Third place from Group A… plus second place from Group B equals… oh, crap.
Like Asian basketball really needed this to happen.
China, who finished with a 3-1 preliminary round record in Group A, has been matched up with Japan in the FIBA Asia Cup quarterfinals. The Japanese, who are acting as the host nation, went 3-1 in Group B after giving up a fourth quarter lead yesterday to Iran.
After losing to Lebanon in the second game, China has come back to put up back-to-back outputs of 120 points in lopsided wins against Uzbekistan and Macao. China narrowly beat the Philippines in their opening game.
Tomorrow’s game comes at a rather… shall we say tense times between the two countries as their dispute over the sovereignty of the Diaoyu Islands has led to increased fears in Asia and around the world of a Sino-Japan military conflict. The situation over the islands has already trickled over into this competition, with some speculating that China’s four hour wait at the Tokyo airport upon arriving last week was an intentional act by Japanese tournament organizers.
With many fans in China hoping for a big win as a way to show Japan who’s the baddest country in East Asia, there’s likely to be a bit of pressure on Team China tomorrow to win one for the motherland. But, with a roster entirely comprised of players aged 22 years-old and under, the mix of a big continental tournament, a matchup against a pretty good Japan side who has most of their best senior level players, and the pressure to beat the Japanese — not merely as an opponent, but as a sworn mortal enemy that stems from nationalistic, deep-seeded, intense hatred going back to the 1930s — might just be a little too much for these boys to handle.
Accordingly, the Chinese Basketball Association came out publicly today to try and downplay the game and attempt to calm down crazy war-thirsty fans like this dude from Guangdong, who left a comment of “If you can’t win [by playing], you’ll have to win by using your fists!!! Otherwise crawl back to China!” on Sina today.
Said deputy director of the CBA, Hu Jiashi, “This is just a game… I hope the fans won’t put too much pressure on the players [to win].”
Well hey, I hope Liverpool is going to get back into Champions League next year. Doesn’t mean its going to happen.
Unfortunately for hoops fans in China, neither does the prospect of watching this game on TV. According to television listings, the game won’t be televised on CCTV tomorrow night (7pm Tokyo, 6pm Beijing). For those who can get JSports (aka Japanese ESPN) through various internet methods, the game will be televised live on JSports-2.