AfroBasket 2017 vice champions, Nigeria’s D’ Tigers arrived Bamako, Mali on Monday for this weekend’s FIBA World Cup 2019 qualifiers against Uganda, Rwanda and host Mali.
The Nigeria team coached by Alex Nwora and assisted by Abdulrahman Mohammed will commence training today at the Paliase de Sports, Salamouto Maiga and determined to make a difference.
Nwora will hope to start the World Cup qualification campaign on a winning note when they face Uganda on Friday before meeting Rwanda on Saturday.
Going by recent records, D’ Tigers are expected to enjoy an easy ride against less fancied side like Rwanda who only managed a win in their group at the 2017 AfroBasket where they finished 10th out of the 16 participating teams.
For Uganda, despite starting on a strong note against Angola which they eventually lost to in overtime, they were not able to win any of their group games as they limped to a 13th place finish. Mali who were grouped alongside Nigeria at the tournament finished 9th.
However, Mohammed was unfazed about the threat of hosts. Despite admitting the threat posed to the team by the host, the coach was confident that the team can repeat their 2017 FIBA Afrobasket feat having defeated the same opposition by 90-67 when they met at the group stage.
Speaking on the strength of opposition to be expected from Rwanda, Uganda and Mali, he said, “Mali is the biggest threat for us. I know we are better than Uganda and also know that Rwanda are going to come up with a few tricks but we are well prepared.
He explained that home advantage will play a major role when they face Mali on Sunday.
I think Mali will be our biggest opposition because they are also a big basketball nation and they are playing at home and that is going to go a long way in giving them a little edge over us.”
The Coach who led Gombe Bulls to their first continental outing last season ruled out any form of pressure on the team irrespective of the results recorded when they start their campaign on Friday against Uganda.
“It’s a long qualification series. It’s not as if when we lose, we are knocked out of the stage but I don’t see us losing to Mali regardless of the fact that they are playing at home. If we get our players in and we play our game, we are going to beat Mali on their home court.”