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China - 2011 FIBA Asia Championship winners
31/07/2013
FIBA Asia - Stars eye expedition to Spain

MANILA (FIBA Asia Championship) - In 1521, Ferdinand Magellan made the first recorded journey from Spain to the Philippines, but now the paths have been reversed.

As the FIBA Asia Championship launches in Manila on Thursday (1 August), 15 teams will be battling for a voyage to Spain to compete at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

There are three places available, and a trio of teams with the strongest claims - China, Iran and Korea - will meet in the first round in a stacked Group C.

Defending champions China have been buoyed by the inclusion of injured former NBA star Yi Jianlian, but perhaps the most notable addition is former Greece national team coach Panagiotis Giannakis and his aggressive defensive style.

Emerging stars Zhang Bo and Zhou Peng have shone under Giannakis' watch so far, and if China can get contributions from both young and old they will be strong contenders for a berth in Spain.

Possibly the biggest favourites are 2007 and 2009 champions Iran, who sail into harbour without Arsalan Kazemi but with Hamed Afagh, Samad Nikkhah Bahrami, Hamed Hadadi and revenge on their minds after their shock Quarter-Final exit in 2011.

The Koreans won plenty of admirers in 2011 with their incredible Third-Place Game win over the Philippines, and were again no pushovers at the 2012 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT).

Yang Donggeun and American-born Lee Seung Jun lead an experienced team into Manilla with high hopes of qualifying for their first World Cup berth since 1998. Given they have missed the podium just twice at the FIBA Asia Championship it would take a brave punter not to jump aboard.

The host nation is still stinging from that heartbreaking defeat in 2011, where they gave up a nine-point lead with less than five minutes remaining to drop out of the Olympic race.

But with superstar centre Marcus Douthit, tireless off-sider Ranidel de Ocampo and livewire guard Jim Alapag back in the line-up - and one of the world's most partisan crowds on their side - the Philippines will have strong designs on sending their own conquest to Spain for the World Cup.

No one rocked the boat more at the 2011 tournament than their Group A opponent Jordan, who stunned Iran and the Philippines in the knockout rounds before falling one basket short of gold against China.

But with a new starting five under incoming coach Vangilis Aleksandris it won't be smooth sailing for this young outfit to qualify for their second straight World Cup.

In contrast, after a disastrous 2011 campaign, Qatar have wind in their sails under former Japan coach Tom Wisman, and are boosted by former Washington Wizards lottery pick Jarvis Hayes.

Wisman will see his old team on Day 1, and while Japan have not produced the pre-tournament form they would have been hoping for, led by big men Kosuke Takeuchi and Sean Hinkley they will likely be in the mix at the knockout stage.

Stay tuned to www.fiba.com/spain2014 from 1-11 August for all the latest news as three more participants for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup are decided.

For full and in-depth coverage of the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship, go to the official website http://manila2013.fibaasia.net.

FIBA

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