Georgia loses game, and wins a FIBA World Cup berth anyway
Georgia lost, and then celebrated.
Iceland won, and was devastated.
One of the last Basketball World Cup spots went to Georgia on Sunday — even though it lost to Iceland 80-77 in the final Europe Region qualifying game for both teams. Iceland needed to win by four points or more to win a tiebreaker over Georgia for the World Cup berth.
It came up one point short. Both teams finished qualifying with 5-5 records, with the tiebreaker going to Georgia by the slimmest of margins. Iceland had a 3-point try by Elvar Fridriksson — its best shooter — rim out with about 3 seconds remaining, and Georgia held on for the loss that really was a win.
“Amazing. I'm so happy, man," said Georgia's Thaddus McFadden, a Michigan-born guard who played at the junior college and Division II levels before embarking on what's now a 14-year pro career overseas. “I may mess around and cry. This means so much to everybody. I'm just so happy."
Georgia beat Iceland by three points in a qualifying game in November. For Iceland to have advanced, it needed to win by four to claim the head-to-head tiebreaker; Georgia held other tiebreakers, and those were its ticket to the World Cup.
“Fought to the very end and if you told me before the game or at the start of these 10-game qualifications that it would come down to one shot by our best shooter, then I would take it," Iceland coach Craig Pedersen said. “But it was a couple of centimeters off. And congratulations to Georgia."
Georgia — a first-time World Cup qualifier — joined nine other European teams as having clinched berths in this summer's tournament.
The U.S. and Canada have clinched World Cup berths. There are six teams — Brazil, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Argentina — playing their final qualifying games Sunday night, and five of them will advance to the tournament.
Cape Verde is now the smallest nation — population of just under 600,000 — ever to qualify for the World Cup. It topped Ivory Coast 79-64 on Sunday to claim the last spot allocated to African nations.
It's Cape Verde's first trip to the World Cup. Fellow first-time qualifier South Sudan, along with Ivory Coast, Angola and Egypt are also set to be Africa's World Cup representatives.
Iran grabbed the last available spot from Asia on Sunday, clinching its berth when Kazakhstan lost to Australia 98-53.
Kazakhstan was the only other team still in the running for the final spot. Iran lost to China 86-74 on Sunday, but only needed a win or a Kazakhstan loss to qualify.
Iran joins co-hosts Philippines and Japan, along with Lebanon, New Zealand, Australia, China, and Jordan as Asia's World Cup qualifiers.
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Tim Reynolds, The Associated Press