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Adel TLATLI (TUN)
Adel Tlatli (TUN) - Nigeria v Tunisia. 2012 Olympic Games: Tournament for Men, Preliminary Round. 29 July 2012
10/04/2013

TUNIS (Afrobasket/FIBA Basketball World Cup) - When Tunisia reached the top of the podium at Afrobasket 2011 in Madagascar, a drought came to an end.

For the first time since 1983, when Egypt captured the gold medal, a team from north Africa won the title.

The hosts of Afrobasket 2013, Ivory Coast, finished first in 1985 and then Central African Republic in 1987.

After that, the continental championship was all about Angolan hegemony.

The southerners won 10 of the 11 African championships contested from 1989 to 2009, a streak of excellence that everyone marvels at.

If the Tunisian success story has done anything, it's made all the countries, especially their neighbors, believe that anything is possible with long-range planning, proper preparation campaigns, good coaching and player development.

Tunisia will launch their Afrobasket championship defense with games in Group B against Rwanda, Burkina Faso and Morocco, so the team has the ideal platform for another title push.

"It's true that we stumbled upon the easiest group in the tournament," Tunisia coach Adel Tlatli said, before stressing that the hard work will come in the knockout stages.

He nevertheless warned that Tunisia's players should never feel comfortable.

"We must not be distracted and think the first round will be a mere formality," Tlatli said.

"For example, I'm wary of a Rwanda team that can bring naturalized players to take on the leading roles.

"As for Morocco, this is a team that remains unpredictable."

The Moroccans haven't reached the podium since their bronze-medal win in 1980, yet they edged Rwanda, Cape Verde and Senegal at Afrobasket 2009 and in 2011 thumped Chad, Mali and very nearly upset Cameroon.

Egypt are setting their sights high and why not?

This is one of the most successful teams in Afrobasket history, winners of two gold medals, four silvers and six bronze.

Egypt last reached the podium 10 years ago, though, when they hosted the tournament in Alexandria.

Their boss, Amr Aboul-Kheir, says the aim isn't just to make up the numbers.

His expectation is to eventually capture the African title.

"My contract with the Egyptian Federation aims to achieve this by 2015," he said.

“I have to prepare and build a strong team that's able to take on this mission.

"At the last two Afrobaskets in 2009 and 2011, the Egyptian team had a couple of failures with 10th and 11th place finishes, respectively."

Why is there cause for hope?

"Today, the senior national team consists of three generations of young people aged between 24 and 28 years," Aboul-Kheir said.

"These young people are capable of winning titles."

There have been some good results for the Egyptian youngsters on the continent the past several years.

Egypt won the 2008 FIBA Africa U18 Championship for Men in Alexandria, the 2009 FIBA Africa U16 Championship for Men in Mozambique and the 2011 FIBA Africa U16 Championship for Men, which was also played in Alexandria.

The Egyptians will play in Group A against Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal and Algeria.

If Tunisia and Egypt are thinking big in north Africa, Algeria's expectation levels are modest.

They haven't featured in an Afrobasket Final Round since they hosted the event in 2005 and came in fourth.

"Taking part in the Afrobasket will allow us to reconnect with the continental competition after several years of absence," coach Bilel Faid said.

The aim for Algeria is to get its youngster experience and, at least in the short term, cement its place among the regular participants in the Afrobasket.

FIBA

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