USA-Canada FIBA rivalry brewing in bronze match

Photo of USA vs CANADA Highlight of the upcoming FIBA final

Following a much-anticipated showdown, Team USA and Team Canada are now poised to vie for a basketball medal in a bronze match, set to air on ESPN+ at 4:45 a.m. ET this Sunday. Despite their initial hopes for a more prestigious medal, both North American basketball giants experienced unexpected defeats in the FIBA World Cup semifinals last Friday. This unforeseen clash also carries the promise of igniting a fresh rivalry between the two teams.

Tyrese Haliburton shared his thoughts, noting, “They haven’t secured a medal since the 1930s, so they have their sights set on us. I believe both of our nations will anticipate facing each other in the years to come. It appears that this could be the beginning.”

While Canada has never clinched a World Cup medal and their only Olympic basketball medal dates back to 1936, they have witnessed a surge of Canadian talent in the NBA, led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, over the past decade.

Canada’s qualification for the Paris Olympics was based on their performance in Manila, marking their first Olympic qualification since 2000. The United States, a four-time consecutive Olympic gold medalist, may encounter Canada in France next summer. As the Canadian basketball talent pool continues to expand, such matchups could become a regular occurrence in the future.

Naturally, there is a risk of disappointment in a bronze medal game, especially when both teams were initially expected to be the main attraction. Team USA has previously emerged victorious in their last two bronze-medal games in the 2004 Olympics and the 2006 World Cup, but the current squad faces a fresh challenge.

Austin Reaves, who has been delivering strong performances in the World Cup with an average of 12.4 points and a 59% shooting accuracy off the bench, emphasized their unwavering commitment to giving their best, regardless of the game’s significance.

Despite Canada boasting a significant NBA talent pool, including seven current players and collegiate player of the year Zach Edey from Purdue, this matchup might be a more familiar territory for the Americans.

Both teams are well-acquainted with each other, and they share a common lack of substantial size. After confronting four consecutive formidable European teams, Team USA welcomes the opportunity to compete against a more NBA-style roster in Canada, aligning with their preferred style of play.

Canada currently holds the 19th position in total rebounds at the World Cup, with an 11th-place ranking in offensive rebounding. In contrast, Team USA has encountered significant difficulties on the offensive boards during their matches against Montenegro, Lithuania, and Germany, conceding a total of 63 second-chance points in these three games.

In addition to the distinct matchups, American players are well-acquainted with the personalities of their NBA counterparts on the Canadian team. Jaren Jackson Jr., who previously shared the court with Canada’s Dillon Brooks while playing for the Memphis Grizzlies, expressed his hope for some friendly banter, stating, “I expect Dillon [Brooks] to engage in some good-natured trash talk because that’s just his personality. It wouldn’t feel genuine if he didn’t.”

Both Team USA and Canada have suffered two losses in the World Cup. However, Canada’s performance thus far includes noteworthy victories over the Olympic silver medalist France, the reigning world champion Spain, and a Slovenia team led by Luka Doncic, although they faced a challenging match against Serbia characterized by numerous fouls.

Team Canada’s coach, Jordi Fernandez, who also holds the position of associate head coach for the Sacramento Kings, expressed his excitement for the future, stating, “I’m looking forward to what lies ahead. Our current focus is on rebounding from recent setbacks and eagerly anticipating our upcoming game, which, personally, I’m already extremely enthusiastic about.”


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