September 30, 2022
How Team USA and China advanced to the World Cup final
China in World Cup final for first time since 1994
The FIBA World Cup final is set, and it will feature a familiar U.S. team and a Team China squad that might come as a surprise to many. The two world superpowers tip off at 2 a.m. ET on Saturday in Sydney, Australia.
The U.S. advanced to its fourth-consecutive World Cup final, pounding Canada, 83-43, early Friday morning. Breanna Stewart bounced back from a two-point game versus Serbia to lead the team with 17 points and was four-of-five from downtown. Plus, A’ja Wilson added a double-double of 15 points and 12 rebounds. The U.S. denied any double figures scoring from Team Canada.
“I was really pleased with our team’s attention to detail in the scouting report,” U.S. coach Cheryl Reeve said. “Canada’s had a terrific tournament. I wanted to make sure I let our team know how hard they made it for Canada to score the ball, and Canada is a very good defensive team. That was a quality win for us.”
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The second semifinal proved to be much more dramatic. China topped Australia 61-59, denying the hosts the opportunity to lift the trophy in front of their home fans. Wang Siyu executed two free throws with three seconds left, before Ezi Magbegor missed a driving layup at the buzzer. Sami Whitcomb led the Opals with 15 points, while Steph Talbot had 12 points and 10 rebounds. Han Xu scored 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds for China. Yang Liwei also scored 18 on 7-of-12 from the floor.
China now faces a U.S. team that it is 0-7 against all-time in the World Cup. This includes last week’s 77-63 group stage game.
“The USA has a really strong team, and their players have talent,” China coach Zheng Wei said. “Individually, their skills are very good, and we should try to instill our best, mentally and technically. The first game with the USA, there was a lot of pressure on defense, and tomorrow, we should handle the pressure. I think now we can handle it better. The second thing is the possession. We will focus on team basketball. In the first game, too many players focused on one-on-one offense, so we will collaborate together.”
As a team in the semifinal, China recorded 34 rebounds, which were nine fewer than Australia. Zheng Wei said she would address this before the gold medal game. The rebounding margin versus the U.S. last week was only four.
Australia coach Sandy Brondello, who coaches Han Xu with the New York Liberty, said she credited the youth movement within the Chinese program. She remembered her team’s 83-42 win over China in the quarterfinals of the 2018 World Cup, with the same Chinese players.
“It really shows the work they have put in individually and collectively as a nation to develop those players,” Brondello said. “Obviously, they train a lot, but the development of those players is a credit to what they are doing. They have good versatility. I think the player I coach (Han Xu), I probably prepped a little bit too much for this game – she did great. They make big shots, but I think defensively is where they really grown as a nation. Even their switching, they would rotate so quickly out of it. They have grown on both sides of the ball, so it’s good for them, and they will be good for years to come.”
It will be the first FIBA World Cup final for China since 1994, when Zheng Haixia was named tournament MVP and China fell to Brazil. The U.S. and China have spurred a rivalry in individual sports, such as gymnastics, but there are few times when they have gone up in a major team final such as this. The women’s volleyball teams have met in FIVB gold medal games a few times, and China beat the U.S. in the 1984 Olympic final in Los Angeles. But in basketball, this is a new territory, so it could be monumental for the sport, both women’s and men’s basketball. Australia and Canada will play for the bronze medal at 11 p.m. ET Friday.
Written by Scott Mammoser
Scott Mammoser has covered major international events for FIBA, World Athletics and the International Skating Union. He has been to six Olympics and traveled to more than 90 countries.