D’Tigers and Portland Trail Blazers player Al-Farouq Aminu believes that FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 will be anything but an uncharted territory for Nigeria.
The No.1 team in Africa – according to FIBA – registered a 10-2 record in the World Cup Qualifiers to return to FIBA’s flagship tournament for the first time since 2006.
Al-Farouq Aminu told FIBA that he considers Nigeria’s three Group B games of the 2019 World Cup finals confirming his goal to be part of his National Team’s squad at China as well.
“The first three games of the first round are going to be our first finals” he admitted and went on: “I am really excited for the start of the competition and we are going to start against a very good team of Russia. They have some very good players, with guys such as Mozgov and all their players that are part of some of the best European teams. We will have to be ready and focused from the beginning of the competition, and we won’t have any room for mistakes.”
In four meetings against Argentina, dating back to 1998 and including duels in the Olympics and World Cup, Nigeria recorded a 0-4 mark. And although they had a remarkable 2012 Olympic Qualifying Tournament campaign in Caracas, Venezuela, they fell short against Russia.
Giving his views on Argentina, he added: “They play with a lot of intensity. We will have to bring our A game against them,” he said and on South Korea mentioned: “They are going to play close from home, so we can expect a lot of fans coming from Korea to cheer and support them.”
The 28-year-old forward of the Portland Trail Blazers summed up the group pointing out: “The group is very open and every team has a chance to make it to the next round. It’s going to be a tough battle, but we will be ready.”
Asked about Nigeria’s ambitions, he replied: “Our first goal is to fight for a spot to the next round. We want to show that we have been improving and that Nigeria’s competitiveness is very good. We aren’t going to China to play and just go home after three games. We want to go to the knockout stage and have a great run”.
“We have a lot of potential and we can do great things, we want to make our fans proud. It’s a great achievement for us to compete at this level, and we want to make the best out of this great opportunity” he noted and added: “The National Team has been improving a lot in the last couple of years, and going to competing at the World Cup is another proof of our improvement.”
Aminu has become one of Nigeria’s flag bearers in recent years. As a key member of Nigeria’s FIBA AfroBasket 2015 squad, the 28-year-old forward sat out the 2016 Rio Olympics, but he hopes to make his World Cup debut in style.
Aminu also confirmed his availability for the World Cup mentioning: “Yes, that is my goal. I always want to play for the National Team when I am healthy. I have been playing for the National Team for some years now, and it’s something that is very important for me,” before saying: “I am sure it is going to be an amazing experience. China is going to be such a great host and I am sure that everyone is looking forward to be there.”
Nigeria will kick off the matches at Wuhan facing Russia on August 31st. Argentina and South Korea will follow.