Caracas, Venezuela - After Argentina’s victory over Canada, the American qualifiers to the 2014 World Cup were set as Argentina, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic will be our continent’s representatives on the world stage.
Puerto Rico earned their spot with a 86-85 victory over a warrior host team in a great game that needed over time to reach its conclusion. The Venezuela team, although they failed to qualify, proved a worthy contender leaving everything in the court in front of a full house and an audience that rocked the Poliedro. The Puerto Ricans move forward to the World Cup after an excellent performance in the tournament from Renaldo Balkman, José Juan Barea and Carlos Arroyo, who have been dominating for the Caribbeans.
"The most important thing is that we reached our goal which was to qualify for the World Cup. It was a great effort we made for Puerto Rico, knowing that this makes the whole country very happy. Now we have to fight for a second goal that is to get the gold medal.", said Paco Olmos, coach of the Puerto Rico national team.
Dominican Republic, meanwhile won their spot today after beating Uruguay by the score of 86-78 , in a hard fought game that featured once again the veteran and undisputed captain, Jack Michael Martinez who scored 17 points and 10 rebounds in what was a very emotional victory for the Dominicans.
"We are very excited about qualifying to the World Cup. Our entire group and the federation of our country is very happy to have met the goal and now have a ticket to Spain. I am proud because both the players and the leadership trusted me in giving me this opportunity.", said Orlando Antigua after the win against Uruguay that qualifies Dominican Republic for their first World Cup since 1978. "The team work done by the players was amazing. We are here because they decided that Dominican basketball needed to be recognized by the world. They made the decision to let the past in the past."
Argentina won their qualification against Canada in a win or go home game for both teams. It was the veteran star, Luis Scola with 22 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists, who dominated in a huge third quarter performance to give their team a 81-75 victory against the North Americans. Argentina returns to the 2014 FIBA basketball World Cup for which they have continuously qualified since 1982.
"I am very pleased to have qualified for the World Cup in Spain. Now comes the second step, which is to fight for the championship. To leave here as champions is a goal in all circumstances and with Argentina not being a team that has 50 titles, to win the title is important.", Said Scola after guiding Argentina to the victory against the Canadians .
And although Mexico was unanimously the surprise of the tournament, it is one that comes from a team that showed itself disciplined and highly organized on both sides of the court. Led by Gustavo Ayon and a strong game in the paint, the Mexicans dominated this tournament and got the spot with important victories over Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Puerto Rico .
"We are very happy with how we finished. This is very important for Mexican basketball. Hopefully this World Cup qualifying helps the political forces once and for all have basketball and organizational conditions.", said Sergio Valdeolmillos after the qualification of Mexico for the first time since 1974 . "For me it is wonderful. We came with a clear objective to raise our level of play, mainly because Mexico does not have a background in basketball. But it is true that the wins over Dominican Republic and Venezuela and made us believe we could compete on equal footing with the other teams."
Americas’ four (4) representatives join Angola, Egypt and Senegal in Africa , Iran, Philippines , and Korea in Asia, Australia and New Zealand in Oceania and six (6) representatives from Europe, along with the four (4) “Wild Card” invitations.