Georgia, Cape Verde make their FIBA World Cup debuts with different aims and dreams

Edvinas Jablonskis
Daily Editor
2023-08-27 01:45

Georgia beat Cape Verde in the matchup between FIBA Basketball World Cup debutants. Edy Tavares revealed that Cape Verde's dream is to qualify for the 2024 Olympics, while Goga Bitadze, Tornike Shengelia, and Sandro Mamukelashvili shared their emotions following the win.

Credit: FIBA

August 26 was a day to remember for both Cape Verde and Georgia.

Both nations made their debut in the FIBA Basketball World Cup but left the Okinawa Arena court with completely different feelings.

Georgia blew out Cape Verde 85-60, leaving no question marks about the outcome early in the game.

Player of the Game
Goga  Bitadze
Goga Bitadze
Points 15
Accuracy 3-4
Rebounds 11
Assists 3

Only the first 7-8 minutes were intriguing and competitive when Cape Verde held an 8-2 lead. However, Georgia's head coach, Illias Zouros, took a timeout, and his squad went on an 18-3 run that set the tone for the rest of the game.

"First World Cup game, the whole Georgia was watching, and everybody was so excited, texting us. It was a little emotional," Georgian forward Sandro Mamukelashvili explained what was going on in the first minutes.

"Everybody is so happy to be here, but at the same time [thinking] we gotta test and we wanna win. I feel there was a little [bit of] anxiousness, but overall, it was great," added the San Antonio Spurs forward.

The victory must have been even more emotional for Georgia's captain, Tornike Shengelia. The 31-year-old forward missed last year's EuroBasket after suffering a shoulder injury right before the tournament's start.

Now, he led his country to its first World Cup win, finishing the game with 16 points (5/10 2PT, 0/1 3PT, 6/6 FT), 7 rebounds, 1 assist, and 13 EFF.

"Great feelings, man," Shengelia told BasketNews after the win. "We started a little bit nervous, it was our first World Cup game. The guys from the bench came cold-minded, and we started to roll, trying to maintain and increase the lead step-by-step."

And Georgia was really on a roll. At one point, it felt that the fans inside the Okinawa Arena were witnessing an All-Star game: alley-oops, flashy passes, and even an attempted alley-oop from the board.

Nevertheless, Goga Bitadze assured that there were no intentions or such mindset inside the team.

"We took it really seriously," Bitadze said. "They have good players, and you can't play around with them. Maybe it looked flashy and like an All-Star [game], but we took it really seriously and deserved this win."

There was no such positivity on the Cape Verde's end. The smallest World Cup nation couldn't offer anything, and it seemed that even the biggest team's star, Edy Tavares, wasn't himself.

Cape Verde and Real Madrid star finished the game with 6 points (2/7 2PT, 2/3 FT), 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 5 turnovers, and 12 EFF.

Tavares himself admitted that it was a far from perfect game for him. Still, Cape Verde's big man remained positive and emphasized the most important thing.

"Nobody could have imagined Cape Verde playing in the World Cup, but we are here," Tavares said after the game. "We know it's a great opportunity for us and our young players. For us, it's great, so we'll try to be focused and create a great memory for Cape Verde."

"They did a great scouting against me," Tavares admitted. "When I received the ball in the post, I didn't get a chance to dribble too much because they were ready for everything I did. I'm going to see the film to learn and be more patient when I have the ball in the post."

Edy Tavares
Edy Tavares
Credit FIBA

Meanwhile, for Georgia, it was another reason to be proud of their debut performance in the World Cup.

"We knew how great he is and how much he could help the team if he plays great. We knew we had to shut him down," Mamukelashvili said. "We knew how good of a passer and how big of a presence in the post he is. We planned to double-team him whenever he put the ball on the floor and take away their shooters. I think it worked perfectly."

"Edy can change the game, he proved it many times in Real Madrid. We know he's a dangerous player, so we tried to push him out of the paint and double-team him whenever he started to play 1-on-1," added Shengelia.

Just like with the different moods in the game, Georgia and Cape Verde also have two different goals and aims in this World Cup.

For Cape Verde, it's another shot at history. FIBA Basketball World Cup has only 5 African teams, and the best one will receive a direct ticket to the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Being the 1st among 5 doesn't sound impossible when all teams are more or less on the same level.

"That's the main thing for us – being the best African team in the World Cup and going straight to the Olympics. That's the dream," Tavares didn't hide his aspirations. "It would be great for us and our country to be in both the World Cup and Olympics."

Meanwhile, when Mamukelashvili was asked whether it was the biggest win in Georgian basketball history, he let it be understood that their eyes are set on a bigger prize.

"I'd say it's a great win, but we got Slovenia ahead of us, so we'll definitely be locked in for that one," Mamu replied.


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