Qatar’s basketball team begin the lengthy and difficult process of trying to become one of seven teams in Asia to qualify for the FIBA World Cup in 2019 with a Group D match against Kazakhstan at Doha’s Ali bin Hamad Al-Attiyah Arena tomorrow.
Iran and Iraq comprise the other teams in the group D in the first round of qualifying, with the top three advancing to round two, which will be contested in two groups of six teams each.
The top three teams from each group in round two and the seventh best team will eventually get to play the global event after qualifying ends in February 2019.
While on the face of it qualifying for the second round appears easy as only one team from the group will miss out, Qatar will have to be at their very best because of the competitiveness of the group.
Qatar’s form heading into the tournament is also a matter of concern. In the Asia Cup held in Lebanon in August, Qatar lost all their group matches, eventually finishing 13th out of 16 teams in the continent.
“It was a poor performance,” said Qatar star Mizo Amin, who is officially known as Hassan Mohamed.
“Many players got injured before and during the tournament, including myself. I suffered a tear in the knee meniscus, but I still played despite the injury. Our naturalised player Sammy Monroe was not able to participate due to an injury as well, he told FIBA earlier this month.”
Mizo feels Qatar have a great chance of beating Kazakhstan who finished last in the 16-team Asia Cup.
“There is a good chance Qatar will defeat Kazakhstan here at home if our team plays as planned,” he said. “We have played against them in the past, and we know our ways around them.”
The shooting guard feels he can play a big role for Qatar.
“If I am healthy and in shape, I will definitely be ready to start at the SG (shooting guard) position,” he said. “I need to improve my stamina and fastbreak offense so I can help out my teammates who alternate with me, especially guards like Abdulrahman Saad and Mansour El-Hadari.”
Against the mighty Iranians, however, Mizo is more realistic as they will play on the road against one of the best teams in the continent.
“As for Iran, while I think they are tough opponents, we know we must compete and bring our A-game against them,” he shared.
Qatar will be guided by their new coach, Briton Tim Lewis, who took charge only two weeks ago.
“We have an exciting group, with a good mix of the old and young,” he was quoted as saying on the Qatar Basketball Federation website.
“I am pleased with them. We had a short period of the league and some of them just played for their clubs. It is just gauging how much you can do and how much you can’t do,” added Lewis who has also coached Thailand besides being a consultant for the Philippines team.
“I feel the Qatari players are pretty strong and they have good skillsets. Hopefully, if we can expand the talent pool and grow the base of the players, it will help us in the long term.”
Iran, who finished second in the Asia Cup in August – they were beaten by Australia in the final – are definitely the favourites to top Group D, with Mohamed Jamshidi and Hamed Haddadi leading their campaign. Both players were chosen for the All-Star team of the Asia Cup.
The Qatar-Kazakhstan match tomorrow begins at 6pm and entry is free to all.
Qatar players take part in a training session ahead of the tournament.