FIBA Women’s Asia Cup instant classic: Japan beats China to claim 5th straight title

Society & Culture

Japan beat China 78-73 on Sunday in Amman, Jordan, in a championship thriller.

Japan beats China 78-73 at 2021 women's FIBA Asia World Cup

China opened the game on a 10-2 run. Japan built an eight-point lead of its own midway through the second quarter. Both teams held seven-point advantages during the second half — but never more than that. When the final buzzer sounded, Japan was technically the victor, 78-73, but it’s hard to say there were any losers in this showcase of Asian basketball.

Japan captured an unprecedented fifth straight FIBA Women’s Asia Cup championship on Sunday in Amman, Jordan. Previously, both South Korea and China had won this biannual tournament four straight times. Japan also beat China two years ago, 71-68.

“Despite the loss today, we can see the potential, development and hope from this team,” China head coach Xǔ Lìmín 许利民 said.

The head coach of China’s men’s basketball team, Dù Fēng 杜锋, also chimed in. “Although it was a loss, it was a brilliant game for all fans, with both sides expressing their styles,” he said. “It’ll be a great learning experience for the team. Under these current conditions and difficulties, such a performance is commendable.”

China was led by Lǐ Yuèrǔ 李月汝, who notched a double-double with 16 points and 11 assists, and Huáng Sījìng 黄思静, who had 18 points and seven rebounds. Both were named to the tournament’s All-Star Five.

But China could not stop Japan’s sensational point guard Saori Miyazaki, who scored 26 points and added 11 assists. Japan used a 12-0 run at the start of the fourth quarter to seize the lead, one that it clung to until the game’s final moments — when Huang missed a three-pointer that would have tied the game.

“The experience that we gained from this match is priceless,” Huang said. “We will remember this game to motivate ourselves to fight hard for Paris 2024.”

Postscript: Check out Lǐ Yuán’s 李缘 nifty Euro-step layup:

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China prepares for “must-win” World Cup qualifier vs. Vietnam

Chinese midfielder Wú Xī 吴曦, pictured here playing against Japan — a 1-0 loss — on September 7, said about the upcoming game against Vietnam: “We will let our game do the talking.”

After losing to Australia and Japan to open the third round of World Cup qualifiers in the Asia region, China prepares to return to the field on Thursday in a crucial game against similarly winless Vietnam.

Last month, this game was officially moved to Sharjah, United Arab Emirates — to be played without fans — due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions in China. Apparently, this move has caused problems. As Xinhua reports, “Chinese players are experiencing difficulties of boredom, low morale and sweltering weather as they are preparing for the FIFA World Cup qualifier against Vietnam, suggested Chinese defender Wú Xìnghán 吴兴涵.”

They are now being beset by problems in the camp where they cannot exit due to self-imposed COVID restrictions.

“It’s true that we are facing considerable difficulties, considering we have a long-term training camp under the sweltering weather,” said Wu.

The team will have to put all that aside, and fast. After losing 3-0 to Australia and 1-0 to Japan, the team drew harsh criticism from domestic observers. Former international Lǐ Wěifēng 李玮峰, for instance, was quoted by Xinhua as saying:

“They should do something positive in their campaign, and this means they should win the games they should win. They must get three points from the Vietnam game,” he said.

Li said that the way China lost to Australia and Japan was frustrating.

“I think it’s nothing surprising that China lost to Australia and Japan. We can accept the losses, but we saw nothing positive in those two games,” he said.

Li added, “This is a game that I don’t care about the performance, but China must earn three points.”

“The mentality of China players was not good and their teamwork was not efficient enough. On the other hand, Vietnam performed great against Australia. In that game, they had the same possession as China in the game with Japan, but double the number of shots.”

Vietnam is coming off two losses of its own, 1-0 to Australia and 3-1 to Saudi Arabia.

A loss on Thursday wouldn’t technically spell the end of China’s already-slim World Cup hopes, but judging by the mood, it would be the sort of morale crusher that the team might not recover from.

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