicolas Batum on Kevin Durant. Kevin Durant is shooting lights out from 3 pointers, but if you noticed, a lot of his shots have been uncontested, and the fact he is getting the ball so often suggests better defenses will eliminate his ability even more. France did this to Kevin Durant in the group stage limiting him to 4 of 12 field goal shooting and 1 of 6 on 3 pointers. This means Kevin Durant will most likely need to be more of team player, much like Luka Dončić tried to do, and accomplished by getting a triple double with 18 assists. Kevin Durant, though, has not really shown this capability, and thus the USA will most likely need another player to step up in this game, which they have plenty of. Imagine if Khris Middleton or Jerami Grant put up a performance like they consistently do in the NBA, or if Devin Booker puts up a huge game like he has done? If the USA can have consistency from their six leading scorers, and good defense by people like Jrue Holiday and Draymond Green, they could shut down France and also score lots. However, with the Nando de Colo and Evan Fournier combo, that is unlikely. And, Nando de Colo finally got going and put up a really good game for him against Slovenia scoring 25 points on 47% field goal shooting (this part not so good by him), 60% from 3 point range, and 6 of 6 on free throws. Nando de Colo is the best free throw shooter, while Evan Fournier is the best scorer right now in the Gold Medal Final (although Kevin Durant is the better scorer overall, just not in this tournament). France also features six guys that consistently put up double digits in the leagues they play in: Nando de Colo, Nicolas Batum, Evan Fournier, Rudy Gobert, Thomas Heurtel, and Guerschon Yabusele. And, Vincent Poirier, averaged double digits in his Euroleague career, but has not been given enough minutes to do the same in the NBA yet. France also has the best wins so far in this tournament, with big wins over the USA, Italy, and Slovenia. The USA’s big wins have been over Spain and Australia. This is not as a disrespect to IR Iran and the Czech Republic, but they just did not show up very well at this Olympics. Slovenia has been better than Australia and Italy has been better than Spain. And, while the USA’s wins over Spain and Australia should give them confidence, they must remember that the current point scoring threats from France are a lot more than either of those two teams, while France’s defense is also better than those two teams. Still, the USA is the best team, the current #1 team in the World and defending Olympic Champions. France will be looking to win their first Gold Medal at the Olympics (or any major world tournament for that matter), and anything but Gold will seem like a missed opportunity. However, the USA is playing for more than just basketball and country, the USA as an Olympic Team are barely trailing PR China as this is written in the Gold Medal count and wins in the Men’s Basketball, Women’s Basketball, Baseball, Women’s (Indoor) Volleyball, and Women’s Beach Volleyball tournaments would be enough to tie things up as they stand. Of course more gold medals will probably be needed, but these five are almost a must. Plus, the USA knows that than anything less than a Gold Medal is considered unacceptable in the USA for basketball, and in fact, a single loss, even with winning the Gold Medal is considered bad in the USA. The USA has a chance to avenge their French loss from earlier, and with Kevin Durant and Devin Booker, plus the rest of the crew heating up at the right time, the USA should win the Olympic Men’s Basketball Gold Medal for the 16th time in their history!

Bronze Medal Game: #16 Slovenia verse #3 Australia (7 August 2021 20:00 Tokyo Time; 7 August 2021 13:00 Ljubljana Time and 7 August 2021 21:00 Canberra Time)

This will be a much less in depth analysis. The Bronze Medal game of course is of upmost importance, but it is not the Gold Medal Game.

Players to watch: For Slovenia: Luka Dončić (Dallas Mavericks guard/forward), Mike Tobey (Valencia center), and Vlatko Čančar (Denver Nuggets small forward). Other players to watch for are Klemen Prepelič (Valencia shooting guard) and Zoran Dragić (Saski-Baskonia shooting guard/small forward). For Australia: Nick Kay (Shimane Susanoo Magic power forward/center), Patty Mills (San Antonio Spurs point guard), and Jock Landale (San Antonio Spurs forward). Other notable players include Joe Ingles (shooting guard/small forward) and Dante Exum (last played for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2020-2021 season, but was traded to the Houston Rockets, however is currently not on a team and plays point guard/shooting guard). Aaron Baynes (Toronto Raptors power forward/center), is out and no longer playing in this Olympics, but was a key player for the Australians. Luka Dončić has been the best player at this year’s Olympics, but maybe out for this Bronze Medal game, so keep up to date with that.

History about each team: Australia have never won any medals at the World Cup or Olympics, but they have won 19 FIBA Oceania Championships, and have gotten second in the FIBA Oceania Championship twice. Since 2017, Oceania has competed in Asia, and thus, Australia also has won one FIBA Asia Cup (2017). Slovenia has never won a medal at the Olympics or the World Cup, but has won Eurobasket once (2017). However, until 1991, Slovenia was a part of Yugoslavia which won three World Cups (1970, 1978, and 1990), one Olympic Gold medal (1980), and won five Eurobaskets (1973, 1975, 1977, 1989, and 1991). Furthermore, Yugoslavia got the silver medal at three Olympics (1968, 1976, and 1988), got bronze at the Olympics once (1984), got second place at the World Cup three times (1963, 1967, and 1974), got third place at the World Cup two times (1982 and 1986), got second place at Eurobasket five times (1961, 1965, 1969, 1971, and 1981), and got third place three times at Eurobasket (1963, 1979, and 1987).

Prediction: If Luka Dončić plays, Slovenia should win. If he does not, it should still be a close game that could go either way. Slovenia is 17-1 with their A team since Eurobasket 2017, with their only loss being a 1 point loss to France in the semi-finals, where a blocked shot in the last seconds ended their opportunity to win the Gold Medal. Some were calling them the Gold Medal favorites, but now, they will have to push for Bronze. Australia, on the other hand, have been so close to winning a medal at both the World Cup and the Olympics. They have gotten four fourth place finishes at the Olympics (1988, 1996, 2000, and 2014) and one fourth place at the World Cup (2019). Australia has been the basketball powerhouse that can never seem to get that elusive medal. So, a Bronze Medal for Australia will be considered even more of an accomplishment than for Slovenia. And, with Dante Exum now playing well, Australia will have an extra key player to use against Slovenia. If Dončić plays, Slovenia are favorites. If he does not play, the nod goes to Australia, but only with the slightest of margins, partly because Australia is so undisciplined and they are kind of the bottlers of international basketball. They were even up 15 points against the USA, and then the USA went on a 46-14 run. So, it just seems like the Aussies find every way not to finish with medals in men’s basketball. But, I still expect them to win, if Dončić does not play.

Continental Champions should qualify for the World Cup once the World Cup goes to 48 nations:

It is hard to believe, but after the USA won the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup, 5 of the 6 current continental champions were not featured in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Current Continental Champions that did not make the 2018 World Cup:

Europe: Italy became the 2020 UEFA European Championship Champions in July of 2021.

North America: USA became the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup Champions in August of 2021.

Africa: Algeria became the 2019 African Cup of Nations Champions in July of 2019.

Asia: Qatar became the 2019 AFC Asian Cup Champions in February of 2019.

Oceania: New Zealand became the 2016 Oceania Nations Cup Champions in June of 2016.

Current Continental Champions that did make the 2018 World Cup:

South America: Argentina became the 2021 CONMEBOL Copa América Champions in July of 2021.

Currently, only one continental champion qualified for the last World Cup, and that was Argentina. With the World Cup moving to 48 nations, and with no Confederations Cup, it seems like a good idea to make the continental champions an automatic qualifier to the FIFA World Cup. I personally wish that FIFA would just bring back the Confederations Cup, but without that, and with 48 teams at a World Cup, I feel that continental champions need to be in that 48. If FIFA wants the best teams at the World Cup, then surely 6 of those 48 nations should be continental champions.

There are some details to be worked out of course such as if a continental champion qualifies for the World Cup, what happens to the extra spot for that continent? The logical answer would suggest that that extra place could be decided by an extra qualifier within that continent. The continental champions, meanwhile, could continue to compete in qualifiers to keep up their forms, much in the same way Russia did for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The incentive to win in qualifiers may not be as high, but there would still be incentive for the nations as each nation will seek to improve their FIFA ranking to get better groups for the World Cup.

For continents with multiple championships in between World Cup 4 year cycles, they can do what CONCACAF (North America) did for the 2017 Confederations Cup, and have the multiple winners play each other for the automatic qualifying position for that upcoming World Cup.

With this, it would greatly increase the level of play at continental championships, and it would draw more viewership, attendance, money, support, and popularity. However, it would make the qualifiers for one team have the direct opposite effect during their qualifiers. Overall, however, it should be a big plus in terms of economics and popularity of these continental tournaments, which would give each confederation more money. And, it would raise the level of play for the World Cup as it would make sure to feature the best nations from each continent, which does not always happen, such that the #3 nation from 2016 (Chile) did not even make the 2018 FIFA World Cup, but still got runners-up at the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2017.

The USA deserves to be Top 10 after their performances this Summer:

The USA is one of the best soccer nations on the planet. And yes, I am using soccer because that is what the USA calls it, along with many other nations like Canada, Australia, Ireland, South Africa, and so on. But, so often, jealous fans from overseas and domestic US fans put down both the USA and its continent, North America (CONCACAF). By doing this, they create an alternate reality where somehow being Top 20 in the world consistently since 2000, and having a history of winning the second most amount of trophies on their continent, reaching five knockout rounds in the World Cup, finishing runners-up at the Confederations Cup, and finishing 3rd place at a World Cup is a failure. Right now, this topic has come up as the USA are expected to move up to #9 and Mexico up to #10, and many people do not understand why or how because they view CONCACAF as weak compared to Asia and Africa, or just one of them.

When comparing either CONCACAF to other continents or the USA to other nations, you quickly see why this alternate universe is so troubling, especially when it clouds people’s judgements by creating false opinions that getting results does not equal higher rankings, leading to assumptions that CONCACAF nations should not be ranked as high. Starting off with the USA, the USA is part of a list of only 20 nations to have ever finished top 3 at a World Cup. Furthermore, the USA ranks 26th all-time in terms of number of points earned at a World Cup, 16th all-time in total appearances, and is one of around 42 nations to have reached a quarter-final, which of course the USA has reached further than. The USA has won 7 Gold Cups, 1 CONCACAF Nations League, and has finished 3rd place twice, and 2nd place once at the FIFA Confederations Cup. The USA has also finished 4th place at Copa America (South America) twice (1995 and 2016). Just looking since 2000, the USA has gotten to the Round of 16 twice (2010 and 2014), as well as the Quarter-finals once (2002) at the FIFA World Cup. The USA has also gotten 2nd at the 2009 Confederations Cup, won the 2002, 2005, 2007, 2013, 2017, and 2021 Gold Cups, while also winning the 2020 CONCACAF Nations League! These are quite impressive numbers for any national team, especially given where most of the hate online comes from, the continent of Africa and the British Isles. In that same time span, the continent of Africa has seen two teams reach the quarter-finals (Senegal 2002 and Ghana 2010), and three teams reach the Round of 16 (Ghana 2006, Algeria 2014, and Nigeria 2014) at a World Cup. The British Isles in the mean time has seen two quarter-finals runs (2002 and 2006), one Round of 16 run (2010), and one 4th place finish (2018). Admittingly, that is better of course. But, still no international trophies to be had for the British Isles, and Africa’s success has almost been matched by just the USA since 2002.

And, when we go to CONCACAF verse the other continent debates, it is sort of clear who the better confederation is. North America has had 14 Round of 16 appearances compared to Africa’s 9, Asia’s 6, and Oceania’s 1, has had 5 Quarter-finals appearances compared to Africa’s 3, Asia’s 2, and Oceania’s 0, while also having 1 Semi-final run, equal to that of Asia’s 1 Semi-final run, except that North America has achieved a 3rd place finish, which no other continents besides Europe and South America have. Furthermore, CONCACAF is the only continent besides Europe and Asia to have won a senior FIFA world tournament, with Mexico having won the 1999 Confederations Cup, while also having 1 second place finish (USA 2009) compared to Oceania’s and Africa’s 1 (Australia 1997 and Cameroon 2003), and Asia’s 2 (Saudi Arabia 1992 and Japan 2003), while also having three top 3 finishes (USA 1992, Mexico 1995, and USA 1999), compared to Oceania’s 1 (Australia 2001). No other continent had a 3rd place finisher. Furthermore, CONCACAF has seen four separate teams reach the World Cup Quarter-finals (Cuba 1938, Mexico 1970 and 1986, USA 2002, and Costa Rica 2014), compared to Africa’s three separate nations, and Asia’s two separate nations.

And, when you think about the consistency of CONCACAF to have had at least one nation reach the World Cup Round of 16 since 1990, it really shows how far CONCACAF is out in front of the other three continents.

To reach the Round of 16, you must be a team ranked 9-16 in theory. And, when you look at CONCACAF’s record verse other continents, this means there is a good chance that winning a CONCACAF competition means you defeated a top 10 team. This does not happen in the other 3 continents. Thus, looking at the USA, they defeated Mexico twice, a team ranked #10 at one point, and then #11, in two separate continental finals (2020 CONCACAF Nations League in June 2021 and the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup in August 2021). The USA has now won eight straight competitive matches, more than anyone else, and in that span, they have won two games against top 10/top 11 opposition, and three games against then defending continental champions (Qatar once, Mexico twice). This means that three of their eight competitive matches in this streak has come against either a top 11 team and/or a continental champion. Their other wins have come against one top 50 opponent, and two top 70 opponents, one top 90 opponent, and one opponent not ranked due to not being a FIFA member.

The USA has won more continental trophies in this course of three months than the British Isles has ever had (which is not difficult because they have never won a European Championship). And, the USA really has been the hottest team going in international soccer, and they did this with almost two completely separate rosters! I do not think there are many nations who can defeat the #11 team in the world/North American Champions and the Asian Champions with their effective A and B team, and also come away with two continental trophies in one summer!

There is no doubt that Africa and Asia, and even Oceania has some really good talent, although Oceania has much less really good talent. But, I also think people forget that North America is still number three all-time and even in the present. Just look at the 2018 World Cup where Asia and North America both had 1 representative in the Round of 16, and Africa and Oceania had none. If anything, CONCACAF is under-rated, and that was considered a bad World Cup for CONCACAF.

So, if the FIFA rankings really do come out showing the USA as the #9 team and Mexico as the #10 team, know that is is due to the strengths of their continent. And, if the USA and Mexico do get to the 2022 World Cup, you know they will be favorites to get out of their groups, so why would it be strange to see two nations expected to get to the Round of 16 #9 and #10, within the 9-16 ranking they theoretically would have to be? Of course, if anything, that is where they should be and the other nations should be moving up the rankings like Canada, Jamaica, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, and Costa Rica. Just because North America has a lot of small nations, does not make it worse, it just makes it less popular. And, when American and Mexican fans belittle their own continent, it just makes their accomplishments seem even more trivial, playing into the common misconception that CONCACAF is easier than most of the other confederations. These beliefs can be dangerous too, because they do update the ranking format every now and then, as well as updating the amount of nations who qualify for the World Cup. So, it is important to not create a negative rhetoric so that people feel the need to give CONCACAF less opportunity.

Olympic Men’s Basketball Favorites and Semi-final matchups:

Skip to Matchups if you want analysis on the matchups

Semi-final teams/Teams left:

  1. USA: 3-1 (7 Points): +96 PD; 410 PF 314 PA; Loss to #7 France 76-83 and wins over #23 IR Iran 120-66, #12 Czech Republic 119-84, and #2 Spain 95-81 in the Olympics Quarter-finals. 
  2. Slovenia: 4-0 (8 Points): +85 PD; 423 PF 338 PA; Wins over #4 Argentina 118-100, #42 Japan 116-81, #2 Spain 95-87, and #17 Germany 94-70 in the Olympics Quarter-finals. 
  3. Australia: 4-0 (8 Points): +71 PD; 356 PF 285 PA; Wins over #22 Nigeria 84-65, #10 Italy 86-83, #17 Germany 89-76, and #4 Argentina 97-59 in the Olympic Quarter-finals. 
  4. France: 4-0 (8 Points): +53 PD; 343 PF 290 PA; Wins over #1 USA 83-76, #12 Czech Republic 97-77, #23 IR Iran 79-62, and #10 Italy 84-75. 

Eliminated from Quarter-finals:

  1. Italy: 2-2 (6 Points): +7 PD; 330 PF 323 PA; A win over #17 Germany 92-82, a loss to #3 Australia 83-86, a win over #22 Nigeria 80-71, and a loss to #7 France 75-84. 
  2. Spain: 2-2 (6 Points): -1 PD; 337 PF 338 PA; Wins over #42 Japan 88-77 and #4 Argentina 81-71, and losses to #16 Slovenia 87-95 and #1 USA 81-95. 
  3. Germany: 1-3 (5 Points): -40 PD; 327 PF 367 PA; Loss to #10 Italy 82-92, win over #22 Nigeria 99-92, and losses to #3 Australia 76-89 and #16 Slovenia 70-94. 
  4. Argentina: 1-3 (5 Points): -46 PD; 325 PF 373 PA; Losses to #16 Slovenia 100-118 and #2 Spain 71-81, a win over #42 Japan 97-77, and a loss #3 Australia 59-97 in the Olympic Quarter-finals. 

Eliminated from Group Stage:

  1. Nigeria: 0-3 (3 Points): -33 PD; 230 PF 263 PA; Losses to #3 Australia 65-84, #17 Germany 92-99, and #10 Italy 71-80. 
  2. Czech Republic: 1-2 (4 Points): -49 PD; 245 PF 294 PA; Win over #23 IR Iran 84-78, and losses to #7 France 77-97, and #1 USA 84-119. 
  3. Japan: 0-3 (3 Points): -66 PD; 235 PF 301 PA; Losses to #2 Spain 77-88, #16 Slovenia 81-116, and #4 Argentina 77-97. 
  4. IR Iran: 0-3 (3 Points): -77 PD; 206 PF 283 PA; Losses to #12 Czech Republic 78-84, #1 USA 66-120, and #7 France 62-79.

Official Rankings thus far: 1. Slovenia, 2. Australia, 3. France, 4. USA, 5. Italy, 6. Spain, 7. Germany, 8. Argentina, 9. Czech Republic, 10. Nigeria, 11. Japan, 12. IR Iran. 

  1. USA are now the overall favorites because classic USA Kevin Durant has come out to play. Luka Dončić may be good, but USA Kevin Durant is proven in international play, having been the best player in the 2010 FIBA World Championship (now called World Cup), 2012 Olympics, and 2016 Olympics, which all ended in the USA winning Gold! With Kevin Durant’s supporting cast coming out to help him in the USA’s win over #2 Spain, it looks like the USA has finally come together in time to win their 16th Olympic Gold Medal! But, of course they must win their Semi-final game against Australia first. Check out the link for more context: https://kindertruthandhonesty.com/2021/08/03/kevin-durant-is-the-key-to-team-usas-resurgence/
  2. Slovenia probably should be ranked #1, and in fact officially are for the Olympics thus far. So, anything lower than #2 is harsh for a team who, when they have their A Team, has not lost since before Eurobasket 2017. This team are the defending European Champions for a reason, and their team actually looks just as good if not better than their team in 2017 that won Europe so far. 17-0 is sort of hard to knock, and their dominant win over Germany sort of has solidified this #2 ranking. 
  3. Australia dominated Argentina, and showed that they can dominate without Aaron Baynes. Australia has the unique skill the USA has where they can just dominate a quarter and outscore their opponent with just that one quarter. Against Argentina, they won the fourth quarter 37-11. Furthermore, Australia is the team who won the Group of Death (Italy, Germany, and Nigeria), did it undefeated, and had a spectacular summer of exhibitions. They are not far off from the teams ahead of them on this list, and will look to prove they are the #1 team in the world. 
  4. France will feel robbed not being the favorites considering they beat the USA 83-76 in Olympic Group play. And, while a close win over Italy should be celebrated because Italy is really good, France’s amount of turnovers, plus Italy’s mistakes, makes it worrisome to pick France to defeat any of these semi-final teams. Plus, their win over IR Iran also did not look good. France will need to rejuvenate their team for the semi-finals if they want to play for the Gold Medal. The thing is that France still has the second most talented roster here after the USA. And France has done everything they needed to do thus far. But, I cannot see putting them higher than a team that is the defending Olympic Champions who have now won three games in a row with their best player playing better each game, as well as putting them higher than a team that has won 17 games in a row when all their top players are present, and putting them higher than a team that just won 97-59 against the #4 team in the World. 

More in depth reasons for my top teams from 5-12, check out: https://kindertruthandhonesty.com/2021/08/01/olympic-favorites-going-into-the-quarter-finals/

Also, it is important to note that Italy stays in front of Spain because Spain became so reliant on Ricky Rubio with no contribution from most of their roster against the USA, while Italy continually showed team basketball in all their games. Furthermore, Italy were closer to winning, looks better for the future, and finished better overall. 

Matchups

Semi-Final 1: #3 Australia v.s. #1 USA (5 August 2021; 13:15 Tokyo time)

The USA and Australia will play again! In 2016, the USA got the better of Australia in Olympic Group play beating Australia 98-88. Then, in 2019, the USA and Australia played twice, in Melbourne, Australia, in exhibitions where the USA defeated Australia 102-86 and then Australia defeated the USA 98-94. So far, in 2021, the USA and Australia have only played each other once, in Las Vegas, USA where Australia won 91-83. These two nations have become rivals as of late, but with Australia failing to have won any competitive game, and only exhibitions, it is less of a hateful rivalry for the USA. Still, the USA has not enjoyed Australia as of late. Australia is on a two game winning streak against the #1 team in the world.

Some key facts: Australia have never won any medals at the World Cup or Olympics, but they have won 19 FIBA Oceania Championships, and have gotten second in the FIBA Oceania Championship twice. Since 2017, Oceania has competed in Asia, and thus, Australia also has won one FIBA Asia Cup (2017). The USA is the most successful basketball nation in the world, having won five World Cups, fifteen Olympic Gold medals, and seven FIBA Americas Cups. Furthermore, the USA has gotten two silvers and one bronze at the Olympics, has finished in second three times and has finished third four times at the World Cup, and has finished second once at the FIBA Americas Cup.

Players to watch for: For Australia: Nick Kay (Shimane Susanoo Magic power forward/center), Patty Mills (San Antonio Spurs point guard), and Jock Landale (not on any team currently; played 2020-2021 for Melbourne United as a power forward/center). Other notable players include Joe Ingles (shooting guard/small forward), but key player, Aaron Baynes (Toronto Raptors power forward/center), is out and no longer playing in this Olympics. For the USA: Kevin Durant (Brooklyn Nets forward), Zach LaVine (Chicago Bulls shooting guard/small forward), and Jrue Holiday (Milwaukee Bucks guard). Other key players include Jaysom Tatum (Boston Celtics forward) and Damian Lillard (Portland Trailblazers point guard). 

Who is the favorite? This is too tough to call. After watching Kevin Durant lead Team USA to a commanding 95-81 win over #2 Spain, it appeared that the USA were the clear favorites for whoever they would play in the Semi-finals. But then, after seeing Australia pounce #4 Argentina 97-59, while also understanding that that was Spain’s big win at this year’s Olympics (81-71), it sort of makes it seem like Australia is much better than the USA. Furthermore, Australia is undefeated so far (4-0). One of the big concerns for Australia is the fact that Aaron Baynes is injured, but in Australia’s win over the USA in their exhibition this summer, Aaron Baynes played less than four minutes and recorded 0 points. And, Australia already competed without Baynes against Argentina and had their best game yet! Having won the Group of Death at this year’s Olympics (wins over Nigeria, Italy, and Germany), it appears that Australia are the favorites. But, not so fast as the USA still have the largest positive point differential, are the #1 team in the World, have a deeper lineup, and might have the best player depending on who you ask, Kevin Durant. Plus, the USA is the defending Olympic Champions, and are getting hot at the right time. This game could go either way! Australia is well-rounded as is the USA. But, Australia has not won any medals for a reason. Will they use this frustration to their advantage? Or will they let this play into their minds and make them over think? Australia is definitely looking like the best team left just off of Quarter-final games. And, they have proven they can put up really good quarters, having dominated Argentina in the fourth quarter 37-11! This is a skill the USA are known for and used against the Czech Republic and Spain to win! The USA will have to play team ball, and will have to rely on consistency to win their game against Australia, and their performance that they had against practically a three man Spain will not cut it! But, Kevin Durant and the USA are getting going at the right time, and have improved now every game. So, the USA are the slightest of favorites you could possibly be without there being no favorites. 

Semi-Final 2: #16 Slovenia v.s. #7 France (5 August 2021; 20:00 Tokyo time)

Slovenia against France will be a European matchup one could only dream of. Although, a battle for the Trieste would have been nice with Italy and Slovenia too. Slovenia and France are the two best European nations at this moment. Slovenia is 4-0 at this year’s Olympics, with a positive point differential only beaten out by the USA. Slovenia probably has the best player in the Olympics right now, Luka Dončić. However, France has the best defender in the Olympics, center Rudy Gobert. Overall as a team, France has the best defense, while Slovenia has the best offense. France came into this tournament with their well-rounded roster being a strength. It seemed like every player could contribute. After watching the IR Iran game, that is not completely the case. Slovenia, in the meantime, had a liability coming into the tournament of over-relying on Luka Dončić, especially with the national team retirements of Anthony Randolph and Goran Dragić. However, the Spanish game showed that Slovenia did in fact have a very well-rounded roster, and the German game backed that fact up even more. 

Some key facts: France has won two silver medals at the Olympics (1948 and 2000), as well as had two third place finishes at the World Cup (2014 and 2019). France has won one Eurobasket (2013), and has gotten second place twice (1949 and 2011), and third place six times (1937, 1951, 1953, 1959, 2005, and 2015). Slovenia has never won a medal at the Olympics or the World Cup, but has won Eurobasket once (2017). However, until 1991, Slovenia was a part of Yugoslavia which won three World Cups (1970, 1978, and 1990), one Olympic Gold medal (1980), and won five Eurobaskets (1973, 1975, 1977, 1989, and 1991). Furthermore, Yugoslavia got the silver medal at three Olympics (1968, 1976, and 1988), got bronze at the Olympics once (1984), got second place at the World Cup three times (1963, 1967, and 1974), got third place at the World Cup two times (1982 and 1986), got second place at Eurobasket five times (1961, 1965, 1969, 1971, and 1981), and got third place three times at Eurobasket (1963, 1979, and 1987). 

Players to watch for: For Slovenia: Luka Dončić (Dallas Mavericks guard/forward), Mike Tobey (Valencia center), and Vlatko Čančar (Denver Nuggets small forward). Other players to watch for are Klemen Prepelič (Valencia shooting guard) and Zoran Dragić (Saski-Baskonia shooting guard/small forward). For France: Nando de Colo (Fenerbahçe guard), Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz center), and Evan Fournier (Boston Celtics guard). They have many more really good players, but two more that have to be mentioned are Nicolas Batum (Los Angeles Clippers forward) and Thomas Huertel (Real Madrid point guard).

Who is the favorite? Slovenia are the slight favorites because they have dominated their games more and do not look to have weaknesses. Slovenia has a group of five players that can score 20 plus points on any night, and are very well-rounded and disciplined. Plus, Slovenia has the best player at this Olympics so far, Luka Dončić. Slovenia has not lost a game with their A team since before Eurobasket 2017. Since then, they have won 17 straight games, having won one Eurobasket. Plus, Slovenia has the second best point differential in the tournament, second only to the USA as mentioned before. France may have the deeper lineup, but their game against Italy showed a team that is undisciplined with lots of turnovers. However, France does have the best win out of the two teams (a win against the USA 83-76), has the better defense, and defeated a really good Italy who was very well-rounded. In fact, I would rank France’s win over Italy as more impressive than Slovenia’s wins over Spain and Argentina even though both are ranked higher officially. So, while France’s most recent win was not as impressive as Slovenia’s, it was against better opposition. Still, the Slovenians are so good, and even though France has the likes of Gorbet, Fournier, and de Colo, Slovenia has Dončić, and he just makes everyone around him so much better. Slovenia has to be the favorites, even if the game could really go either way. 

Kevin Durant is the key to Team USA’s Resurgence!

In the 2010 World Championship, the USA were not the sole favorites like they have been in most tournaments since 2008, rather, they were just one of the favorites along with 2004 Olympic Champions, #1 Argentina, and 2006 World Champions, #3 Spain. The USA were coming off of winning the 2008 Olympics and were #2. Other favorites included host nation #18 Turkey, #4 Greece, #5 Serbia, #6 Lithuania, #10 Puerto Rico, #14 Brazil, amongst others.

See, the USA were playing with a younger lineup. Plus, the USA had not won the World Championship since 1994 in the Toronto metro area with the “Dream Team 2”. The USA featured 21 year olds Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Eric Gordon, and Kevin Love, 22 year old Steph Curry, and 23 year old Rudy Gay. The other five players were 26 year old Andrey Iguodala, 27 year olds Danny Granger and Tyson Chandler, 30 year old Lamar Odom, and 33 year old Chauncey Billups. This team did not feature Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, and others like Chris Paul and Dwayne Wade and thus many thought this team full of young players would not be able to win USA their first World Championship in 16 years! In fact, this team did not feature one player from USA’s 2008 Olympic Gold Medal roster.

The USA started off Group B with a 106-78 win over Croatia, a really good win over a traditional basketball nation. Things looked good. The USA followed that Croatian victory with a win over another former Yugoslav nation and traditional basketball nation, Slovenia, 99-77. Things were looking really good. What were all the critics on about?

Well, the USA quickly figured out what they were on about. The USA played Brazil next, and found themselves in a close battle, winning 70-68. Yet, who was the difference maker? It was Kevin Durant! He scored 27 points!

The USA would win their next two games comfortably winning 88-61 over IR Iran, and 92-57 over Tunisia. Thus, the USA entered the knockout stages with a 5-0 record. All was good right?

Sort of, yet Team USA still were not the clear favorites, as 4-1 Serbia, 5-0 Turkey, and 5-0 Lithuania all looked like real threats to the USA’s dominance. Especially host nation Turkey, and Serbia, who both had +100 point differentials like the USA did.

The Round of 16 saw the USA defeat Angola 121-66. The other teams left were Argentina, Serbia, Spain, Turkey, Lithuania, Slovenia, and Russia. The USA got a tough matchup with Russia. And again, the man of the night when the USA needed a star was Kevin Durant who scored 33 points to win USA the game 89-79. Lithuania, Serbia, and Turkey advanced as well.

At this point, it appeared that Turkey and the USA were the favorites. Turkey had won their Round of 16 game against France 95-77 and their Quarter-final game against Slovenia 95-68. Serbia still looked good, but came off a Round of 16 73-72 win over arch rivals Croatia and a 92-89 Quarter-final win over defending World Champions Spain. Lithuania continued to win as well, but super unimpressively defeating the PR China 78-67 in the Round of 16, however, their Quarter-final 104-85 win over #1 Argentina suggested that Lithuania was finally ready to play with the likes of the USA, who they played next.

This proved to be true as the USA would have another close game with Lithuania. And who did they go to again? Kevin Durant who had 38 points and closed out the game for the USA by leading them to a 89-74 victory! Turkey meanwhile had defeated Serbia 83-82 in an epic semi-final.

Thus, the World Championship Final was set! 3 time World Champions USA were looking for their first World Championship in 16 years, while host nation Turkey were looking for their first World Championship. With the crowd being heavily in favor to the Turkish, at Instanbul’s Sinan Erdem Dome, it felt like a classic final, a true USA verse the World game!

And, it was a good game. The USA won both the first and second quarters by 5 points to put Team USA up by 10 at half. The USA would add to that lead going into the fourth quarter up by 13 points. The USA held on strong, even pushing the lead up to 20. The USA would finish the game winning 81-64, becoming World Champions for the first time since Shaq led the USA to a 137-91 World Championship Final victory over Russia at the SkyDome! The USA were again led by Kevin Durant who put up 28 points as a 21 year old in the World Championship Final, in Turkey against Turkey! Kevin Durant would win the 2010 FIBA World Championship MVP, averaging 22.8 points per a game.

But, this was not his last time leading Team USA. Again, when the country needed him most against Spain in the Olympic Final for 2012, Kevin Durant answered the call scoring 30 points in the Final in a 107-100 USA victory. He again led Team USA in scoring with 19.5 points per a game.

And again, in the 2016 Olympics, Kevin Durant would lead Team USA with 30 points in the Gold Medal Final in a 96-66 win over Serbia. Kevin Durant again led Team USA in scoring over the tournament with 19.4 points per a game.

Now, in 2021, Kevin Durant has returned to star for Team USA. So far across four games, Kevin Durant is first in scoring for Team USA and first in efficiency. And, he has come up big once again when the country needed him in the knockout rounds. The USA had a close one with Spain on Monday night/Tuesday morning and found themselves down by double digits part way through the second quarter. But, that is when Kevin Durant decided to take over. Kevin Durant would go on to dominate Spain scoring 30 points on 10/17 shooting, 4/7 from the 3 point line! His efficient scoring led to the USA closing out the fourth quarter, which started off as a 6 point game, and ended with the USA winning 95-81!

The good news for the USA right now too, is that it is not only Kevin Durant who is stepping up. Since their loss to France, there have been four other key players: Jrue Holiday, Jaysom Tatum, Zach LaVine, and Damian Lillard. And while these players along with Kevin Durant have been the USA’s key players, there are others who are accepting their roles even if they do not come with lots of stats on the box score, such as Dramond Green. Bam Adebayo and Devin Booker were also key players for Team USA’s victory over the defending World Champions.

This is what Kevin Durant has done though. He has used his skills to make a Team USA team that had already lost 3 games this summer into a favorite to win the Gold Medal. At first, it seemed premature to rally around the idea the USA was back given who they defeated. But, after the win over Spain, USA truly does look like a team that can win the Gold Medal, and it is largely thanks to Kevin Durant whose excellent play has helped turn things around.

While the attention has mainly been on Luka Dončić this Olympics, Kevin Durant is slowly putting together another MVP run at another major tournament. And this is only good news for the USA as not only will the USA then have the deepest lineup, but they too will have the best player.

Men’s Golf at the 2020 Olympics was exhilarating thanks to the effort of the Olympians who graced Kasumigaseki Country Club

     The last round of the men’s golf competition saw the ultimate excitement that is sports. With Olympic medals on the line, and a chance to represent your country, so many golfers put up such a valiant display of sportsmanship and courage as they sought to win a medal for their respective countries. And, while all Olympians at this year’s Olympic golfing tournament should be recognized for their accomplishment of qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games, there were 9 such golfers that deserve a special recognition. 

     First is Gold medal winner, Xander Schauffele. What a great story for Shauffele who has an interesting background that made his victory in Japan extra special. Xander Shauffele comes from a mixed background. His father is a naturalized American citizen who is French and Austrian, but grew up in Germany, while his mother is also a naturalized American citizen who is Taiwanese, but grew up in Japan. This means that Xander has family in Japan, particularly his grandparents. Xander’s play at the 2020 Olympics was really good throughout, and very consistent. However, it was his Round 4 that came with lots of drama. Having gotten the Gold medal lead, Xander Shauffele knew he had to muster a good performance to stay within the lead, but after his first shot went into the trees on the 14th hole, Xander lost the outright Gold medal lead, getting a bogey, and moving from -18 to -17, tied for first. Luckily, he kept a cool head and got a birdie on the 17th hole to move to -18, before clinching his Gold medal on the 18th hole. Xander moved up to #4 in the World Rankings with that win, and his Gold medal proved to be heroic for the USA, the best golfing nation in the history of national team competition. While the USA has dominated in the World Cup and the Ryder Cup, the Olympic Games has had so few golfing tournaments, that the last Gold medal an American won was the men’s team competition at the 1904 Olympics, and the last time an American individual won gold was at the 1900 Olympics. American Matt Kucher’s bronze was an amazing achievement in 2016, but Xander Shauffele’s Gold medal puts the USA back on top of the golfing world where it belongs. 

     Second is Silver medal winner, Rory Sabbatini. Sabbatini has an interesting story as well, as he is from South Africa, born with Italian, Scotish, and English ancestry, and has American (US) citizenship and a UK passport. So, he had a lot of countries to choose from to represent, except, he really did not. The reason why is because only a certain number of golfers are able to qualify from each nation for the Olympics. This left him with one other option, his other citizenship. Sabbatini’s wife is from Slovakia, and thus in 2018, Sabbatini became a Slovakian citizen. Therefore, Sabbatini chose to golf for Slovakia, in order to help grow the sport. He did well throughout the tournament, but was nowhere near medal contention until the 5th round, where he went -10 and moved into second place at -17 overall. He almost tied for Gold, as he had finished before Schauffele, but Schauffele’s birdie on the 17th hole and par on the 18th hole secured the Gold medal for Schauffele. And, with other golfers not being able to finish with -17, Rory Sabbatini would finish with the Silver medal for his new nation, Slovakia. 

     And finally, the rest of the seven. At the end of four rounds, there was a seven way tie for 3rd place, between Great Britain’s Paul Casey, Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, Colombia’s Sebastián Muñoz, Chile’s Mito Pereira, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, Republic of China’s (Chinese Taipei’s) Pan Cheng-tsung (C.T. Pan), and USA’s Collin Morikawa. All of these golfers represented their nations very well, playing until the final moments of the 2020 Olympic Golfing tournament. Their valiant effort is what struck me because you saw players like former World #1 Rory McIlroy put everything he had into a bronze. This demonstrated golf’s respectability for the game, the competition, and just overall professionalism at the very highest. It did not matter that the Gold medal was no longer an option, these golfers were going to give it everything they had to earn a medal, and they did.

     The tiebreaker playoff first went to the 18th hole, where Japan’s Matsuyama and Great Britain’s Paul Casey were knocked out. Japan’s Matsuyama was just unlucky. He had a chance to go for -17 earlier in the day, for the ball to go in and out of the hole. Then, one the same hole, he ended up missing it again to go down to -15 after making the next put. Then, he had a chance on the last hole to go -16, but missed that too as the ball went in and out. Sometimes, you are just unlucky, but he represented Japan very well. 

    Then, the playoff went to the 10th and 11th holes. It was on the third playoff where Ireland’s McIlroy, Colombia’s Muñoz, and Chile’s Pereira all bowed out. McIlroy’s performance may have not come with a medal, but he did so well just to get there. It was difficult for him too. Northern Ireland is not an Olympic member, and thus for Olympic golfing competitions, as well as other Olympic competitions, Northern Irish people can either choose to compete for Ireland or Great Britain, even though Northern Ireland is in the United Kingdom (Great Britain’s representative sort of, but Great Britain itself is just the island Scotland, Wales, and England are on). While McIlroy would have liked to compete for Northern Ireland, he was forced to choose between two other identities he very much likes, and he chose Ireland. He did the Irish proud with that performance. 

     Thus, the playoff went back to the 18th hole, where the USA’s Morikawa got so unlucky as bis ball fell so far into the sand in the bunker. He was not able to recover from this shot as Chinese Taipei’s C.T. Pan would win this whole and win the Bronze Medal. 

     All of these players deserve tons of credit for the effort they put into this tournament. They made it a lot of fun to watch the Olympics. And while only three could win a medal, as the playoffs showed, many golfers were right there. USA’s Morikawa especially showed amazing effort and skill out of the medaless golfers as he missed out after four rounds of playoffs. And he too had a special connection to Japan being of Chinese and Japanese descent. If Morikawa had won, that would have meant that a San Diego born golfer won the Gold medal (Schauffele) and a Los Angeles born golfer won the Bronze medal (Morikawa). Still, it was a fantastic day for not only the USA, but also California golf as Schauffele won the Gold medal. 

     Thank you Olympic Golfers.

The 2021 Giltinis were “The Greatest Show on Turf” for Rugby

     The LA Giltinis won the MLR Championship on Sunday over Rugby ATL, 31-17. The victory earned Los Angeles another championship for a team that just started play this season.

     The crowd was very electric as the lower half of the home side of the Coliseum was mostly filled, and the 5 dollar ticket deal made Rugby accessible to so many LA fans. There were over 7,000 fans to a Major League Rugby game!

    LA started off down 0-3, and it looked like this game might be a replay of LA’s loss to Rugby ATL earlier in the season, 12-17. Coleman kicked the successful penalty kick in the 15th minute that put Rugby ATL up at first. 

     However, after that, LA woke up. The Giltinis who averaged slightly over 33 points prior to today’s match, were the leading scorers in MLR and showed it in a matter of 5 minutes. Giteau scored a conversion in the 19th minute to tie it at 3-3, followed by two tries in the 21st and 24th minutes by Ryberg. The conversion after Ryberg’s first try was converted in the 22nd minute. The other was not converted. Thus, the Giltinis quickly took the lead 15-3. 

     But, Rugby ATL was not to go home with no tries, and Janse van Rensberg scored one in the 36th minute, followed by a Coleman conversion in the 37th minute. 

     The LA Giltinis would finish the half, up 15-10. 

     To start the 2nd half, LA’s Giteau scored a penalty to put LA up 18-10 in the 44th Minute, followed by a van der Merwe try in the 53rd Minute, and a Giteau conversion in the 54th Minute. LA then went up 25-10. 

     Giteau then converted a penalty in the 70th Minute, and LA’s Burton converted a penalty in the 76th minute to take LA up to 31-10. Rugby ATL finished the scoring for the night with a try from Deacon in the 78th Minute and a conversion by Coleman in the 79th Minute. 

      In the end, the scoreboard read LA Giltinis 31 Rugby ATL 17.

     This was a big victory for so many reasons. One, this was the proper way for Rugby to make its introduction into the entertainment capital of the world. The Giltinis were the most exciting team, scoring the most tries and overall points in the MLR. The Giltinis then continued to score points with the LA area by introducing guest DJs, playing a match at SoFi Stadium, and having really good fan promotions with at fan meeting with the club, and a 5 dollar ticket for a MLR Final! They had others like the 4 dollar 4th of July game. For example, Sunday’s match had world-famous EDM DJ, Steve Aoki, from nearby Orange County.

     For a sport seeking to garnish a new community, the Giltinis did that. And they closed out the season with the best record (14-4), 7,000+ fans at a Final, and with a Final victory to win Major League Rugby, the most important league in the USA and Canada. 

     People said that the silly name would make people not like the team. People said it would not work playing at the Coliseum. People said the colors did not fit LA. What really happened was that the Giltinis created a unique identity, which is something that LA is most known for. Plus, there is almost no better stadium to watch Rugby in right now than the Coliseum, with its pristine grass and the sunny LA skies. The 2021 Giltinis were “The Greatest Show on Turf” for Rugby, a blessing not just to Los Angeles and all the Giltinis fans, but a blessing to Rugby fans across the USA who got to witness legends of the sport grace American turf.



Olympic Men’s Basketball (5×5) Quarter-final matchups:

Quick synopsis of each team; skip this if you want to get to the matchups!

If there ever was a time to watch Olympic basketball, it has to be this year, with no clear out and out favorite. It looked like the USA was, until their exhibitions and first game at the Olympics. Spain is always a good choice given their consistency and being the defending World Champions, but their loss to Slovenia and their lack of impressive wins suggest they may not have the fire power anymore. France has such a deep lineup, and after their victory over the USA and the Czech Republic, looked to be the Gold medal favorites, until their game against IR Iran that left a lot to be desired. Australia look good, and they are undefeated so far, coming out of the Group of Death. But, their lack of medals makes betting on them sort of risky. Italy look really good, and it appears to be the summer of Italy, why not add basketball to the mix? They are not favorites and have one loss, but they do look good. Slovenia has the best player thus far, Luka Dončić, and have not lost with their A team for sixteen games, having won Eurobasket, probably the third hardest tournament to win. However, did they beat a really good Argentina and Spain by eighteen points and eight points respectively, or did they beat an okay Argentina and Spain, by only eighteen and eight points respectively? Germany are a team that can defeat anyone, being competitive in all their games in the Group of Death, but having won only one of them out of three. And, Argentina are the defending runners-up from the 2019 World Cup, and are the most recent Olympic Gold medal winners besides the USA, having won Olympic Gold in 2004. However, they have looked bad for most of their summer, until they played Spain close and then beat Japan. The bottom line is all teams left are completely capable of bringing home the Gold. For more info on each team, click here: https://kindertruthandhonesty.com/2021/08/01/olympic-favorites-going-into-the-quarter-finals/.

The Matchups!

First Quarter-final: #16 Slovenia v.s. #17 Germany (3 August 2021; 10:00 Tokyo time)

Do Slovenians get tired of being called the Austrian and thus Germanic-Slavs or do they enjoy it? That is the question. Either way, Slovenia will be battling it out against Germany, a country and people they know very well. Germany has done well to get out of the Group of Death, defeating Nigeria, but losing to both Italy and Australia. Being battle-tested will prove useful for a very good Germany side. However, Slovenia is also battle-tested, having played against the defending World Champions, Spain, and came out on top. Slovenia is undefeated so far at the Olympics, and they have the best player thus far, Luka Dončić. Furthermore, Slovenia has not lost one match with their A team dating back to 2017. They are 16-0, having won Eurobasket in 2017. Germany may be the bigger nation, but right now in basketball, Slovenia is the better nation. The Germans will look to prove doubters wrong, but Slovenia are the clear favorites, and in fact, with the matchups Slovenia could have gotten, this is the one they hoped to get.

Some key facts: Germany and Slovenia have never won a medal at the Olympics. Germany has won gotten third place at the World Cup (2002), has won Eurobasket (1993), and has gotten second place at Eurobasket (2005). Slovenia has never medaled at the World Cup, but has won Eurobasket (2017). However, it must be noted that Slovenia used to be a part of Yugoslavia until 1991, that won an Olympic Gold medal (1980), many Eurobasket Gold medals, and many World Cup Gold medals (three while Slovenia was a part of it, five in total).

Players to watch for: For Slovenia: Luka Dončić (Dallas Mavericks guard/forward), Mike Tobey (Valencia center), and Vlatko Čančar (Denver Nuggets small forward). Other players to watch for are Klemen Prepelič (Valencia shooting guard) and Zoran Dragić (Saski-Baskonia shooting guard/small forward). For Germany: Johannes Voigtmann (CSKA Moscow power forward/center), Johannes Theimann (Alba Berlin power forward), and Moritz Wagner (Orlando Magic power forward/center). Other players to watch include Maodo Lô (Alba Berlin guard) and Andreas Obst (Bayern Munich guard).

Who is the favorite? Slovenia should win this game, but that does not mean they will. Germany is very capable, and as explained a few times, Germany has a very deep lineup. Slovenia’s big question mark was if they have enough depth to compete for a Gold medal, and their win against Spain answered that with a yes, Slovenia is deep enough. With the best player being Luka Dončić at the Olympics thus far, Slovenia are the favorites.

Second Quarter-final: #1 USA v.s. #2 Spain (3 August 2021; 13:40 Tokyo time)

The USA and Spain have been the two best basketball nations since 2006. Spain has won two out of four world cups since then (2006 and 2019), while the USA has won the other two (2010 and 2014). USA has also won all Olympic Gold medals since then (2008, 2012, and 2016). The USA is the #1 team in the World, while Spain is the #2 team in the World. So far, both have gone through their group 2-1, with both having less than impressive wins in terms of quality of opposition, but the USA has made up for that with really good wins, while the Spanish have put together less than stellar performances. The USA look much better than Spain does, but Spain often finds a way to finish tournaments on high notes, as does the USA.

Some key facts about each team: USA is the most successful basketball nation in the world, having won five World Cups, fifteen Olympic Gold medals, and seven FIBA Americas Cups. Furthermore, the USA has gotten two silvers and one bronze at the Olympics, has finished in second three times and has finished third four times at the World Cup, and has finished second once at the FIBA Americas Cup. Spain has been the second most successful basketball nation of this century so far, and throughout their history, they have won two World Cups, have won three Silver medals and one bronze medal at the Olympics, has won three Eurobaskets, and has finished second six times and third four times at Eurobasket.

Players to watch: For the USA: Kevin Durant (Brooklyn Nets forward), Zach LaVine (Chicago Bulls shooting guard/small forward), and Jrue Holiday (Milwauke Bucks guard). Other key players include Jaysom Tatum (Boston Celtics forward) and Damian Lillard (Portland Trailblazers point guard). For Spain: Ricky Rubio (Minnesota Timberwolves point guard), Victor Claver (Valencia forward), and Pau Gasol (FC Barcelona forward). Other notable players include Sergio Llull (Real Madrid guard) and Marc Gasol (Los Angeles Lakers center).

Who is the favorite? USA are the defending Olympic Champions and are #1, while Spain are the defending World Champions and are #2. Both teams have been evenly matched, with the two teams playing to an 83-76 USA victory earlier in the summer in an exhibition. The game could go either way, but with Kevin Durant starting to heat up, the balance should be favoring the USA’s way making the USA favorites.

Third Quarter-final: #7 France v.s. #10 Italy (3 August 2021; 17:20 Tokyo time)

Is there a better matchup to be had in Europe than this? Yes, but in terms of current form, historical rivalry, and of course, if we were talking about food, absolutely not! This is a matchup for the ages. Both teams have very deep lineups. While France has the best win between the two, with a win over the USA, and have the better overall players, Italy has some really good players too, and they got through the Group of Death. One thing that will give the Italians an advantage is that the Italians have played consistent elite level of play, while France’s last two games were below the level that Italy has been playing at. This is a top 10 matchup, a border matchup, a rivalry, a Romance language battle. This is what national team basketball is all about! #7 France v.s. #10 Italy.

Some key facts about each team: France and Italy both have two Olympic Silver medals; France from 1948 and 2000, Italy from 1980 and 2004. France has won the bronze medal in the last two World Cups (2014 and 2019). France has won one Eurobasket (2013), and has gotten second place twice (1949 and 2011), and third place six times (1937, 1951, 1953, 1959, 2005, and 2015). Italy has never gotten a medal at the World Cup, but has won Eurobasket twice (1983 and 1999), second place four times (1937, 1946, 1991, and 1997), and third place four times (1971, 1975, 1985, and 2003).

Players to watch: For France: Nando de Colo (Fenerbahçe guard), Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz center), and Evan Fournier (Boston Celtics guard). They have many more really good players, but two more that have to mentioned are Nicolas Batum (Los Angeles Clippers forward) and Thomas Huertel (Real Madrid point guard). For Italy: Simone Fontecchio (Saski-Baskonia forward), Niccolò Mannion (Golden State Warriors guard), and Stefano Tonut (Reyer Venezia Mestre guard). Other players that have to be mentioned are Nicolò Melli (Olimpia Milano power forward) and Danilo Gallinari (Atlanta Hawks forward).

Historical Rivalry: On 4 April 1926, Italy and France both played their first international game, in Milan. Italy won 23-17.

Who is the favorite? France is the favorite to win, but not by much. Italy’s younger talent is performing better, which means Italy could use more energy to run around France. Furthermore, Italy’s usual best player, Danilo Gallinari really has not showed up yet, so Italy have that in their arsenal. But, France has the Gobert, de Colo, and Fournier trio that has beaten the USA the last two times they played them, and has gotten third place two times in a row at World Cups.

Fourth Quarter-final: #3 Australia v.s. #4 Argentina (3 August; 21:00 Tokyo Time)

Argentina are the defending runners-up from the 2019 World Cup. However, they have been struggling as of late. Their last two games have shown a renewed Argentina, having lost to Spain by only ten points, and having beaten Japan by twenty points. However, Australia, while finishing fourth in the 2019 World Cup, has looked much better this summer. They beat the USA in an exhibition game, and have won all three of their Olympic games, coming out of the Group of Death on top. They have played harder competition, and have done better than Argentina. However, Australia has never won a medal at either the Olympics or the World Cup, and thus Argentina has more experience. This also helps Argentina out, as they will most likely have less pressure than Australia, as this year’s Argentina team has looked bad and thus has less expectations, whereas with Australia, there is sort of a feeling that this year is a must win year for Australia, or Australia may never win any medals, let alone a Gold medal. Also, it has been noted that Aaron Baynes for Australia is out for the rest of the Olympics. Does this mean that Argentina will be able to utilize more of their players? We will find out.

Some key facts: Australia have never won any medals at the World Cup or Olympics, but they have won 19 FIBA Oceania Championships, and have gotten second in the FIBA Oceania Championship twice. Since 2017, Oceania competes in Asia, and thus, Australia also has won one FIBA Asia Cup. Argentina has won one World Cup (1950), one Olympic Gold medal (2004), and has won two FIBA Americas Cups (2001 and 2011). Argentina has finished second twice at the World Cup (2002 and 2019), has won bronze once at the Olympics (2008), and has finished second six times and third five times at the FIBA Americas Cup.

Key players to watch: For Australia: Nick Kay (Shimane Susanoo Magic power forward/center), Patty Mills (San Antonio Spurs point guard), and Jock Landale (not on any team currently; played 2020-2021 for Melbourne United as a power forward/center). Other notable players include Joe Ingles (shooting guard/small forward), but key player, Aaron Baynes (Toronto Raptors power forward/center), is out and no longer playing in this Olympics. For Argentina: Facundo Campazzo (Denver Nuggets point guard), Luís Scola (not on any team currently, played 2020-2021 for Pallacanestro Varese as a power forward), and Gabriel Deck (Oklahoma City Thunder shooting guard/forward). Other notable players include Nicolás Laprovíttola (FC Barcelona point guard) and Marcos Delía (Pallacanestro Trieste 2004 power forward/center).

Who is the favorite? Australia has been the heir apparent to the basketball throne that the USA poses for some time, according to many American analyst, and of course a lot of Australian ones too. But, so too has Serbia, Croatia, Canada, and now you can add France to the list. The only countries that has thus far dethroned the USA since the arrival of the NBA stars has been Yugoslavia (Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosovo made up this version of post 1991 Yugoslavia) in the 1998 and 2002 World Cups, Argentina in the 2004 Olympics, and Spain in the 2006 and 2019 World Cups. Argentina has consistently been overlooked. For example, no one expected Argentina to make it to the 2019 FIBA World Cup final, as they got past tournament favorites Serbia, 97-87, the new tournament favorites after Serbia was eliminated, France, 80-66, and then eventually lost to Spain in the Final by a score of 75-95. While it is true Argentina looked much better then, having beaten Nigeria, South Korea, Russia, Venezuela, and Poland on route to the quarter-finals, their wins were discounted for who they played. Now, Argentina sits at 1-2, after a disastrous summer exhibition run. But, their team is getting much better. And, if they can play even better than they did against Japan, even a good Australia side will struggle against Argentina. However, even with this struggling, Australia will still be favorites to win. And thus, Australia are the favorites to win this game, as they have performed the best this summer, with better wins against better opponents.

So, in conclusion, the expected semi-finals should be France v.s. Slovenia and the USA v.s. Australia. But, do not be surprised if none of these teams get through, or only a fraction of these teams do. This year’s quarter-final matchups are very even.

Olympic Favorites going into the Quarter-finals:

Olympic Favorites going into the Quarter-finals: 

Quarter-finals:

  1. France: 3-0 (6 Points): +44 PD; 259 PF 215 PA; Wins over #1 USA 83-76, #12 Czech Republic 97-77, and #23 IR Iran 79-62.
  2. USA: 2-1 (5 Points): +82 PD; 315 PF 233 PA; Loss to #7 France 76-83 and wins over #23 IR Iran 120-66 and #12 Czech Republic 119-84.
  3. Slovenia: 3-0 (6 Points): +61 PD; 329 PF 268 PA; Wins over #4 Argentina 118-100, #42 Japan 116-81, and #2 Spain 95-87.
  4. Australia: 3-0 (6 Points): +33 PD; 259 PF 226 PA; Wins over #22 Nigeria 84-65, #10 Italy 86-83, and #17 Germany 89-76. 
  5. Italy: 2-1 (5 Points): +16 PD; 255 PF 239 PA; Win over #17 Germany 92-82, loss to #3 Australia 83-86, and win over #22 Nigeria 80-71. 
  6. Spain: 2-1 (5 Points): +13 PD; 256 PF 243 PA; Wins over #42 Japan 88-77 and #4 Argentina 81-71, and loss to #16 Slovenia 87-95. 
  7. Germany: 1-2 (4 Points): -16 PD; 257 PF 273; Loss to #10 Italy 82-92, win over #22 Nigeria 99-92, and loss to #3 Australia 76-89. 
  8. Argentina: 1-2 (4 Points): -8 PD; 268 PF 276 PA; Losses to #16 Slovenia 100-118 and #2 Spain 71-81, and win over #42 Japan 97-77. 

Eliminated: 

  1. Nigeria: 0-3 (3 Points): -33 PD; 230 PF 263 PA; Losses to #3 Australia 65-84, #17 Germany 92-99, and #10 Italy 71-80. 
  2. Czech Republic: 1-2 (4 Points): -49 PD; 245 PF 294 PA; Win over #23 IR Iran 84-78, and losses to #7 France 77-97, and #1 USA 84-119. 
  3. Japan: 0-3 (3 Points): -66 PD; 235 PF 301 PA; Losses to #2 Spain 77-88, #16 Slovenia 81-116, and #4 Argentina 77-97. 
  4. IR Iran: 0-3 (3 Points): -77 PD; 206 PF 283 PA; Losses to #12 Czech Republic 78-84, #1 USA 66-120, and #7 France 62-79. 

These are my opinions, and the official seeds are: 1. Slovenia, 2. France, 3. Australia, 4. USA, 5. Italy, 6. Spain, 7. Argentina, 8. Germany, 9. Czech Republic, 10. Nigeria, 11. Japan, 12. Japan. 

  1. France is still the favorite given their win over the USA and their overall talent on their national team. They have been a Gold medal favorite especially since their 2014 World Cup 3rd place run. Their wins over the USA and Czech Republic were great wins, but their win over IR Iran left a lot to be desired, even if they were resting a lot of players. This suggests they may not be as deep as previously thought. Good news for France is that Nando de Colo’s numbers against IR Iran showed maximum efficiency making all of his field goals, and if Nando de Colo is playing well and efficiently, France will probably defeat anyone they play if other players play well too. 
  2. USA is now a Gold medal favorite like they usually are. Sure, it may be unfair to rank them so highly as rankings should be based on performance, but this is for the favorites to win the Olympics, and not actual rankings. The USA’s loss to France now looks like a really good loss, as in the USA played well but just could not get shots to fall, as they caught hot in the 2nd half against the Czech Republic and dominated against IR Iran. Good news for Team USA is that they now look deeper than anyone else in the tournament again, and Kevin Durant is heating up. If 2010 FIBA WC MVP Kevin Durant continues to show up like he has the last two games for the USA, the USA will prove to not only have the deepest roster, but also the best player. Also, Draymond Green and Jason Tatum both looked really good, as did JaValle McGee. This suggests that along with some of their other forwards, that the weakest part of Team USA is now strong like their other parts. But, the USA should not get carried away, because relying on shooting 75% to defeat the Czechs and relying on having another superb shooting percentage against the Iranians suggest that the USA will not be able to win if they have a bad shooting night. 
  3. Slovenia is now 16-0 when they have their A Team since the 2017 Eurobasket which they won. Slovenia’s defeat of Spain showed that Slovenia has more than just ​​Luka Dončić. In fact, Luka Dončić played more of a play making role, almost getting a triple double. He looks to be the best player at this Olympics, although now Kevin Durant is challenging that. But, Luka Dončić is much better, so far, at making the players around him better, and in close games, when shots are not always falling for you, this is key to success. The reason Slovenia is ranked #1 yet, is because their win over Spain is yet to be proven to be a super valuable win. Spain are the defending world champions, and did look very good, but are also older. And, while their win over Argentina now looks better, as Argentina has shown improvements, it is still not enough improvements to garnish a higher ranking.
  4. Australia has been solid since the exhibitions, so why are they so low? One, they have been amazing, and can beat anyone in the field. However, the USA now looks much better, and Slovenia are 16-0 with their A team since 2017. And, while Australia may have had the tougher group, France has had the best win of the Olympics thus far. Positives, though, for Australia is that they were able to comfortably beat a really good German side. 
  5. Italy was so close to staying undefeated, and their win against Nigeria shows that Italy can balance their team play with individual efforts they may see when they play against the USA. Having beaten Nigeria and Germany, and having almost defeated Australia, Italy seems poised for a medal. Every other nation in the field besides the USA, Italy has more than enough to beat. 
  6. Spain looked really good against Slovenia. However, they lost, and did not look great in their other games. Furthermore, their team looks almost too old to defeat fire power like the USA has. However, they do look capable of defeating many other teams at the tournament. Their Argentina win now looks better too, given the improvements to Argentina.
  7. Germany got out of the Group of Death. While their loss to Australia might have been too convincing, Germany still finished with a 1-2 record in a very difficult group, and kept them all close for most of the games.
  8. Argentina looked really bad this summer, up until maybe Spain. After the Spain game, there was a slight glimmer of hope 2019 or maybe even 2004 Argentina would return (or 1950 for you old-timers), and 2019 Argentina sure did against Japan, defeating them by a comfortable margin. Argentina seems to have improved every game, and this is scary for whoever has to play them next. 

Eliminated Teams.

9. Nigeria ranks above the Czech Republic, not because of a potential head head victory, but because Nigeria kept it close with all the nations in their group, all of which were really good. Plus, Nigeria’s exhibition results proved Nigeria can compete at the top, and that they did. They just came away with no wins. 

10. Czech Republic disappointed with their last game. They had a Quarter-final chance, but lost by 35 and thus lost the tiebreaker. The comeback by IR Iran in the 4th Quarter really came back to haunt the Czechs. In the Czechs defense though, if the USA shot that well against any team, they would usually lose. And, not just the USA either, other Olympic teams too. 

11. Japan closed out their Olympic basketball tournament with two losses by 20+ points. Still, to keep Spain within 11 was impressive and there seems to be a huge future for Japan’s national team, especially with their individual talent. The 2023 World Cup which will take place in Japan, the Philippines, and Indonesia will be a very fun event to watch, especially with seeing an improved Japan hopefully playing in front of fans. 

12. IR Iran looked really good against France, and definitely proved why they are a top nation in Asia. While their loss to the USA looks really bad, overall, there were improvements to IR Iran that they can build off of. Still, they need more talent. 

The 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup has proved to be a success for CONCACAF

     The 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup Final is Sunday, the 1st of August at 5:30 pm (17:30) local time at the new Allegiant Stadium, home of the Las Vegas Raiders. The Final will see the two best teams in North America play each other, the USA and Mexico. And, while it may seem like this year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup saw little success, with COVID-19 restrictions, battling it out with Olympics for viewership, and the fact that the Final is another USA-Mexico match, in terms of overall play, this Gold Cup has proven to be a step in the right direction. 

     The lowest point of CONCACAF as of recent had to have been the 2018 FIFA World Cup where Panama had some injuries and then lost to Belgium 0-3 and England 1-6. They could not even get a point with a loss to Tunisia 1-2. Costa Rica finished with 1 point, a tie 2-2 against Switzerland following a 0-1 loss to Serbia and a 0-2 loss to Brazil. And, while Mexico had an impressive win over Germany, 1-0, and looked like they would win the group after beating South Korea 2-1, their loss to Sweden 0-3 almost sent them back home and needed a South Korea result against Germany, which they luckily got. Mexico followed up this 2nd place group performance with 0-2 loss to Brazil in the Round of 16. 

     While this looked bad, and it was, comparatively, this was still good enough for being tied for the 3rd best performance in terms of teams in the knockout rounds. Africa failed to have any 1 of their 5 teams make the Round of 16, while Oceania failed to get a team to the World Cup. Asia was the only other confederation that got a team into the knockout rounds, and they too were knocked out in the Round of 16. It is tough to say where that CONCACAF performance ranked among the other 3 confederations, but it was not as bad as it looked. And, remember, Panama actually played far worse than they should have given injuries.

     Nonetheless, this was a very big let down for CONCACAF having gotten 3 teams into the knockout stages in the 2014 World Cup, with 1, Costa Rica, having advanced to the Quarter-final. 

     So, what did the 2021 Gold Cup bring that has possibly helped shift the narrative and potentially has proven that CONCACAF’s 2014 dominance could be back for 2022? Well, it brought a guest nation again, Qatar, the reigning Asian Champions. 

     Having Qatar at the Gold Cup was a good test to see how some of the fellow Octagonal (last round of World Cup qualifying) teams would do in the 2022 World Cup, should they qualify. And what we saw was a strong CONCACAF. Panama put up a valiant effort against Qatar and tied 3-3! Grenada, the weakest team at the Gold Cup, only lost 0-4, which for Grenada was quite good. And, a weakened Honduras team nearly tied Qatar, but lost 0-2 after a late stoppage time goal. That was a Honduras team that had lots of injuries and COVID-suspended players. Then, we saw El Salvador, a team on the rise recently in CONCACAF, almost tie Qatar in the Quarter-finals to put the match into extra-time losing 2-3. And, that is after a controversial penalty Qatar received and scored on. When watching the match, and seeing the stat line, El Salvador played better. 

     The USA ended Qatar’s run by defeating them 1-0 in the CONCACAF semi-finals, which preserved the Gold Cup’s record of having no nations other than those from CONCACAF win it. That may seem funny until you realize that Brazil has featured 3 times (8-2-4; 2nd, 2nd, 3rd), Colombia has featured 3 times (5-2-6 with 2nd, SF, QF), South Korea has featured twice (0-4-3; 4th), South Africa has featured once (1-3-0; 7th), Peru has featured once (1-1-2; 4th), and Ecuador has featured once (1-0-1; 9th). 

     While it would be unfair to say that this tournament proves that CONCACAF is better than Asia, it does suggest that a lot of the North American nations would do very well in Asia. And, it does suggest that CONCACAF is improving again. 

    Other bright spots from the tournament thus far has to be these: 

     One, Canada is a good team now. Their World Cup qualifiers thus far have shown that Canada can win, but the question was how they would compete against top teams. They played well against the USA and Mexico, and they beat Costa Rica. Furthermore, Canada seems to have figured out their nemesis Haiti and have now beaten them 3 times in the last two months. 

       Two, Panama is back to being good. Sure, they did not get out of their group, but their loss came to a full strength Honduran side which played the USA close and tied Mexico the month before, as well as beat Costa Rica in penalty kicks, and Panama tied Qatar. Had Honduras been at full-strength, Honduras would have probably beaten Qatar or at least tied them, and a Honduran win might have sent Panama through to the Quarter-finals. 

       Three, Costa Rica is still good, after winning their group over the likes of Jamaica, Suriname, and Guadeloupe. While Costa Rica is still nowhere near the level they were in 2014, they look to be a stable competitor for now, meaning they will put up a good fight against other good teams, and win some against the top 8 of CONCACAF. It is quite remarkable that Costa Rica can be playing bad and still finish 4th in the Nation’s League and finish with a 3-0-1 record in the Gold Cup. Costa Rica really never had one easy match either as their group was the Group of Death for the Gold Cup and then they played Canada.

     Four, Suriname is now good! After allowing more of their diaspora to play, Suriname finished 1-0-2 with close matches against Jamaica and Costa Rica and a good win over Guadeloupe, who also performed well.

      Five, El Salvador is the real deal. El Salvador used to be really good in CONCACAF a while back, and while their beach soccer team is really good, their regular team has been lacking lately. But, having advanced to the last stage of World Cup qualifiers for 2022 this June, it looked like something may be changing for El Salvador. However, the question was, is it them who are getting better, or is it their competition who is not as good? In the Gold Cup, we found out that El Salvador is as advertised. They beat Guatemala and Trinidad and Tobago each, 2-0. And, they played very well against Mexico and should have tied, losing 0-1. They finished out their Gold Cup with a loss to Qatar where they played better than Qatar, and the deciding goal was a penalty kick for Qatar that was debatable. If El Salvador can play such a good match where they should have tied the #11 nation in the world and should have beaten the Asian Champions, this probably means El Salvador is going to be a tough competitor in the future.

     Six, whatever this version of the USA team is, some say the USA C team, others say the B team, others just say another version of the USA that is good, this USA team has now beaten Canada, Jamaica, and Qatar, three nations that have a high chance of featuring in the 2022 World Cup, one already qualified (Qatar), and beat a poor Martinique side and a Haitian team who has been improving for some time now and is very respectable among CONCACAF. Canada’s result against Haiti may make it seem like Haiti is bad, but they actually have been quite good and even beat Canada back in 2019. And, Martinique might have been bad this Gold Cup, but they have been very competitive in the Gold Cup recently. This means that the USA is much deeper than we thought, and is much better overall as a nation than we thought. 

   However, there are some things we already knew that were confirmed. 

   One, Mexico is still either the #2 or #1 team in CONCACAF. They may have struggled against Trinidad and Tobago, but that is not anything new as T&T usually is a good team. Since then, Mexico has gone on to beat Guatemala, El Salvador, a weakened Honduras, and now Canada.

   Two, Jamaica is a good team. Sure, they only reached the Quarter-final, but they played well in every match. And, if Leon Bailey would have been healthy, Jamaica may have gone further. 

   Three, Honduras is still good. Yes, the results to Qatar and Mexico may suggest they are not, but Honduras had the bad luck of injuries and suspensions due to COVID-19. With a very weakened team, they almost tied Qatar. Honduras’s June matches are really what should be analyzed because that is when they were at full-strength. 

    Overall, with the improvements to CONCACAF with more competitions and more qualifiers for the Gold Cup, many nations are getting much better by adding their diasporas to their teams to supplement their native-born players. This has given rise to nations like El Salvador, Suriname, Jamaica, and even the USA, as well as giving rise to some nations that did not qualify for this year’s Gold Cup such as Montserrat and Bermuda. 

   One last thing has to be that this year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup missed Curaçao who is another solid team from CONCACAF, but had COVID issues and were replaced by Guatemala, who got a point against T&T. 

Olympic Men’s Basketball Favorites after Round 2:

  1. France: 2-0 (4 points); +27 PD; 180 PF 153 PA; Wins over #1 USA 83-76 and #12 Czech Republic 97-77. 
  2. Slovenia: 2-0 (4 points); +53 PD; 234 PF 181 PA; Wins over #4 Argentina 118-100 and #42 Japan 116-81. 
  3. Australia: 2-0 (4 points); +22 PD; 170 PF 148 PA; Wins over #22 Nigeria 84-65 and #10 Italy 86-83.
  4. USA: 1-1 (3 points); +47 PD; 196 PF 149 PA; A loss to #7 France 76-83 and a win over #23 IR Iran 120-66. 
  5. Italy: 1-1 (3 points); +7 PD; 175 PF 168 PA; A win over #17 Germany 92-82 and a loss to #3 Australia 83-86. 
  6. Spain: 2-0 (4 points); +21 PD; 169 PF 148 PA; Wins over #42 Japan 88-77 and #4 Argentina 81-71. 
  7. Germany: 1-1 (3 points); -3 PD; 181 PF 184 PA; A loss to #10 Italy 82-92 and a win over #22 Nigeria 99-92. 
  8. Nigeria: 0-2 (2 points); -26 PD; 157 PF 183 PA; Losses to #3 Australia 65-84 and #17 Germany 92-99.
  9. Czech Republic: 1-1 (3 points); -14 PD; 161 PF 175 PA; A win over #23 IR Iran 84-78 and a loss to #7 France 77-97. 
  10. Argentina: 0-2 (2 points); -28 PD; 171 PF 199 PA; Losses to #16 Slovenia 100-118 and #2 Spain 81-91. 
  11. Japan: 0-2 (2 points); -46 PD; 158 PF 204 PA; Losses to #2 Spain 77-88 and #16 Slovenia 81-116. 
  12. IR Iran: 0-2 (2 points); -60 PD; 144 PF 204 PA; Losses to #12 Czech Republic 78-84 and #1 USA 66-120. 
  1. France has the best wins and the best team from top to bottom this Olympics thus far with shot stoppers like Rudy Gobert, point scorers like Evan Fournier, and automatic free throw shooters like Nando de Colo. France has probably had the third best team in the world since 2014, and even with the loss of Tony Parker, the French National Team has remained a consistent top team finishing 3rd place in each of the last 2 World Cups (2014 and 2019). The issue for France is not whether they can beat every team they play, the question is whether they will. For a reminder, Rudy Gobert is ranked as the best big man defender in the NBA in real plus-minus, a stat which tracks net point differential among 100 possessions on both offense and defense.
  2. Slovenia has been arguably the best team in the world when they have their A team since Eurobasket 2017. However, they did not qualify for the 2019 World Cup, because FIBA introduced new qualifications which the NBA and Euroleague said no to their players playing in for most of the qualification periods. While the USA, Spain, France, and other countries have a group of 3 or more teams of completely different players they can use at a high level, Slovenia is a much smaller country and thus their B team is a much bigger dropoff in talent. And, combine this with the fact that many European nations are really good but do not have either NBA or Euroleague players (or that many), this meant that Slovenia was playing against teams that either had good B or C teams like Spain and Turkey, or were missing just one or two guys like Montenegro, Latvia, and Ukraine. With their A team, since 2017, Slovenia went 9-0 in Eurobasket winning all of Europe, and went 4-0 in Olympic qualifications having beaten 3 top 20 nations (Lithuania, Poland, and Venezuela), defeating Lithuania in Lithuania. Part of the reason for this success has largely depended on the best player so far at this tournament, 2x NBA All-star, Luka Dončić. They have the best player, and a good enough supporting cast so far. While their wins over a not very good (so far) Argentina and host nation Japan have been impressive, the quality of this opposition so far has been lacking. Even though Argentina were the runners-up at the 2019 World Cup, they have such an aging cast that their team is just not up to the level they need to be yet. What has given many people hope though, is that Slovenia is dominating, similar to how a usual Olympic USA team would, and this is without former NBA All-star Goran Dragić and Real Madrid big man and Euroleague superstar, Anthony Randolph, as both retired from the Slovenian National Team.
  3. Australia has been a top team now since the 2016 Olympics, so much so that they have often been the only other national team to appear on the 2K video game with the USA. The Boomers as they are called have been very impressive from the summer exhibitions and into their first 2 Olympic games. They defeated a recently really impressive Nigerian team and a very good Italian team. They are leading what most consider to be the Group of Death in this Olympics from top to bottom. Still, they have not been as impressive in their wins as Slovenia has been, nor have they had as good of wins as France has had. One thing that makes the Boomers better than Slovenia though, is that the Boomers are really well spread out with good players everywhere, which makes it tough to key on any of their players. However, I still think that putting Slovenia lower than Australia would be unfair given that when Slovenia has their A team, they are 15-0 in their last 15 games, and that is against harder opposition than most of these nations have played on average (Eurobasket is probably the 3rd highest level of international tournament you can compete in, and probably has tougher games on average than the Olympics or World Cup). 
  4. The USA had lost their first match, and had a tough summer of exhibitions early on. And, while their win over IR Iran was impressive, in fact, the best so far in the tournament, the quality of that win is sort of lacking given IR Iran’s lack of form and aging lineup as of late. Still, the USA are one of the tournament favorites, and have the deepest lineup (just has not played like it yet) and have tons of players that can score in the 20s, 30s, or even 40s if need be. Like the Boomers, but even more so than the Boomers, they have such a spread of talent that it is difficult to key on any of their players. Some of these players are considered to be among the best in the tournament such as Kevin Durant, Jrue Holiday, Kris Middleton, Devin Booker, Zach LaVine, and Damian Lillard. In fact, everyone on Team USA would most likely make it onto any other team in the Olympics, which cannot be said about really any other team with the possible exception of maybe France or Spain. This means the USA can defeat any team in the Olympics, and while their exhibition losses to Nigeria and Australia, as well as their opening Olympic loss to France drew some concerns, they were all close losses that could have gone either way, to all very good teams. Plus, the USA has exhibition wins over World Champions Spain and World Champion runners-up Argentina . As long as the USA gets out of the group stage, which their big win over IR Iran suggests, the USA will be a team no one will want to play, except maybe the French or the Aussies because those two sort of like playing the USA right now.  
  5. Italy proved that they are a medal favorite twice now. Their win over Germany was very impressive, and if you ask Italians, they should have beaten Australia as they gave up a lead. Italy is a lot like France in that they have some very key players, but their whole team is good throughout. They are not as good as France from a statistical point of view, but if they can almost beat Australia and beat Germany, this means Italy can play with and beat anyone at this Olympics, which is similar to the last time Italy was in the Olympics where they got the Silver medal in 2004. 
  6. Spain are the reigning World Champions. And, while they are 2-0, and have been a consistent top team since 2006, their wins have not been very impressive for how good they really are. But, there is sort of an asterisk to be had. See, Japan is the host nation and is much better than their ranking, plus, Spain had been defeating them by a lot before Japan came back to put it within 11. And, Argentina have been really bad as of late, but have the potential to improve and finish as Gold medalists. Yes, that may sound crazy because Argentina look really bad, but that is how Argentina and international basketball is. And, so, Spain’s 11 point win over the #42 team in the World, may be more like an 11 point win over a top 20 team in the World. And, their win over Argentina by 10 points may be a win over an Argentine side that will finish top 4. However, on the flip side, these wins may be wins over the worst team in the Olympics who only got in because they are hosting it, Japan, and over an Argentina side that was really good two years ago, but is playing more like a side ranked in the 40s than #4 in the World. Spain is often a tough team to judge for this reason because they tend to get the job done, but not well enough to warrant so much high praise. However, if Spain keeps getting the job done, they will finish as Gold medalists. And, their team is stacked so they can beat anyone, and they have a lot of top players so it will be difficult to key on any one of them. Plus, they have Pau Gasol again and while old, will probably put up a high 20 or 30 point game at least once.
  7. Germany has been really good thus far, playing close with Italy and then defeating Nigeria. While Germany may be missing some key players like Anadolu Efes big man Tibor Pleiß (Tibor Pleiss) and Los Angeles Lakers point guard Dennis Schröder, they have proven they have the ability to compete with any team at this tournament.
  8. If it were for past performances or the last two games, Nigeria would probably be ranked #10 or #11 with an encouraging sign because they have played well in their losses against really good opposition. However, their exhibition performances with a win over the USA and a big win over Argentina introduced this summer’s Nigeria as a pre-Olympic favorite. Thus, a 0-2 record with close losses to 2 very good teams and with their current form, anything lower than 8 seems like too low. Plus, Nigeria has a very well rounded roster with lots of American born Nigerians, and a lot of their players can dominate games. 
  9. Czech Republic had been one of the great basketball stories of the recent change in World Cup qualifiers. They have been a good team anyway, but the Czech Republic’s A team has had many players who do not play in either the NBA or Euroleague, and thus this allowed the Czechs to get to the World Cup in 2019 when better nations like Croatia and Slovenia did not. While at the World Cup, the Czechs did what no one thought was possible, they advanced from the first round with the USA and Turkey in their group. Turkey had just come off a game where they should have beaten the USA, and then the Czechs defeated them. The Czechs had lost to the USA by 21 points, and had beaten Japan. The next round saw the Czechs beat Brazil by a lot, but barely lose to Greece. However, Greece had lost to Brazil, and the 3 way tiebreaker favored the Czechs, and again, the Czechs advanced when they were not supposed to as the Greeks and Brazilians were favored to defeat the Czechs. The Czechs saw their World Cup dreams disappear in the Quarter-finals with a loss to Australia, but their win over Poland in the classification rounds meant they played Serbia to finish in 5th place. They lost that game, but finished in 6th, still above the USA. The point being is that the Czechs push above their wait. And, it continued this summer. The Czechs had to go through a qualifier which featured Turkey, Greece, Canada, Uruguay, and PR China. They were expected to get 4th in the tournament. The Czechs lost by 17 to Turkey and beat Uruguay by 1 point to advance out of their mini group. Somehow, the Czechs would go onto beat Canada in overtime in Canada, and would go onto to defeat #6 Greece by 25 points to get to the Olympics. So far, the Czechs have beaten the Iranians by 6, although they were up by much more, and have lost to the French by 20 points. While it is not likely they will beat the USA, it would behove any nation left to watch for the Czechs because if they can find a way into the quarter-finals, they will most likely have a surprisingly good game in them. And that may come against the USA, or another team in this Olympics. The Czechs do have their 2 best players too on their team, a very good forward named Jan Veselý who plays for Fenerbahçe Basketball in the Euroleague and Turkish League and they have their best guard, Tomáš Satoranský, who plays for the Chicago Bulls and can play either small forward, shooting guard, or point guard. The Czechs are really just that team who look unimpressive at first, but find ways to finish the tournaments on high notes.
  10. Argentina is the reigning World’s 2nd best, but they have been playing like a nation who only got to the Olympics because they hosted it. Argentina’s best players are getting older. And they are playing below the level they should be playing at. They got beat by a lot against Nigeria and the USA in exhibitions, and then lost to Slovenia by 18, and now Spain by 10. The good news for Argentina though, is that if they can get a big win over Japan, or one of the other teams that will finish 1-2 can be defeated by a lot of points and Argentina can win by any result, Argentina may find itself in the quarter-finals. Another positive is that Argentina has a lot of players capable of playing as good as most of the top performers at this tournament. And, Argentina has been getting better with each game. Maybe they just needed to be reminded of how to play against top level competition because their most recent loss to Spain was actually a really good loss. 
  11. Japan is looking better than they ever have, at least for a while. They have some really good individuals, and their team is solid enough to defeat Argentina, and possibly get into the quarter-finals. However, if good Argentina returns, most likely, Japan will have little to no chance to win that game and will be knocked out of the Olympics. And that is not a bad thing for Japan. They are growing and improving, and when they, the Philippines, and Indonesia host the 2023 World Cup, Japan by that time may be ready to win a lot of games. Even in this Olympics, they have a chance, and with the individual fire power they have, if some of their not as good players show up, Japan could put together a run. They are the host nation after all.
  12. IR Iran have been one of the best teams in Asia for a long time now. But, unlike in volleyball, in basketball, IR Iran just can never seem to really put it together after they leave Asia, unless it is against African opposition. One of the main issues for IR Iran is that their best player, Hamed Haddadi, is now getting older and does not have the energy for a whole game often times. It will be tough for them, if not impossible for them to defeat France next. However, the Iranians still got to the Olympics, still technically have a chance to win it, and still are a top 25 basketball nation for now. Plus, the Iranian League is respectable and in the future, we could see some more top Iranian players rise up. Maybe they can convert some of their world-class volleyball players to basketball. One thing is for sure, this does not have to be the ceiling for IR Iran, rather, more conditioning and a continued drive to create more talent could see this Asian powerhouse dominate nations outside of Asia too one day.

We should be Standing by Simone Biles as Americans:

     Simone Biles is a 24 year old American gymnast born in Columbus, Ohio and from Spring, Texas. During her 9 year international career thus far at the senior level, Simone Biles has earned the title by many admirers as the best gymnast to ever grace the sport. 

   It all started off at the 2013 World Artistic Gymnastics Championship in Antwerp, Belgium where Simone Biles would win Gold in the Individual All-around and floor exercises, Silver in the Vault, and Bronze on the Balance Beam  (This was good enough to win the gold medal count for women at this world championship, and for making the USA finish second in the overall gold medal count). Yet, as good as two gold medals were at a World Championship, Simone Biles decided that was not good enough and pushed for more golds, winning the Gold Medal in Team all-around, Individual all-around, Balance beam, and Floor, while getting Silver in Vault at the 2014 World Artistic Gymnastics Championship in Nanning, PR China. Simone Biles gold medals won the USA the overall men and women Gold Medal Count for that World Championship. At the 2015 World Artistic Gymnastics Championship, again Simone Biles would lead the USA by winning the Gold Medal in the Team all-around, Individual all-around, the Balance Beam, and the Floor, while finishing with a Bronze in the Vault. Her gold medals along with teammates Madison Kochian’s Gold Medal in the Uneven Bars (there was a 4 way tie for first in this competition that year) gave the USA the first place in the overall Gold Medal Count for that World Championship. 

     These first three performances at the World Championships meant that Simone Biles, already a 3x World Champion in certain disciplines, and overall 10x World Champion, was a shoe-in for the 2016 Olympics. And, while at the 2016 Olympics, Simone Biles introduced herself to the rest of the world who do not follow the World Championships, and she dominated. She won the Gold Medal in the Team all-around, the Individual all-around, the Vault, and Floor exercise, while she also won the Bronze Medal on the Balance beam. Her gold medals were enough for the USA to finish first in the Gold Medal Count for Gymnastics at the 2016 Olympics. 

     Simone Biles returned to elite level at the 2018 World Artistic Gymnastics Championship in Doha, Qatar. Here, Simone Biles would win the Gold Medal in Team all-around, the Individual all-around, the Vault, and the Floor, while finishing with a Silver Medal in the Uneven bars, and a Bronze Medal on the Balance beam. She finished this World Championship with a medal in every event for women, and her gold medals and two other medals were good enough to tie the top of the Gold Medal Count, with teammates Morgan Hurd’s and Sam Mikulak’s medals winning the tiebreaker for the USA to win that year’s Gold Medal count. 

     Yet, Simone Biles was not done quite yet. Her best performance ever came in the 2019 World Artistic Gymnastics Championship in Stuttgart, Germany. In a city known for horse-power, Simone Biles showed the world of gymnastics that human-power too was incredible, winning the Gold Medal in the Team, Individual all-around, Vault, Balance Beam, and Floor! Simone Biles finished with 5 gold medals, which was enough to secure the USA the Gold Medal count winners at that year’s Olympics, with the USA finishing with 2 more gold medals than second place Russia. 

     And, if you think that is impressive, note that Simone Biles has even won more gold medals and silver medals. She has won 2 Gold Medals (2015 Arlington, 2019 Stuttgart) and 1 Silver Medal (2013 Worcester) in the FIG All-Around World Cup, while also winning 2 Gold Medals at the Pacific Rim Championship (2016 Everet) to name two other competitions of lesser value than the World Championships and Olympics. 

     And yet, Simone Biles continued on to win the Silver Medal in the Team all-around at the 2020 Olympics.  

     Simone Biles thus far has already become the gymnast with the most World Championship medals (25) and gold medals (19) of all-time. Simone Biles has many more accomplishments as well, but there are too many to count. As it is, she has won a World Championship gold in every competition. Her gold medals alone would have been good enough to win the gold medal count at three different World Championships, and 1 Olympics for gymnastics. 

     Yet, now, she is struggling with something most of us have dealt with at one point or another, mental health problems. And, given the dangers of competing in gymnastics, especially at such a high level, Simone Biles does not feel capable of pushing through. 

     As Americans, we should be standing by her side, and not trying to gain points by bad mouthing her or her legacy. I think some people have probably mistaken her for what she stands for, and may not know her legacy and how she has represented the USA. For Americans, we became blessed with the presence of Michael Phelps in the pool, who became not only the best swimmer of all-time, but also the best Olympian of all-time. With 23 Olympic Golds, 3 Olympic Silvers, 2 Olympic Bronze, 27 World Championship Golds, 6 World Championship Silvers, and 1 World Championship Bronze, plus countless other medals in other tournaments, Michael Phelps became an American hero. But, so too has Simone Biles. 

     When questioning Simone Biles and her character, what stands out to me is what she has done when less people were watching. A lot of people with opinions are not gymnastics fans, and thus have only paid attention to her at the Olympics. Therefore, they may not realize how consistent and dominant Simone Biles has been. And, when many of us were not watching her at the World Championships, she represented the USA better than any gymnasts has represented any other nation before showing her real character.

     But, her story cannot be complete without mentioning her faith and interesting background. Simone Biles has even more character once you realize that she is religious too. This part is often not talked about enough. She is a practicing Catholic. Furthermore, she is a citizen of Belize, in addition to the USA, and is adopted. These facts I find very good for Simone’s story because it shows that she is connected to not just Americans, but the whole world, whether it be through her gymnastics career, her global faith community, her adopted background, or her dual citizenship. Just think if she had chosen to represent Belize instead? 

      And, her story cannot even be completed there. Because, it is worth reminding those negative of Simone Biles, that giving up on her would be the ultimate betrayal to an American athlete that has given so much to the sport and to her country, and did not give up on it through her most difficult periods. Remember the sexual assault scandal that rocked US Gymnastics and others like Michigan State? Simone Biles was a victim of that. And, when it would have been understandable for her to leave US Gymnastics after that traumatic experience, she stayed representing her country in ultimate fashion! She did not give up on the USA then, so we should not give up on her now when she needs us. 

    Whether the illustrious gymnastics career of Simone Biles is done or just at a temporary stopping point, at least we can all say we witnessed greatness while it lasted. So, before you go criticizing the best gymnasts of all-time, know that in the future, you will be wishing you could see her win even more golds, thinking to yourself how lucky you were to witness greatness.

3×3 Basketball proves that the way to success in Basketball is for more vertical mobility and accessibility

      3×3 Basketball just finished their first Olympic Games and it was spectacular! People who had not known the sport finally got introduced to it, and those who already knew the sport were so thrilled to see it reach the global audience that the Olympics brings. 

    But, what 3×3 basketball has really showed, is that when FIBA opens up their tournaments with every player having a chance to reach the highest levels, basketball not only grows, but the talent rises with more competition.

     For those not familiar with 3×3 Basketball, 3×3 Basketball is another way of writing 3 on 3 or 3 players versus 3 players. The reason for the name is that instead of a traditional basketball game where 5 players are on the court at a time for both teams, 3×3 basketball features 3 players on the court for each team. And, with less players means that 3×3 basketball is played on a half sized basketball court, which allows the sport to be played anywhere. In fact, some of the top tournaments have been played in the atriums of malls (FIBA 3×3:  https://worldtour.fiba3x3.com/2015/news/10-reasons-to-follow-the-fiba-3×3-world-tour-manila-masters).

     Not only is the court shorter, but so is the game. 3×3 games are ten minutes long and can even end sooner if a team scores 21 points before the ten minutes is up. The team leading after 10 minutes or the team to first score 21 points wins the game, An overtime does follow a tie game with the first team to score 2 points winning the game. This allows for tournaments that play up to 10 games to be played within a 3 day weekend period, which creates a full weekend of fun for the vast number of cities that get to host high level 3×3 tournaments. 

     There are many other rules to 3×3 you can find in these three links from FIBA 3×3: (https://fiba3x3.basketball/docs/fiba-3×3-basketball-rules-full-version.pdf, https://fiba3x3.basketball/docs/FIBA-3×3-Basketball-Rules-Full-2019.pdf, and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OUx-EmnQVRg&t=3s). Some of the notable rules would include that 2 point shots are 1 point, 3 point shots are 2 points, which also means you shoot 1 free throw for a foul inside the 3 point line and 2 free throws for one outside the 3 point line. There is a 12 second shot clock. The ball is 1 size smaller than the men’s for regular FIBA play. The other rules can be found in the links provided. 

     Now, some of you who grew up playing basketball must be wondering why you never heard of 3×3 being a formalized sport so much so that it is now in the Olympics. 3×3 for a lot of you was merely just a way to play with friends on one side of the court, while another group of friends would play 3×3 on the other side. While the formalization of 3×3 basketball started with tournaments as early as the 1970s in the USA, FIBA did not start sponsoring 3×3 tournaments until the 2007 Asian Indoor Games in Macau (now called the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games) under a few different rules than today’s 3×3. It has continued to feature in this competition since. In 2009, it was added to the Asian Youth Games, and in 2010, it went worldwide by being added to the Summer Youth Olympics. After this event, FIBA decided to modify some rules and create their own competitions, the World Cups for national teams (then called World Championships) at various age levels, and the World Tour, the professional circuit for non-national teams or clubs. 

     And this is where 3×3 has seen its greatest growth because this is where the best part of 3×3 basketball stems from. 

     3×3 Basketball allows all players interested in starting a team a chance to win the World Tour, the club world championship (non-national team) for 3×3. Yes, you heard that right! If you want to, you and your 3 other friends (1 substitute) could get together and decide to enter into a pre-qualifying tournament, usually held regionally. And, if you do well enough in this, you can keep advancing up to other tournaments until you earn a spot in the FIBA World Tour (FIBA 3×3: https://fiba3x3.com/en/competition-network.html)!

    The FIBA 3×3 World Tour (with both a male and female component) is a professional circuit of masters tournaments held in a certain number of cities by region. The number of tournaments changes by the year, but the top overall teams and winners of each of these tournaments at the end of the 3×3 World Tour get a chance to play for the 3×3 World Tour Final (tournament), held in one city to become the best team in the world. This makes 3×3 unique, in that you do not necessarily need the stress of trying to impress coaches or of dealing with coaches that will not play you. Instead of getting lost in the system of recruiting like many basketball players do, you can choose to take your talents elsewhere and really prove that you belong through these different tournaments. And, you can prove your way to the highest level of 3×3, the World Tour. It is like an individual sport in a way, because if you keep winning, there is not going to be someone who eliminates your chances to compete at the next level because of the competition you were playing, or the lack of potential you are presumed to have. And, this 3×3 World Tour is professional and winning it all can come with lots of prize money!

     In addition to the 3×3 World Tour, 3×3 also has the Men’s and Women’s World Cup held every year except in the year of the Summer Olympics, for national teams. What is great about these World Cups is that these too are open to qualifications from various FIBA federations and have seen a variety of nations compete from Andorra to Mongolia. This has opened the 3×3 game to more nations and thus more players, by providing more vertical mobility among nations. There is no divine right to be there, rather you have to and get to earn your way to the top. This lack of a divine right often applies to players too, as a lot of the federations have open tournaments for teams of 4 players with the winning team getting to represent the nation at these events. This vertical mobility 3×3 has provided has created even more popularity for national team 3×3 basketball which became the impetus for the Summer Olympic Games to include 3×3 basketball for the 2020 Olympics, and following suit were the Commonwealth Games for 2022. Other national team competitions exist at various youth levels with U23 and U18 levels and various continental levels with the Asian Games, Asian Beach Games, Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, the European Games, and some of the FIBA Continental Federations all featuring 3×3 basketball tournaments. 

    And, while this is great for the players and for the nations, the 3×3 setup is even better for optimal fan experience! In the FIBA run competitions, in other words, the World Cups and World Tours, as well as events led by the FIBA Continental Federations, all games can be seen live and on-demand on YouTube for free! This has greatly expanded the reach of 3×3 as it has sort of become a go to for many sports fans who wish to see high level competition, but who find so many to be too expensive to watch. This has also contributed to the rise in popularity of 3×3, as 3×3 has quickly become the most popular urban sport in the world, which is to say a sport designed for urban areas where there is not as much room to play (FIBA 3×3: http://www.fiba.basketball/documents/2015/3x3_Guide_To_Hosting.pdf). 

    With all this attention coming to 3×3 basketball, it is important to note that the integrity of its competition structure needs to be respected for the sport to continue to grow. Already, it is the fastest growing sport and is helping lesser-known basketball countries discover basketball and play it at a high level. For example, we have already seen Qatar win the 2014 Men’s World Cup, and Qatar is not a traditional basketball powerhouse. And, we see smaller countries all the time like Andorra being able to put together strong teams to represent them at major tournaments. This means that we have to push against 3×3 competitions which seek to destroy this open system of play that makes 3×3 basketball the most accessible sport with the most vertical mobility seen in the world. Some leagues are wishing to trade this openness for a closed market league with the temptations of more money. While legal, FIBA needs to make sure to put restrictions on these to preserve the current 3×3 structure, or risk the open system of 3×3 play being gone forever. And, this is one threat of the growing audience to FIBA 3×3 that the Olympics brings. Another is the threats to change the way 3×3 is played, which is such a pure form of the sport. For fans of 3×3, we hope that others recognize that the excitement you see is directly because each of these players had the opportunities to earn their way onto these teams and into these circuits through competition. Imagine if all things were that way? So, please do not push for 3×3 leagues which seek to corrupt a very meritocratic form of basketball by creating drafts and over coaching, because then, we will not see people rewarded for their merits, rather, people will be rewarding for what people think they might do in the future or for who they may know. In a world of too much bias, it is nice to see a sport dominated by merit, where everyone truly does have the chance to succeed by earning their success on the court!

Is this Men’s Olympic Basketball Tournament more pivotal for France or Australia?

     France and Australia have been top basketball nations for a very long time now. And, thanks to former Spurs teammates, Tony Parker and Patty Mills, France and Australia have achieved great successes since the 2000s. 

     Yet, while France and Australia both have been mainstays in the Olympics and World Cup, and while both have dominated at the continental level, with France having won the 2011 Eurobasket, and medaling in 3 other Eurobaskets since 2000, and with Australia having won 6 Oceanian Championships and 1 Asian Championship (Oceania and Asia now compete as one since 2017), plus medaling in 2 other Oceanian Championships since 2000, neither has won Gold at the World Cup or the Olympics, and Australia still has not even won a medal at either event! Surprising as this lack of Gold successes for both teams have been, or just medal success for Australia, Australia and France are still considered top Gold medal contenders for the 2020 Olympics.

     A major reason for this top Gold medal contender status has been both nations’ recent records against the world’s #1 team, the USA. Australia and France have both beaten the USA twice out of the last three times they have played the USA. France has defeated the USA the last two times, in the 2019 World Cup Quarter-finals, and the 2020 Olympic Group Stage on Sunday. Australia, meanwhile, has only beaten the USA in exhibitions. These are feats that the defending World Champions, Spain, still has not even been able to accomplish, at least not recently. Yet, the successes against Team USA might not even be the main reason for this top Gold medal contender status, rather, it may be the talent on each roster.

      Currently, both nations feature a stacked roster. Australia has 6 NBA players, plus 1 more player who played in the NBA in 2021, and 5 other very capable players, 1 which plays in the 2nd best overall league, Euroleague, another which plays in the 2nd best domestic league, Liga ACB (Spain), and three more who play in Australia’s NBL, one of the world’s best leagues, usually considered to be a top 10 domestic league. France on the other hand, features 5 NBA players, 3 more players with NBA experience, and the rest of the 4 players feature two playing in Euroleague, with 1 more playing in Liga ACB and another playing in the French League, also a top 10 domestic league. Keep in mind Euroleague is a continental tournament so those who play in Euroleague also play in a domestic league meaning that some of those Euroleague players play in the French League or other leagues as well. In total, that is 10 NBA and Euroleague players for France, and 6 for Australia. 

     Yet, as we have seen with nations like Canada, having top level talent and having some elite wins does not mean much without deep runs in world tournaments. And that is yet another reason for this top Gold medal contender status both France and Australia have. Since 2014, France has finished 3rd place twice at the World Cup (2014 and 2019), while Australia has finished 4th place at one World Cup (2019) and the Olympics (2016). They have both proven that they have what it takes to make deep runs, and combine that with their talent and their recent successes against the current #1 team in the world and defending Olympic Champions, USA, makes both favorites to win the Gold Medal in Japan this August. 

     But, talent and recent results can only last so long. While it looks like France and Australia are going to continue to make great basketball players for the future, both nations know two things. One, that the stars they have in the future may not be as good as the stars they have now, and two, that to win the Olympics or the World Cup usually means going through the USA and other really good teams like a Serbia or Croatia (Yugoslavia back in the days), a Russia or Lithuania (Soviet Union back in the days), Argentina, Brazil, Greece, and more recently, Spain. With Argentina, the USA, and Spain all looking not as good as usual, and with no Greece, Croatia, Serbia, Lithuania, or Russia in this year’s Olympic Basketball tournament, this seems like possibly the last opportunity these very talented players will be playing as tournament favorites capable of beating anyone for a very long time again. And, neither wants to mess up on this chance that may not come around again. France does not know if they will have a Gobert, Fournier, de Colo, or Batum again, just like Australia does not know if another Patty Mills or Joe Ingles will ever exist for them again. 

     Therefore, the feeling seems like a potential now or never scenario, not that it necessarily is one, but it very well may be one, raising the question to which nation is winning the Olympics more pivotal for, given the ageing of both lineups and the opportunity of a weaker field than usual? 

    For me, it is more pivotal for France to win the Gold Medal, but for Australia to win a medal, because France has already won medals before at both the World Cup and Olympics (bronze at the 2014 and 2019 World Cup, silver at the 1948 and 2000 Olympics), unlike Australia. Whereas, for Australia, winning a medal is more pivotal because they are coming off of 2 straight 4th place finishes (2016 Olympics and 2019 World Cup), and have had an even longer history of 4th places with the 1988, 1996, and 2000 Olympics as well. The French will not be as satisfied with coming away with a silver or bronze because they know they have been a huge let down in year’s past, with losing to Serbia after beating host nation and tournament favorites Spain in the 2014 World Cup Quarter-finals, after losing to Spain by a lot in the 2016 Olympic Quarter-finals, and then again after losing to Argentina in the 2019 World Cup Semi-finals after having beaten tournament favorites Team USA in the Quarter-finals. For the French, they never have really been not good enough to win the Gold Medal, they just have not. The Australians on the other hand will accept a medal as a consolation prize, as they still never have won a medal and thus will be less likely to feel like not winning the Gold Medal was a disappointment. 

     Furthermore, France also has the better players stats wise with 6 of their players averaging double digits in either the NBA or Euroleague through their careers or in their most recent season (Nando de Colo, Nicolas Batum, Evan Fournier, Rudy Gobert, Thomas Heurtel, and Guerschon Yabusele). And, one of the other six, Vincent Poirier, averaged double digits in his Euroleague career, but has played his last two seasons in the NBA and has gotten limited minutes. Australia, on the other hand, has only two players that score in the double digits in the NBA or Euroleague in either their career or current season (Patty Mills and Joe Ingles), with Jock Landale having averaged double digits with his former team in Euroleague before he moved to the Australian NBL. Therefore, France should feel like the Gold Medal is even more in reach because they have a group of 6 players who could start on any team at this year’s Olympics, whereas Australia does not. While it is true too, that Australia are considered favorites to win the Olympics by the most recent FIBA power rankings, and while it is true that Australia is higher ranked at #3 in the FIBA rankings compared to France’s #7 ranking, when it comes to the court and the talent, France has the edge as evident when France defeated Australia in the 2019 FIBA World Cup 3rd Place Game, a game which probably meant even more for Australia given their medaless past. And combine this with the fact that France’s wins over the USA came in way more meaningful games, it seems clear that France is the nation with the best chance to win the Olympics. Thus, France’s history of medals, their talent, and recent results will make getting any medal but gold not seem like their best effort, whereas for Australia, just getting a medal will feel like satisfaction given their lack of medals historically. 

     Either way though, both nations are hoping for and expecting their teams to come away with gold, and both are off to a good start as both are leading their groups following Australia’s 84-65 win over Nigeria and France’s 83-76 win over the USA. 

Is the Silver generation of Italian Basketball back?

Italy’s 92-82 win over Germany was crucial in this year’s Olympic Basketball’s group of death, featuring a highly improved Nigeria that defeated the USA in an exhibition this summer, an Australian team which did the same and is ranked #3 in the world, and of course Germany who has been vastly improving since their 1-4 performance in Eurobasket 2015 (their most recent low point). All of these could win the Olympics this year. 

Italy is currently like the rest of the nations in their group, playing the best basketball they have played for a while. Italy is currently ranked #10 in the world. 

Italian basketball has always been very formidable, with their first major medal coming in the 1937 Eurobasket, getting silver. 

While Italy has not always been a mainstay in the Olympics or World Cup, having not qualified for either competition from 2008-2016, basketball has always been a mainstay in Italy.

A lot of people do not realize how good Italy has been for basketball. As a national team, Italy has won Eurobasket twice (1983 and 1999), has won 4 silver medals and 4 bronze medals in Eurobasket, and has won the silver medals at the 1980 and 2004 Olympic Games. While their World Cup record is not as impressive, they have finished 4th place twice, and have never finished lower than 10th place in a World Cup they have qualified for. Italy comes off of that 10th place finish in 2019.

However, it has not been at the national team level Italy experienced its highest highs. It has been at the club level! Italy was widely regarded as having the best basketball league in Europe up until maybe the 2010s. Still, it is up there near the top. So this meant that Italy was the place to be if you were not in the NBA, so much so that Michael Jordan even played an exhibition game for Pallacanestro Trieste in 1985! Remember, there is a reason Kobe Bryant grew up in Italy! 

Basketball was so popular in Italy that in the 1980s, basketball was often considered the most popular sport there.  Although, I am sure there would be many people to contend this claim.

So, back to the present-day, and Italy features 2 NBA players, one of which is a player who has scored quite a bit in the NBA averaging over 15 points a game over his 13 year long NBA career, Danilo Gallanari. And, Italy features one other player with NBA experience as recent as the 2021 season. But, remember how I wrote about how good the Italian League used to be! Well, it is still one of the best leagues in Europe and thus the world, and from top to bottom, is probably the 3rd best domestic league after the NBA (USA and Canada) and Liga ACB (Spain). Sure, some may say the VTB United League (domestic for Russia), or the Turkish League, or other leagues are deeper, but the point is the Italian League remains really good. Furthermore, out of those other 10 non-NBA players, 4 of them play in the Euroleague (continental league) which is the overall 2nd best league in the world, domestic or not. And, all of these players are big name players within these leagues, whether it be the Italian League, Euroleague, the German League, or the Turkish League, which means that Italy is has one of the best rosters at this year’s Olympics! 

And, while Italy is missing some of their better players like CSKA Moscow’s Daniel Hackett who retired from the national team in 2019, Italy was still one of the pre-Olympic favorites to get a medal! The tough part for them was going to be getting out of the group! 

But, after a 10 point victory over the Germans, Italy and Australia now sit on top of their groups following Australia’s 19 point win over Nigeria. It is definitely too early to say that this Italian team will medal at the Olympics, let alone win the Olympics, but the last time Italy won an Olympic Game before Saturday night/Sunday morning was in the 2004 semi-finals against Lithuania (100-91). And like Team USA, Italy is most successful in the Olympics instead of the World Cup, and will look to extend that success for the 2020 Olympics. If you still are not convinced that Italy can defeat the best, remember that Italy only got to the Olympics by defeating Serbia in Serbia, a team that defeated Team USA at the 2019 World Cup, and a team who finished 2nd place at the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, and who is ranked #5 in the World. Italy very much is now a contender for this year’s Olympics and will look to defeat tournament favorites (according to FIBA power rankings), Australia, next. The rest of this group stage will surely be a good predictor of what Italy’s capabilities are for this year’s Olympics. And, in order to get to that Silver medal position or beat it, Italy will need to continue to win to guarantee a spot in the Quarter-finals.

Why Does the USA Keep Losing in Men’s Basketball?

The USA Men’s Basketball Team lost to France 76-83 on Sunday morning in Group A of the Olympic Men’s Basketball Tournament (5×5). 

This loss, the 7th Place finish in the 2019 FIBA World Cup, the exhibition loss to Australia in the 2019 exhibitions, plus the losses to Nigeria and Australia in this year’s exhibitions have begun to worry Americans that the 2002-2006 Gold Medaless USA Men’s Basketball Teams may be back. And, not many are acute to probably the main reason why this is happening. But, first, a mini USA basketball history lesson to contextualize where we are.

The 2019 World Cup result was actually not super surprising to basketball historians because the USA has often struggled in World Cup play, in fact Yugoslavia still has as many World Cups as we do (5) and have not been a country since 2002. There are many reasons for this, such as there are more teams at World Cups and it is often a harder format than the Olympics.

However, in the Olympics, we dominate and always have. In fact, since 1996, only our women’s has been more dominant than our men’s in that time span. Our Men have 15 Golds, 1 Silver, and 2 Bronze! We have never not won a medal at the Olympics, except the time we boycotted in 1980. Our first loss ever came after 7 Olympics of being undefeated and came at the hands of the Soviets in a game that we should have won and we still dispute because there appeared to be some cheating in favor of the Soviets. Horns sounded during a free throw, and 3 times, time was added back onto the clock to allow the Soviets to beat us 51-50. However, that has not been the only time the USA failed to win the Olympic Gold Medal in men’s basketball.

Other times include in 1980 when Yugoslavia won, as we did not compete due to the boycott. 1988 saw us lose in the semi-finals to the Soviets, which we followed up by beating Australia in the Bronze Medal game. And then, 2004 saw us finish with Bronze, but after 3 losses, which was more Olympic Basketball losses for our Men’s than the combined amount of losses from 14 previous Olympic Basketball campaigns. We lost to Puerto Rico and Lithuania in the Group Stage, and then we lost to Gold Medal winning Argentina in the semi-finals. Still, we won bronze after defeating Lithuania. And, 2004 was worse for more than just the losses. It was our first time losing in the Olympics with NBA players as the Olympics barred professional basketball players until 1992, and FIBA did until 1989. Plus, that was after finishing 6th place in the World Cup that we hosted in 2002, and then we finished 3rd place in the 2006 World Cup in Japan with only 1 loss in Coach Krzyzewski’s (“Coach K”) first year as Head Coach for USA Basketball since 1991 (at the Goodwill Games). 

But, that 2006 team is what led to USA dominance again. See, even with the loss in the semi-finals to Greece, we dominated in Japan (where the 2006 World Championship, now called the World Cup, was). We were back to our old selves and there is a big reason for that! We had a coach whose existence basically depends on winning every game.

In College Basketball, you have to win almost every game to get a #1 seed, and a loss in college is considered a big deal. Furthermore, to win the National Championship, after getting into the NCAA Tournament, you have to win every game! So, as a coach for the Duke Blue Devils, Coach K came from a background where every game mattered, even the exhibitions! Sure, exhibitions do not show up on the record, but when you schedule a Division 2 or 3 or lower team like most Division 1 programs do, the last thing you want to do is lose. And then, in the regular season, Duke will play tons of schools they cannot overlook and a loss would be devastating to the fan base. 

So, Coach K came from an atmosphere of needing to win every game like you do with Team USA. And thus, Coach K ended his second stint as the USA head coach (did not do as well in the late 1980s and early 1990s as a coach for USA at various tournaments) with a 75-1 record, winning the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship, the 2008 Olympics, the 2010 World Cup (then World Championship), the 2012 Olympics, the 2014 World Cup, and the 2016 Olympics with a perfect record, plus winning all the exhibition games leading up to these tournaments as well! The only loss was to Greece in the 2006 FIBA World Championship where the USA still finished with 3rd place after defeating Argentina. There may have been some close calls here and there, but the USA won every game after 2006 under Coach K.

And, not only is college basketball more conducive to a job that basically requires you to win every game to avoid criticism, but it is also more conducive to the style of play of FIBA. FIBA plays 40 minutes, the same as college. It is known for more ball movement, more team play, and is often more physical than the NBA, similar to college. Each individual game not only means more because of the format of the tournaments, but also because it represents a nation, making the atmosphere more similar to college. And, FIBA allows defenses that a lot of the NBA players have not seen since College or High School because the NBA does not allow them. 

With Coach Popovic, we have been less good. We won the 2016 Olympics, with many scares, but nonetheless, we won it with an undefeated record. However, since then, it has been much tougher. And part of the reason is because Coach Popovic has been coaching so long in the NBA, that he is used to “throw away” games. It is not that the NBA teams do this on purpose, but they definitely overlook some games due to the 82 game regular season. Plus, losing a game in the NBA is not a huge deal, unless it is an exhibition against a non-NBA team, because the teams are a lot more even and only feature 30 teams. You cannot lose to the 125th ranked team in the USA, rather, you can only lose to the 29th best team in the USA or the best team in Canada. And then, you also have the NBA playoffs which to win the NBA, you could hypothetically lose 12 games and still win the Championship (and 13 now if you are the 7th or 8th seed with the play in games). 

Furthermore, in the college game, the best players usually score like 15 to 20 points a game as they take far less shots and there is less time, similar to FIBA. But, in the NBA, the best players often score in the high 20s or 30s. It is not uncommon to see 40 point games anymore, as the super stars get tons of foul calls for them, and get to take lots of shots. College does not have this near as much, nor does FIBA. 

And these are the main reasons the USA are losing more than with Coach K. Under a seasoned NBA Head Coach, the focus is just not there to win every game like it is in college, and the style of play, expectations, and format is more conducive to the college game. This does not mean we will not win Gold, it just means that we may not be perfect in our pursuit of Gold. Sure, there is the argument that the level of play has risen across the world, but it really has not since Coach K was the coach, at least not with the teams both coaches are playing. Australia, France, Serbia, and Turkey were really good while Coach K was the coach. In fact, Turkey’s best team Coach K helped the USA defeat in Turkey in the 2010 World Championship Final! And, the USA defeated Serbia in the World Cup Final in 2014. France has been a top team since before Coach K even took over again in 2006, and he beat them handily in the 2012 Olympics (98-71). The only team that has seen significant improvement since Coach K was coach that the USA has struggled against would be Nigeria. Sure, Nikola Jokić, a Serbian, may be the 2021 NBA MVP, but his Serbian National Team failed to qualify for the Olympics so I do not think you can say Serbian basketball has improved since Coach K left. And, while you could criticize the players the USA has at their arsenal, you must remember that every year NBA players went to play for Coach K, there were significant improvement for a majority of them their next season usually, and Coach K often got the best out of them. There were always doubts with his teams such as who was our center going to be for the 2012 Olympics. Look at the 2010 FIBA World Championship where Lamar Odom and a young Kevin Durant helped lead Team USA to our first World Championship since 1994. The facts are Coach K got the job done!

But, it is not yet time to hit the panic button, and we should not put undue pressure on our Americans to be perfect. Still, with the loss to France, all is fine. Remember, the goal is to win Gold. The current format has 3 groups of 4 teams, and the top 2 advance from each group (6 teams). The remaining 2 teams will be the 2 best 3rd place teams out of the 3 3rd place teams in each group. We have the Czech Republic and Iran left, and while the Czechs have become really good lately (finishing above us in the World Cup at 6th in 2019), we should beat them like we did in the 2019 Group Stage and defeat Iran by quite a lot. Even if we lose 2 games, if we win 1, we should be able to advance if we defeat the Czechs or Iranians by a lot. And, with our roster, just being in the quarter-finals should be good enough as we can beat anyone in the field as evident with our wins over 2019 World Cup runner-ups, Argentina, and 2019 World Cup winners, Spain, in exhibitions this summer. Still, a 2nd place finish is needed to guarantee we stay in, and a 2-1 record will most likely get us 2nd place. 

So, let us trust that Coach Popovic and his team will start catching fire once the Quarter-finals comes along, because if we get there, we know the USA playing at their top level is good enough to beat any national team out there. 

Why CONCACAF and CONMEBOL Should Create a New Tournament

The North and South American Continents will forever be connected as The New World. But, in both geography, and in many sports, these two continents are separated. Geographically, North America features all of the land north of the Panama Isthmus and the islands in the Caribbean. Thus, in sports, various international governing bodies like FIFA for association football divides South America and North America into two continents for qualification purposes.

But, these beliefs and practices are not universal. In many countries and regions that speak languages originating from the Iberian Peninsula, they often teach that the Americas is one continent. And, furthermore, there are many sporting entities like FIBA, the international governing body for basketball, and the International Olympic Committee which actually combine both North and South America into one continent called the Americas.

The Americas are often connected politically through the Organization of American States which feature all of the independent sovereign-states of the Americas. Many of the regions in the Americas are often connected culturally, with large swaths of both continents being place into either Latin America or the Caribbean, and sometimes both. There are even some transcontinental countries like Panama, Colombia, and Venezuela with land in either continent, along with France through their overseas areas and the United Kingdom through their territories. And, what holds these continents most together is their common ethnic and indigenous groups, histories, struggles, and languages most of these states share.

With that being said, it would be completely within the realm of tradition and culture for North America and South America to compete against one another in their own competitions for association football. Currently speaking, North America is ran by CONCACAF and South America is ran by CONMEBOL. CONCACAF includes three nations fully on the South American continent however, Suriname, Guyana, and French Guiana as these three consider themselves Caribbean and thus more in line with the Caribbean region of North America. With these two separate federations come separate qualifications for the FIFA World Cup, in addition to separate competitions for almost everything else including for their continental championships. CONMEBOL has Copa America, while CONCACAF has the Gold Cup. Both competitions occasionally invite guests from the other continent to play, but they mainly are made up of their continental teams. And this is good and should continue. But, there is another option to be had for the future, in addition to these two great tournaments, that both CONCACAF and CONMEBOL should explore.

See, the Gold Cup happens every two years and Copa America often happens at least twice, if not more between each World Cup. And, while CONCACAF features over 41 nations and thus can include 16 nations with a qualification process that increases the excitement with new nations every now and then, CONMEBOL only features 10 nations, and it is the same ones every time. The only thing CONMEBOL can do to spice up Copa America is invite other nations to play in it, which they often do. But, while CONCACAF has more nations, CONMEBOL often has more excitement in terms of play because South America tends to be either the second best or the best continent for players and national teams. Thus, it is common to see top 10 matchups in CONMEBOL. Hence, Copa America has all the eyes, while the Gold Cup has all the stories for the Americas. And, while Copa America often invites new nations for new stories, the Gold Cup often invites new nations for an increase level of play.

This is where a united tournament can come into play. See, I am 100% in favor of keeping the Gold Cup and Copa America, but, instead of having it played two times each in a World Cup cycle, it may be better for one of the tournaments to be a combined tournament for the Americas. This would generate so much extra money for both confederations, while increasing the level of play across both continents. Sure, there would need to be a certain formatting and qualification set up, but the idea of seeing the USA, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Colombia, and others battle it out for American supremacy would be so compelling.

By keeping the Gold Cup and Copa America, this allows for there to be a North American Champion and a South American Champion. And, with CONCACAF now having a Nations’ League, this means that a loss of the extra Gold Cup for teams that most likely will not qualify for a combined Americas tournament will most likely still see more competition than prior to 2019. And, with creating a combined tournament, the Americas could have a once every four year tournament that rivals the UEFA European Championship. This would be a great compromise for the numerous of smaller CONCACAF nations who surely do not wish to see the Gold Cup abandoned for a much harder to qualify for super-continental tournament, and for the CONCACAF and CONMEBOL nations wishing to raise their level of competition and earn even more money. And, with a combined tournament, this is likely to bring more of the diasporas to various national teams across both continents, but especially in CONCACAF as there will be a major tournament to play for every four years where CONMEBOL opposition will be present.

The Copa America Centenario (2016) was the closest we ever got to this, with 10 CONMEBOL nations and 6 CONCACAF nations playing in the USA. It was the most successful continental tournament held in the Americas featuring well over 45,000 average attendance numbers and over 1.5 billion in viewership across the world (https://www.forbes.com/sites/sergeiklebnikov/2016/06/26/successful-copa-america-2016-smashes-records/?sh=1f1656587640). And, with one less Gold Cup and one less Copa America every four years, it should raise the level and importance of these competitions too! Already in the Gold Cup, there seems to be the Gold Cup for the A teams and the Gold Cup for the B teams, for nations like the USA, which often focus more on the first Gold Cup in the World Cup cycle. And, Copa America has increasing become less watchful to the point that in 2021, they had four out of five teams get out of the group stage.

With the USA, Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico alone in this tournament, this could act as basically a secondary World Cup for the Americas and generate lots of money that when divided out, will probably be something rivaling the World Cup for each participant. Just think, 8 nations from CONCACAF and 8 nations from CONMEBOL:

Group A: Brazil, Honduras, Peru, El Salvador

Group B: Argentina, Costa Rica, Canada, Ecuador

Group C: USA, Colombia, Chile, Panama

Group D: Mexico, Uruguay, Jamaica, Paraguay

What a tournament that would be!