Bahamas defeats Argentina 82-75 to win FIBA Americas Pre-Olympic Qualifying Tournament

By Sports Desk August 22, 2023
The Bahamas celebrating after defeating hosts Argentina to win the FIBA  Americas Pre-Olympic Qualifying Tournament. The Bahamas celebrating after defeating hosts Argentina to win the FIBA Americas Pre-Olympic Qualifying Tournament. FIBA

The Bahamas has never sent its men’s basketball team to the Olympics. The island nation is now one step closer to changing that.

Eric Gordon scored 27 points, Buddy Hield added 17 and Bahamas stunned Argentina 82-75 to win one of the five Olympic pre-qualifying tournaments that were wrapping up around the world Sunday.

The win sends Bahamas into another Olympic qualifying tournament in July 2024, one that will bring with it a chance to qualify for next summer’s Paris Games.

Deandre Ayton had 10 points and 21 rebounds for Bahamas in the win over Argentina.

Argentina, who took home Olympic gold in 2004, will miss the games for the first time since 2000.

Other pre-qualifying tournament winners Sunday included Cameroon, Bahrain, Croatia and Poland.

Next summer, Bahamas, Cameroon, Bahrain, Croatia and Poland will join 19 other teams — based on World Cup finish — in the final qualifying round. Those 24 nations will be split into four tournaments of six teams; the four winners go to the Paris Olympics.

 

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  • More Copa America records go Messi's way as Argentina pick up where they left off More Copa America records go Messi's way as Argentina pick up where they left off

    Argentina picked up where they left off in the Copa America, with the holders kick-starting their title defence with a strong 2-0 victory over Canada.

    The world champions are expected to progress with ease from Group A, and they made an ideal start in Atlanta on Thursday.

    Julian Alvarez and Lautaro Martinez got the goals, but it was of course Lionel Messi who was the main focus.

    Messi became the record appearance maker in the 108-year history of the Copa America, overtaking Chile great Sergio Livingstone by featuring in his 35th match at the tournament.

    The 36-year-old's superb tournament record stands at 22 wins, 10 draws and three losses. And he has one Copa title – a total he hopes will increase with another trophy on July 14.

    And while he could not get on the scoresheet, Messi, despite playing on a choppy pitch that has drawn the ire of Argentina, was as influential as ever for La Albiceleste.

    He will probably lament some unusually profligate finishing - at least by his high standards - as the reason why he didn't mark his record-setting appearance with a 14th Copa America goal (he is, as it stands, four off the all-time leading goalscorers in the competition, Norberto Mendez and Zizinho).

    Messi had a game-leading six shots, getting three of them on target, with those attempts accumulating an expected goals (xG) value of 0.79 - a total bettered by only his team-mate Martinez (0.8).

    The Inter Miami star led the match for touches in the opponent's box (nine), and big chances (two) in an all-action display.

    Canada's goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau, who like Messi plays in MLS, was also on form, making six saves.

    But what Messi lacked in his finishing, he made up for in creativity.

    His total of five chances created led the match, and was at least two clear of any other player on the pitch. He was nine ahead of next-best Rodrigo de Paul for passes in the final third, with 27, and attempted six dribbles, albeit only completing one of them.

    It was Messi's pass that released Alexis Mac Allister, who was then wiped out by Crepeau only for Alvarez to tuck home Argentina's 49th-minute opener.

    And it was Messi who put through substitute Martinez to round off the victory late on.

    That was Messi's 17th assist at the Copa America, with his first assist in the competition coming in 2011.

    Since then, he has registered over three times as many assists as any other player in the competition, with Angel Di Maria and Alexis Sanchez ranking second on five each.

    It also saw Messi reach 50 direct goal involvements in official competitions for club and country on U.S. soil (30 goals + 20 assists).

    His figure of seven line-breaking passes, meanwhile, was more than double that of any other player in Thursday's match.

    Argentina can reasonably reflect that they should have scored more, an ominous sign for their upcoming opponents. They had nine big scoring chances (according to Opta's definition) against Canada, the most for La Albiceleste in a single game since 2013, and accumulated 2.98 xG. 

    Messi was at the heart of it all, but it was not a case of him having to do it all on his own.

    De Paul was impressive in midfield, while in Alvarez and Martinez, Messi has an excellent supporting cast for this year's competition.

    At 24 years and 142 days, Alvarez is the youngest player to score in both the World Cup and the Copa America since Jose Maria Gimenez did so for Uruguay in the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

    Martinez, meanwhile, has scored in four of the last five matches he has played in the Copa America, striking in this match against Canada to follow up goals against Bolivia, Ecuador, and Colombia in 2021. The only exception in that run was the final in 2021 against Brazil.

    The Inter striker might have to settle for a back-up role at this tournament, but it's now three goals in his last two matches for his country, and he could be a contender for the Golden Boot.

    Argentina should be confident of a deep run. They should really go all the way.

    They are the best team in the world, after all, and Lionel Scaloni has, by some distance, the best squad in the competition at his disposal, what with Brazil missing stalwarts Casemiro, Gabriel Jesus and Richarlison, as well as their talisman Neymar, even if Vinicius Junior is an excellent alternative.

    That being said, this is the first time under their coach that Argentina have won their opening match of a major tournament, having slipped to a 2-0 defeat to Colombia in the 2019 Copa America, drawing 1-1 with Chile in the same competition two years later, and then losing 2-1 to Saudi Arabia at the 2022 World Cup.

    This time, they have got off on the right foot. Upcoming matches against Chile and Peru should not prove tough hurdles to navigate, especially not with Messi already clicking through the gears.

  • Scaloni and Martinez hit out at Atlanta pitch after Argentina win Copa America opener Scaloni and Martinez hit out at Atlanta pitch after Argentina win Copa America opener

    Lionel Scaloni and Emiliano Martinez criticised the state of the field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium after Argentina's 2-0 Copa America win over Canada.

    Goals from Julian Alvarez and Lautaro Martinez got the job done for the reigning continental and world champions in Atlanta on Thursday, in the tournament's opener.

    However, the state of the playing surface was a big issue, with the turf notably chopping up.

    Mercedes-Benz Stadium is used for both NFL games - it is the home of the Atlanta Falcons - and MLS, with Atlanta United playing their home matches there, but Scaloni was deeply unhappy with the preparation of the pitch, with an artificial surface having been replaced by grass on the eve of the Copa America.

    "The start looked like the match with Saudi Arabia [at the 2022 World Cup], with the difference that we played on a more decent pitch that time," Scaloni told reporters.

    "With all due respect, thank goodness we won. Otherwise, it would have been a cheap excuse.

    "We have known for seven months that we are going to play here and they changed the turf two days ago.

    "It is not good for the show. It is not an excuse, the stadium is beautiful and with synthetic turf it must be spectacular, but with today's turf it is not suitable for this kind of players."

    Scaloni's sentiment was echoed by goalkeeper Martinez, who told TyC Sports: "Coming here against a strong Canada, with good forwards and on a field that is a disaster made it a little difficult for us.

    "We have to improve in that aspect. Otherwise, the Copa America will always be at a lower level than the European Championship."

    Argentina captain and talisman Lionel Messi became the record appearance maker in Copa America history, overtaking Sergio Livingstone by playing in his 35th game at the tournament.

    While he could not mark the milestone appearance with a goal, Messi did tee up Martinez's effort late on, with that assist his 17th in the Copa America.

    "We knew it was going to be a tough game. We knew that Canada was going to be a hard team to go against," Messi told FOX.

    "They were physical, very physical. In the first half, there was little space. It was intense, physically intense and strong and then in the second half we were able to progress and get better."

  • Argentina 2-0 Canada: Alvarez and Martinez get Copa America holders off to winning start Argentina 2-0 Canada: Alvarez and Martinez get Copa America holders off to winning start

    Copa America holders Argentina made a winning start at the 2024 tournament as Julian Alvarez and Lautaro Martinez scored in a 2-0 win over Canada.

    The 2022 World Cup winners did not have things all their own way against Jesse Marsch's competition debutants, who missed a couple of glaring chances through Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David.

    But on the day he became the Copa's outright leading appearance-maker, Lionel Messi was the catalyst for both goals, splitting the Canada defence in the build-up to Alvarez's opener then assisting Martinez's late clincher.

    The Inter Miami star missed two great chances to get on the scoresheet himself, but it was of no consequence as Lionel Scaloni's men started with three points.

    They take on Chile, who beat them in the 2015 and 2016 finals, in their second match on Tuesday, while Canada will look to bounce back versus Peru.

     

    Canada refused to sit in and their approach left them open at the back early on. Leandro Paredes curled a 25-yard effort narrowly over the top, then Alvarez saw his shot smothered by Maxime Crepeau after a lightning break took him clean through on goal.

    Despite Argentina dominating possession, Canada should have gone ahead on the stroke of half-time, Emiliano Martinez making a reflex save to deny Stephen Eustaquio before Davies miscued on the follow-up. 

    They were made to regret that miss four minutes into the second half. Messi's pinpoint throughball found Alexis Mac Allister, and though the midfielder was wiped out by Crepeau, Alvarez was on hand to convert into an empty net.

    Messi should have made it 2-0 after 65 minutes, but he saw an angled drive parried by Crepeau before Derek Cornelius made a fine block to deny him on the rebound. 

    Canada continued to offer a threat at the other end, though, with David heading over after being found totally unmarked by Jacob Shaffelburg's cross.

    Messi missed another chance when his dinked attempt rolled agonisingly wide, but he did manage an assist as Argentina made the result safe two minutes from time.

    His delicate pass sent Martinez clear, and the substitute slotted a composed finish between the legs of Crepeau.

    Assist for Messi on landmark appearance

    Messi made a piece of Copa America history on Thursday, his 35th appearance in CONMEBOL's flagship tournament pulling him clear of Chile great Sergio Livingstone for the most games played at the competition outright.

    The eight-time Ballon d'Or winner failed to mark the occasion with a goal, misfiring from a game-high six shots worth 0.69 expected goals (xG).

    However, he did cap his outing with an assist for Martinez's late second, taking him to 30 goal involvements at the tournament overall (13 goals, 17 assists).

    Messi still has plenty of gears to go through, and that should strike fear into Argentina's upcoming opponents. 

    Encouragement for Canada, but no points

    Canada became the 20th different nation to participate in the Copa America, and the eighth different CONCACAF team after Costa Rica, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama and the United States.

    As was the case at the 2022 World Cup, they played some high-octane football but were not rewarded with a positive result.

    At half-time, Marsch's team had matched Argentina's tally of seven shots, the most any team have attempted in a first half against the Albiceleste since Uruguay managed eight in November 2021. Their 0.73 xG, meanwhile, topped the world champions' 0.56 at that stage. 

    Alvarez's opener came as a dagger blow and they were unable to sustain their high-intensity approach for the full 90 minutes, but there were positives to take.

    Ahead of Thursday's opener, the Opta supercomputer gave Canada just a 27 per cent chance of escaping Group A. While the result will have done nothing to boost those hopes, their display should offer encouragement ahead of meetings with Peru and Chile.

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