In a thrilling matchup that kept fans on the edge of their seats, Lebanon defeated Cote d’Ivoire, 94-84, in the ongoing FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 on Thursday, August 31, in Jakarta, Indonesia.
The win marked Lebanon’s first victory in the tournament and kept their hopes alive for clinching an automatic spot in the 2024 Olympics from the Asian region.
During the Classification Round 17-32 game showcased Lebanon’s resilience and determination on the court. Amir Saoud and Omari Spellman emerged as the driving forces behind Lebanon’s impressive performance. Saoud’s masterful play was evident throughout the game, particularly during a pivotal moment in the fourth quarter. With Lebanon holding a slim lead of 83-78 and just three minutes remaining, Saoud drained a contested three-pointer that shifted the momentum firmly in Lebanon’s favor. His 29-point contribution, eight assists, and five rebounds underscored his significance in the team’s success.
Not to be outdone, Spellman’s dominant presence was felt on both ends of the court. The power forward showcased his versatility with 25 points, six rebounds, five assists, and four blocks, significantly impacting Lebanon’s gameplay strategy. Although on the opposing side, Jean Philippe Daily demonstrated his skills with 21 points, four rebounds, and two steals.
Lebanon’s prowess from beyond the arc was pivotal in their victory, as they connected on an impressive 16-of-32 three-point attempts. In contrast, Cote d’Ivoire struggled from long range, converting only 9 of 28 shots. This disparity highlighted Lebanon’s sharp shooting and ability to capitalize on opportunities from deep.
The victory places Lebanon in a promising position as they strive to secure an Olympic berth. With their sights set on catching up to Japan in the qualification race for the 2024 Paris Olympics, Lebanon’s players and fans alike have newfound hope for success. Lebanon’s next challenge lies in a face-off against Iran on Saturday, a matchup that could potentially solidify their path to the Olympics.
Conversely, Cote d’Ivoire faced their second consecutive close defeat, raising questions about their ability to regroup and rectify their mistakes. The team’s head coach, Dejan Prokic, acknowledged their challenges, emphasizing the need for more control on the court and acknowledging the responsibility for the result.
Patrick Tape, a player from Cote d’Ivoire, expressed disappointment in falling short of their goal but remained determined to bounce back in their upcoming games. The team faces a daunting match against France, a test demanding their best efforts.
Lebanon’s head coach, Jad El Hajj, lauded his team’s performance, notably Amir Saoud’s remarkable comeback from injury to play a pivotal role in their victory. El Hajj thanked the players for their dedication and hard work, culminating in a historic win for Lebanese basketball on the world stage.
Amir Saoud, in reflecting on his journey to the World Cup, expressed deep appreciation for the support of his coach, management, and federation. Despite facing an injury setback, Saoud’s determination and the team’s collective efforts bore fruit with their first World Cup win. He emphasized the significance of the victory not just for himself but for the entire squad and their country.
As the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 continues, Lebanon’s triumph is a testament to the power of teamwork, resilience, and the pursuit of excellence in international basketball competitions.