Australia and Lithuania head into the final Group H contest undefeated and assured a place into the second round at the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China. Under the brand new system of competition at this year's event, it has never been more important to progress with an unblemished record. A loss to Lithuania could very well change the complexion of Australia's run at the FIBA 2019 World Cup this year.
Lithuania is one of the traditional international basketball heavyweights, while Australia is looking to make a long-awaited step up and earn a first ever medal at a major event. The two countries have slowly developed a rivalry at World Cup and Olympic levels, with the European powerhouse preventing the Boomers from breaking through for elusive medals at both the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games.
However in 2016, Australia comprehensively defeated their nemesis by a resounding 26 points in the quarter-finals, and it is this demolition that provides the inspiration that they have the capability to do it again in Dongguan.
Win or lose, the top two teams from Group H --both Australia and Lithuania-- cross over with Group G's winners to form Group L in the second round.
France and the Dominican Republic are advancing from Group G, with Germany and Jordan both eliminated. Both countries remain undefeated heading into their final group encounter, with the Dominicans upsetting the more highly fancied Germans to prematurely end their World Cup campaign.
Only the top two countries from each of the remaining four groups in the second round (two games) will advance to the quarterfinals.
Why wins and point differential matter
Each country carries across their win-loss record and points differential of all games played into the second round. With two teams starting Group L with one loss each, the teams boasting a undefeated record have a distinct advantage. Such is the importance of remaining undefeated. It's even more important when you consider the vast points differential spread between Australia and Lithuania.
What happens if Australia loses to Lithuania?
There is a real possibility that if a Group G/H team --this could be Australia, if they lose to Lithuania-- carries a loss into the second round, and then goes on to win both games in Group L, could still be eliminated from the World Cup and miss out on qualifying for the quarterfinals.
In their quest for that first ever medal at a World Cup or Olympic Games, the importance of Australia's game against Lithuania should not be underestimated.
Win, and the Boomers' chances of qualifying for the quarterfinals take a big step forward ahead of their next two second-round games. A win against Lithuania and then a win against the the loser of France vs Dominican Republic will be enough to secure a quarterfinal berth.
Lose, and they will likely need to win the next two games and hope other results go their way.
The competition enters a knockout phase at the completion of the second round, quarterfinals, semifinals and medal games. The top two teams from Group L will take on the top two teams from Group K. Group K will comprise of the top two teams from Group E and F, including USA and Brazil, but also the winners of Turkey vs Czech Republic and Greece vs New Zealand.
In fact, if Greece account for New Zealand to eliminate them from the World Cup, they will also assure Australia's place at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games as the highest placed country from Oceania at this event.
There is likely no easy game for the remainder of the tournament for any of the teams advancing to the second round. And as the Turks showed in their 1 point overtime loss to the USA, and the Boomers in their exhibition game win, the Americans are beatable. However they are certainly a team that most countries would prefer to avoid until the medal rounds. That's exactly where we anxiously hope the Boomers will feature.
The Australian Boomers game against Lithuania tips off on Thursday, 5 September 2019 at 9:30pm AEST. For Australian fans, the Boomers’ run in the 2019 FIBA World Cup can be viewed on Kayo Sports and Foxtel.
Australian Boomers schedule for 2019 FIBA World Cup: (All times AEST)
September 5: Boomers vs. Lithuania, 9:30pm
September 7 & 9: Round of 16
September 10 & 11: Quarter-Finals
September 13: Semi-Finals
September 15: Medal Games