Despite growing political turmoil in their home country, the Egyptian basketball team found the resolve to climb themselves back from a three-game losing streak in pool play to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Spain. It is the first time Egypt will make an appearance at the event since 1990 The accomplishment comes as welcome to relief to a country that has suffered with political clashes for the last two-plus years.
Egypt had shown promise throughout the tournament, but were unable to come away with a victory until they shocked defending champs Tunisia by the score of 77-67 in the eight-final round. Following the massive upset, the Egyptians went on to defeat Cape Verde 74-73 the quarterfinals, setting up a semi-final match with a very athletic Senegalese team. The Egyptians had lost to Senegal 72-70 in their first game of the tournament, and knew they'd be in for another challenging encounter.
Egypt led by a slim margin of 20-15 after the first quarter, and never looked back, holding on for a 70-63 victory. Assem Marei, who averaged 15.8 points and 12.2 rebounds over the course of the tournament, led the Egyptians valiantly, scoring 22 points and grabbing 17 boards. the 21 year-old Marei will return to the United States for his final season at Minnesota State, an NCAA Division II program, this coming season.
For Egypt, their basketball team's qualification for the World Cup may come as a triviality, considering the circumstances. Nevertheless, it serves as a positive distraction to a country still shrouded in a haze of negativity and political uncertainty.
The team still has the FIBA Africa championship to play for today, where they will take on the always dangerous Angola, who defeated host country Cote D' Ivoire in the other semi-final