Four teams at the 2023 World Cup punched their tickets to the quarterfinals with victories on Friday, as the U.S., Lithuania, Germany, and Slovenia all pushed their records to 4-0 and secured their spots in the eight-team knockout round, eliminating Montenegro, Greece, Australia, and Georgia.
As Armando Caporaso of Sportando tweets, that leaves four win-or-go-home games set for Sunday to determine the other four World Cup quarterfinalists. Those matchups will be Italy vs. Puerto Rico, Brazil vs. Latvia, Serbia vs. the Dominican Republic, and – perhaps most intriguingly – Canada vs. Spain.
Any European team that doesn’t advance to at least the quarterfinals will fail to clinch a spot at the 2024 Olympics in this event and would have to win a qualifying tournament next year in order to try to claim one of the last four Olympic berths.
Puerto Rico, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and Canada would keep themselves in the running for an Olympic spot with a win on Sunday. If just one of those four teams makes the quarterfinals, that club would join Team USA as the two Americas clubs that will qualify for the Olympics through the World Cup.
As we wait to see how the second round of the World Cup plays out, here are a few more notes on the tournament:
- Team USA earned its spot in the quarterfinals by defeating Montenegro in what was its toughest test yet. Montenegro led at halftime and kept the game close until the final minutes, but a closing lineup that included reserve guards Tyrese Haliburton and Austin Reaves helped the U.S. put the game away, writes Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Haliburton and Reaves took the place of starters Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart while Anthony Edwards scored all 17 of his points in the second half to help lock up the victory.
- Team Canada head coach Jordi Fernandez had harsh words for his players after Friday’s upset loss to Brazil, tweets Oren Weisfeld. “Shai (Gilgeous-Alexander) has to score the ball and play-make and he didn’t,” Fernandez said. “And I can go down the line. Kelly (Olynyk) has to play-make, rebound and score efficiently – he didn’t. RJ (Barrett) has to run the floor and score efficiently and defend and he didn’t.”
- As Blake Murphy of Sportsnet.ca notes (via Twitter), a loss on Sunday for Canada would ensure that Brazil finishes ahead of them in their group standings, regardless of whether the Brazilians win or lose on Sunday. So the Canadians will need a victory if they want to hang onto a chance to clinch an Olympic berth this year.
- Italian forward Simone Fontecchio played a limited role for the Jazz in his first NBA season in 2022/23, but he showed in Friday’s upset victory over Serbia what he’s capable of. As Cesare Milanti of Eurohoops details, Fontecchio led the charge in Italy’s comeback win over the Serbians, pouring in 30 points on 11-of-15 shooting.