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Reigning champ USA faces France, Iran in Olympics group stage

Olympic basketball champions the United States will face France and Iran in the men’s group stages of the Tokyo Olympics following Tuesday’s draw.

Host nation Japan will have European powerhouses Spain for company.

The US team is seeking a fourth consecutive men’s basketball gold and 16th in total after seeing off Serbia for the title in Rio 2016 and the Spanish in London and Beijing in 2012 and 2008.

Joining the mighty US, France and Iran in Group A will be the winner of Greece, China, Canada, Uruguay, Czech Republic, and Turkey from a qualifying event in Victoria, Canada in late June.

The men’s competition in Tokyo begins on July 25, three days after the scheduled conclusion of the NBA finals.

The draw at the International Basketball Federation’s headquarters in Mies, Switzerland, pitted Spain and Japan with Argentina, bronze medalists in 2008 with Group C completed by the winner of a qualifying event in Kaunas consisting of Lithuania, South Korea, Venezuela, Poland, Slovenia, and Angola.

Australia, who can call on several NBA players, are in Group B with Nigeria and two other teams decided by qualifying events in Split (Germany, Russia, Mexico, Tunisia, Croatia, and Brazil) and in Belgrade (Dominican Republic, New Zealand, Serbia, Puerto Rico, Italy, and Senegal).

“We are looking forward to enjoying the world’s best basketball players performing this coming July in the capital of Japan,” FIBA Secretary-General Andreas Zagklis said in the ceremony.

He said FIBA (International Basketball Federation) is confident for the smooth delivery of the Olympic Basketball Tournaments based on the close partnership with the International Olympic Committee and the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games “as well as on its own, proven operational capacity during the last seven months.”

A new competition system has been put in place for the tournament and the nations were split into three groups of four teams each.

“The teams placed first and second in each group, and the two best third-placed teams in the Group Phase qualify for the Final Phase,” FIBA said in a statement.

Eight men’s teams – Nigeria, Argentina, the USA, Iran, Japan, France, Spain, and Australia – have already advanced to the Tokyo 2020 Men’s Olympic Basketball through the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

The remaining four places will be filled by the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments winners scheduled for June 29 to July 4 in Canada’s Victoria, Croatia’s Split, Lithuania’s Kaunas, Serbia’s Belgrade.

Twelve women’s teams also qualified last year through the four FIBA Women’s Olympic qualifying tournaments.

The men’s tournament will run from July 25 to Aug. 7, with the women’s taking place on July 26 to Aug. 8.

Initially scheduled for last July, the Games were among a host of sporting events postponed worldwide due to Covid-19, and have been rescheduled from July 23 to Aug. 8.*AFP/ANADOLU

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