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YAOUNDE (cameroon) – It's no small feat to win a continental championship at any level so bare that in mind when evaluating the late title win at the FIBA Women's AfroBasket for Nigeria.
Not once, not twice but three times in a row have Nigeria reached the top of the podium at this event following Sunday's 70-59 triumph over an exciting, vibrant and promising Mali that had an an average of 23 and figures to be in the mix for honors for years to come.
In the bigger picture, what the accomplishment of just reaching the Final of the Women's AfroBasket meant for both of teams is that each remains in the hunt for the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2022.
Both Nigeria and Mali will be headed to one of the Women's World Cup 2022 Qualifying Tournaments, which will be staged in February.
Those Qualifying Tournaments will be loaded with top class teams, including World Cup hosts Australia and Olympic champions USA, although each already has a spot in the tournament sewn up.
If the Opals and the Americans finish among the top three teams in their respective Qualifying Tournaments, then only the best two other teams will earn a trip to the event in Sydney.
The top four teams from the FIBA Women's AmeriCup (USA, Puerto Rico, Brazil and Canada), the top six teams from the FIBA Women's EuroBasket (Serbia, france, Belgium, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Russia) and the top four teams from the FIBA Women's Asia Cup, which tipped of Monday, will fill up the spots at the four four-team Women's World Cup Qualifying Tournaments.
Nigeria has already proved it can not only survive but thrive in qualifying tournaments, something they did in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Belgrade to claim a spot in this summer's Tokyo Games.
The Nigerians were a combative team at the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2018 in Tenerife, where they made history as the first team from Africa to advance from the Group Phase and earn qualification for a Quarter-Final game.They will expect to have many of the players from the team that played in Tenerife, Tokyo and this past week in Cameroon.
Mali were No. 41 in the FIBA World Ranking for Women, Presented by Nike, before the FIBA Women's AfricaBasket and though they could rise, the African nation will be among underdogs to clinch a spot in the 12-team World Cup, which tips off in just under a year, on September 22 in Sydney.