Japan broke down in tears after winning against a European team for the first time at the FIBA ​​World Cup



CNN

Japanese players and fans They shed tears After the country secured its first win against European opponents at the FIBA ​​Basketball World Cup on Sunday.

Pulling off the biggest comeback of the 2023 tournament so far, co-hosts Japan came from 18 points behind to beat Finland 98-88 in front of a home crowd in Okinawa to eliminate its Group E rival.

Stars including Yuta Watanabe of the Phoenix Suns and Yutai Baba of the NBA G League could be seen crying in disbelief as the Japanese team made history, while many others The fans won too With emotion in the stands.

American-born Josh Hockinson had 28 points and 19 rebounds for Japan, while 5’7″ (1.72 meter) local favorite Yuki Kawamura scored 15 points in the fourth quarter alone to lead Japan to its first victory.

It was Japan’s first World Cup victory in 17 years – the last time they held the tournament was in 2006 against Panama at the then FIBA ​​World Championship. Japan lost all five of their group games at the postponed 2019 World Cup in China.

Although considered a dominant basketball power in Asia, Japan has struggled to make waves globally.

Japan head coach Tom Hovaz believes a „crazy game” against world number 24 Finland will propel the 36th-ranked side to international prominence.

„It’s a big win for us. We’re trying to set a new standard here for Japan, and it’s definitely a big step in the right direction,” Hovaz told the post-match news conference.

„The guys never gave up. It looked a little dark out there. We haven’t bowled well the last three or four games. The fans were amazing.”

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American college prospect Casey Tominaga, previously described as the „Japanese Stephen Curry,” contributed 17 points and added, „Even though we were down 18 points, we never gave up. We knew we could still do it. We believed in each other.”

Japan face a tough test in their final group game against world No. 3 Australia on Tuesday. The winner is likely to advance to the second round. Group leaders Germany have already qualified.

Japan's Yuta Watanabe in action against Finland at the Okinawa Arena on August 27, 2023.

Of the eight Asia and Oceania teams that have won the tournament so far, only Japan and Australia have won.

China, which naturalized NBA player Kyle Anderson last month in a bid to boost its World Cup chances, lost its opener to Serbia by 42 points. Co-hosts Philippines are reeling from two disappointing defeats.

The 2023 FIBA ​​World Cup will be co-hosted by the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia – the first time multiple countries have hosted the event.

While this is the first time Indonesia has hosted the event in any format, it is the first time in World Cup history that the hosts have failed to qualify.

The FIBA ​​World Cup runs until September 10.

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