Spain put in a dominant performance against heavy hitters Serbia to set up a clash with Poland in the quarter-finals of the FIBA World Cup.

Serbia had the best offense of the tournament heading into Sunday's encounter, but Spain held firm in Wuhan to secure an 81-69 victory and top spot in Group J.

Poland finished second behind Argentina in Group I following a 91-65 defeat to the South Americans, while Russia beat Venezuela 69-60 in the same pool.

Meanwhile, Italy ended their campaign with an impressive comeback against Puerto Rico, Tunisia came out on top by just two points against Angola and South Korea got the better of Ivory Coast.

RUBIO RUNS THE SHOW AS SPAIN STALL SERBIA

Ricky Rubio was in scintillating form as he scored 19 points and added four assists to lead Spain to victory over Serbia, who suffered their first defeat since February.

Rubio was backed up admirably by Marc Gasol and Victor Claver, as Spain earned a fifth successive win.

It was the first time Serbia failed to score 70 points or more in a World Cup match, even though Bogdan Bogdanovic grabbed 26 points in a supreme individual display.

While Spain will face Poland in the last eight, Serbia must rally for a tough test against Argentina.

NIGERIA BOOK OLYMPIC SPOT

Hosts China slipped to an 86-73 defeat in Guangzhou, as Nigeria grasped a place at the 2020 Olympics.

Josh Okogie helped himself to 19 points for Nigeria, with 11 coming in the final quarter. Jianlian Yi was the start of the show with 27 points, but his performance was not enough to secure a Chinese victory.

Nigeria's NBA forward Al-Farouq Aminu said on the FIBA website: "I remember when I joined the team in 2012 we said we did not want to miss an Olympics. It's a beautiful feeling. It's amazing."

China are in danger of missing out on direct qualification for the Olympics, with Iran going above them in the race for Tokyo thanks to their 95-75 win over Philippines.

AZZURRI FIGHT BACK TO OVERCOME PUERTO RICO

Marco Belinelli and Danilo Gallinari inspired Italy to overcome a 26-point deficit as the Azzurri triumphed 94-89 in overtime against Puerto Rico to end a frustrating campaign on a positive note.

Italy had never previously won a World Cup match in which they trailed by 15 points or more at half-time, but Belinelli and Gallinari rallied their team-mates after a timeout taken when 59-33 behind midway through the third quarter.

Belinelli converted a game-high 27 points, while Gallinari became the first Italy player to accumulate more than 20 points, five rebounds and five assists in a World Cup game since 1994.

"It was a very bad game for us in the beginning. We did not show up," Gallinari said. "We knew that we had to come out with a different attitude and different intensity in the second half and I think that we did a great job."

Spain and Serbia booked their spots in the quarter-finals of the FIBA World Cup on Friday.

Spain overcame Italy 67-60 and Serbia thrashed Puerto Rico 90-47 as they both guaranteed qualification from Group J.

The two nations will battle it out for top spot when they meet in a mouth-watering clash in Wuhan on Sunday.

Poland and Argentina also advanced with victories over Russia and Venezuela respectively.

Hosts China scored a 77-73 win over South Korea in the classification round, while there were also triumphs for Nigeria, Iran and Tunisia.

 

ITALY LOSE IT LATE

Spain were trailing 56-52 with four minutes to play against Italy, but Ricky Rubio helped lead a 10-0 run as Italy were put to the sword.

The Phoenix Suns guard finished with 15 points, two assists and two steals, though he recorded seven turnovers – a joint-high for him in a World Cup game.

Juancho Hernangomez had a game-high 16 points as Italy came up short and saw their hopes of reaching the last eight go up in smoke.

Marc Gasol had just two points and four rebounds in his 27 minutes on the floor.

 

SERBIA TOO GOOD FOR PUERTO RICO

A fourth win on the trot always looked likely for Serbia, who opened the scoring and never trailed against Puerto Rico.

Five Serbia players reached double figures in points, while the towering Boban Marjanovic went seven-of-eight from the field for 16 points.

The European side out-rebounded their opponents 48-26 and used all 12 of their players in a routine victory.

Nikola Jokic claimed a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

 

DECK DECKS VENEZUELA

Argentina had Gabriel Deck to thank for their 87-67 triumph over Venezuela; the Real Madrid forward had 25 points off nine-of-12 shooting in a comfortable win.

Poland joined them in advancing from Group I.

Adam Waczynski scored eight of his 18 points in the fourth quarter as Poland came from behind to down Russia 79-74.

Mateusz Ponitka contributed 14 points and nine rebounds, as Mikhail Kulagin's game-high 21 proved insufficient for Russia.

Like Spain and Serbia, Poland and Argentina will fight for top spot on Sunday. They go head to head in Foshan.

Bogdan Bogdanovic and Serbia impressed once more as one half of the second-round FIBA World Cup draw was confirmed on Wednesday.

Serbia were among a number of sides already through to the next stage but there was no let-up in their performance level as they swept aside Italy in their third Group D match.

There was far more on the line, meanwhile, in matches between China and Venezuela, and Puerto Rico and Tunisia.

The sides were bidding to join Poland, Argentina, Russia and Spain in the second round.
 

BOGDANOVIC BRILLIANT AGAIN

Serbia had already swatted aside the Philippines and Angola to secure their progress, but a tougher test was expected in their final first-round clash with Italy.

However, Bogdanovic's continued outstanding form meant his side again ran out comfortable winners, 92-77 with 31 points from the Sacramento Kings star - a Serbian World Cup record - as well as five assists and five steals.

These superb displays have meant Nikola Jokic has only been required from the bench, scoring 15 on this occasion, while Nemanja Bjelica emerged to contribute nine assists and seven rebounds.

Elsewhere in the pool, an 84-81 overtime victory over the Philippines ensured Angola did not go away empty-handed.
 

VENEZUELA TOO STRONG FOR CHINA

Hosts China saw their chances of reaching the second round ended as they failed to recover from a slow start in a 72-59 defeat to Venezuela.

It was winner takes all for the two sides, but China were outscored 18-10 in the first period and the South American side were able to see out victory with relative ease from there.

Poland finished Group A with a flawless 3-0 record, meanwhile, defeating Ivory Coast 80-63.
 

PUERTO RICO COME THROUGH ANOTHER DRAMATIC FINISH

Puerto Rico's dramatic victory over Iran in their opener saw a ludicrous final minute, with apparent match-winning interventions at either end, and they left it late again against Tunisia.

Needing another win to advance, a dismal third quarter put Puerto Rico three points behind heading into the final period, yet they rallied once again for a 67-64 triumph.

Gary Browne sunk a three-pointer with five seconds remaining and a last-gasp Makram Ben Romdhane air ball saw Tunisia out.

Juan Hernangomez contributed 11 points and 10 rebounds as Spain defeated Iran 73-65 to top Group C.

Luis Scola (13 points, nine rebounds) and Facundo Campazzo (21 points, seven assists, six rebounds) led Argentina past Russia in a 69-61 triumph in Group B, while Nigeria thrashed Korea 108-66 in the same pool.

Poland progressed into the second round of the FIBA World Cup after securing a 79-76 overtime victory over tournament hosts China.

Yi Jianlian missed a three-pointer in the final seconds in Beijing, and China's hopes now hang in the balance as they head into their final group game against Venezuela, who beat Ivory Coast 87-71.

Serbia amassed a huge haul of 126 points as they demolished the Philippines in Foshan, where Italy had beaten Angola 92-61 earlier on Monday.

In Group B there were wins for Argentina and Russia, while Tunisia overcame Iran and Spain got the better of Puerto Rico.

HOSTS DOWNED IN BEIJING THRILLER

Poland clinched their progression from Group A with a dramatic triumph over China in a thrilling encounter.

Mateusz Ponitka became the first player to score 10 or more free throws in the World Cup as he and AJ Slaughter led the way for Poland, who were a point behind with 4.2 seconds remaining.

Ponitka made no mistake with one of the free throws, and after Damian Kulig nudged Poland ahead in overtime, the Zenit man converted another point, which ultimately proved decisive when Yi squandered a three-pointer at the death.

In Group A's other match, Heissler Guillent put in an inspired performance to lead Venezuela to victory over Ivory Coast.

SERBIA STORM INTO ROUND TWO

Seven players got into double figures as Serbia marched into the second round with a demolition of the Philippines.

Nemanja Bjelica missed Serbia's opener against Angola, but came off the bench to steal the show, scoring all seven of his field-goal attempts.

Bjelica sunk a hat-trick of three-pointers as he finished off with a game-high 20 points in 16 minutes.

Serbia will be joined in round two by Group D rivals Italy - who they face next - after their 92-61 victory over Angola.

ARGENTINA REACH MILESTONE VICTORY

Another side into the next round are Argentina after they claimed a 94-81 win over Nigeria.

Nigeria clawed themselves back into contention with a late rally, but an early charge from Argentina proved enough to secure their second win in Group B, and a 60th overall in the World Cup.

Luis Scola was key to the victory with 23 points and 10 rebounds, and he is now the second all-time highest scorer in World Cup history with 611 points.

Russia, meanwhile, were 87-73 winners over South Korea.

Lautaro Martinez and Giovani Lo Celso were on target for Argentina as they downed Venezuela 2-0 to set up a mouth-watering Copa America semi-final against hosts Brazil.

Martinez's instinctive 10th-minute finish was his sixth goal in 10 international appearances and due reward as Lionel Scaloni's men made a rapid start.

They faded during the second half but Lo Celso capitalised upon an error from Venezuela goalkeeper Wuilker Farinez to settle matters at the Maracana - the stadium where Argentina lost the 2014 World Cup final to Germany.

It means Lionel Messi's ambitions of a first international title remain on track, with Argentina's bitterest rivals now standing in his way.

Martinez displayed his burgeoning understanding with Sergio Aguero in attack by playing in the Manchester City striker with a deft early pass – Farinez saving with his feet.

The set-piece deliveries of Messi and Leandro Paredes were causing Venezuela problems and, after an unmarked German Pezzella should have opened the scoring, Martinez duly did.

The Inter star converted a wonderful backheel from Aguero's miscued shot and quickfire bookings for captain Tomas Rincon and fellow midfielder Yangel Herrera soon afterwards suggested Venezuela were losing their composure.

Jhon Chancellor powered over a chance to equalise in the 40th minute, although Rafael Dudamel's side needed a brilliant clearance from Roberto Rosales to prevent Martinez from turning in a second after slick interplay between Messi and Marcos Acuna.

Martinez crashed against the back stanchion after Paredes unpicked Venezuela with a sumptuous 48th-minute pass.

Dudamel boldly sent on winger Yeferson Soteldo for centre-back Luis Del Pino and Argentina were forced to absorb sustained pressure for the first time in the contest.

Franco Armani saved sharply from Ronaldo Hernandez after Scaloni's decision to withdraw Martinez and Acuna raised eyebrows.

Farinez's work at the other end contrasted horribly when he spilled Aguero's 74th-minute shot to leave Lo Celso with a tap-in.

What does it mean: Scaloni's Argentina taking shape before showdown with old enemy

Scaloni's sparse coaching credentials were pored over as Argentina staggered through the opening matches of their campaign. This was easily his team's best performance of the tournament until his questionable second-half changes, with Paredes excelling in a midfield three where Acuna provided much-needed edge. La Albiceleste's attacking prowess has never been in doubt but a shaky backline enjoyed greater protection and Armani handled soundly throughout.

Martinez shows ruthless streak again

As he did in the vital group win over Qatar, Martinez gave Argentina an early lead – his supreme poaching instincts to the fore. More importantly, the 21-year-old appears entirely unhindered by the weight of expectation and failures that has sapped many of his compatriots over recent years.

Messi short of brilliant best

It was largely a game of personal frustration for Messi, who was largely well shackled by combative opponents. But his delight at Argentina's progress was clear and it bodes well that a team so shambolic of late were able to prevail with their talisman short of the A-game he will surely need against Brazil.

What's next: The Copa clash the world wants to see

As unlikely as it seemed when Argentina toyed with group-stage elimination, the two great rivals in South American football now have the chance to produce a clash for the ages in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday. Despite their shot-shy efforts against Paraguay, Brazil will be favourites. But are Argentina just about clicking at the right time?

Tite said he had "no complaints" about the VAR after Brazil saw two goals ruled out by the video assistant referee in their disappointing Copa America draw against Venezuela.

Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho were denied by the VAR in the second half as Brazil were booed by their own fans in Tuesday's 0-0 Group A stalemate.

Substitute Jesus thought he opened the scoring just past the hour mark but Roberto Firmino was adjudged to have been offside in the build-up.

Technology then saved Venezuela during the closing stages when Coutinho's effort was ruled out, capping a forgettable night for the Copa hosts in Salvador.

The result left Brazil, Peru and Venezuela vying for the two qualifying spots heading into the final matchday but Tite backed the VAR's decisions post-game.

"The VAR was correct and in these situations the team must mature, to blame the technician in these situations will never cease to exist," Tite told reporters after Firmino's first-half effort was also waved off due to a foul.

"Justice. He was offside… I have nothing to complain about."

Boos and whistles could be heard at Arena Fonte Nova – just like there were during last week's 3-0 win over Bolivia in Sao Paulo.

Fans reacted to a poor first-half performance against Bolivia and while Brazil produced a better display on Tuesday, the eight-time champions fell short of expectations.

Discussing the boos, Selecao head coach Tite said: "If I were on the other side it would be the same.

"The fans want a goal and I would like the same if I were a fan."

Brazil – who suffered a group-stage exit in 2016 – head into Saturday's decisive fixture with Peru level on four points.

Venezuela, meanwhile, have two points from as many games and can still qualify ahead of their match against Bolivia.

Many of the world's best players will be on show in Brazil over the next few weeks for the 2019 edition of the Copa America, but there will also be some talents hoping to use the tournament as a springboard.

For every Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Luis Suarez and James Rodriguez there will be a less familiar name attempting to establish himself on the international stage, potentially earning a big move.

The tournament sees the traditional CONMEBOL nations take part, plus guests Qatar and Japan, the latter of whom have named a squad mostly made up of players likely to feature in next year's Olympics.

With the Copa America starting on Friday, we have spoken to the experts to identify one potential breakout star to watch for each nation.

 

GROUP A

Brazil - David Neres (Ajax)

Tom Webber (Brazilian football expert): Following a stellar season with Champions League semi-finalists Ajax, Neres has a great chance to make his mark on the international stage. The 22-year-old winger is expected to be handed a starting role following Neymar's injury-enforced withdrawal, despite only making his first start in the 7-0 demolition of Honduras on June 9. Neres scored 12 goals and supplied 11 assists in all competitions for Ajax in 2018-19 and appears primed to make a mark on the Copa America, with plenty of interested parties likely to be keeping a close eye on him.

Bolivia - Edwin Saavedra (Bolivar)

Andres Mendez Dott (Bolivian football expert): Saavedra is a direct and explosive midfielder who started his career as right-back but now plays further forward. At the age of 23, he is closing in on 200 appearances for Bolivar and had a short spell at Brazilian side Goias. Humble off the pitch, he is rather more audacious on it, as he is not afraid to shoot from distance or take on defenders. Coach Eduardo Villegas is still undecided about his starting midfield, but we can expect Saaverdra to be a part of it. There are some rumours he might be deployed on the left, but either way, if he gets the ball and some space, you can count on him testing Dani Alves or Filipe Luis against Brazil. The Copa will be very challenging for Bolivia, but Saavedra could make his mark.

Peru - Renato Tapia (Willem II, on loan from Feyenoord)

Diego Montalvan (Peruvian sports journalist): If there's one player to watch in the Peru side, it's 23-year-old Renato Tapia, coming off arguably his best season in Europe with Willem II. The tournament will also enable him to put himself in the shop window, as he is reportedly looking for a transfer away from parent club Feyenoord. A central midfielder who can also fill in defensively, for Peru Tapia generally plays the role of destroyer to Yoshimar Yotun's creator, but if given the freedom to move forward he can create and even chip in with a few 'golazos'. 'El capitan del futuro', as he is called by many in Peru, is already an undisputed starter, but if he wants to stay in Europe he will have a point to prove in Brazil.

Venezuela - Wuilker Farinez (Millonarios)

Daniel Alvarez Montes (Venezuelan sports journalist): Farinez was part of the Venezuela squad in Chile for the 2015 Copa America when he was just 17. Many criticised then-coach Noel Sanvicente for that decision, knowing Farinez was not going to play. However, Sanvicente insisted it was a great opportunity for Farinez to grow. Four years later, we can say that decision was arguably his best one while in charge of La Vinotinto. Farinez played a significant role for Venezuela's youth sides after that, making a huge impact in tournaments at several age levels. Currently playing for Millonarios in Colombia, the Copa America will be a massive opportunity for him to show the world what he is capable of. Europe could be his next stop, with Benfica front-runners to acquire him.

GROUP B

Argentina - Giovani Lo Celso (Real Betis)

Peter Coates (Buenos Aires-based football writer): Finding a balance in midfield, linking defence to attack and crucially providing a partner for Lionel Messi have been issues for Argentina for several years. A new-look squad for the Copa America sees much of that responsibility fall on the shoulders of Lo Celso and coach Lionel Scaloni has already spoken highly of the 23-year-old, hoping the Real Betis playmaker and the world's best player can reproduce a relationship he has already witnessed on the training field. Something akin to an old-fashioned 'enganche' of yesteryear, Lo Celso will operate in the spaces behind the striker and allow Messi to roam off the right with his usual menace. The Rosario Central product's eye for a pass, ability to work in tight spaces and sweet left foot could make him the ideal partner for Messi and crucial to La Albiceleste's success.

 

Paraguay - Matias Rojas (Defensa y Justicia)

Roberto Rojas (Paraguayan journalist): Rojas is expected to be La Albirroja's breakout player in this Copa America. A product of the esteemed Cerro Porteno academy, the 23-year-old followed the path of various Paraguayans looking to get their first break abroad by heading to Argentina, where he was initially loaned to Lanus in 2017, before joining modest Defensa y Justicia the following year. He became a key player for Sebastian Beccacece's team, who secured an historic second-place finish in the 2018-19 Superliga. A central midfielder known for his passing and dangerous set-pieces, Rojas has already signed a contract to join Racing Club, who finished just ahead of Defensa y Justicia. Paraguay manager Eduardo Berizzo is likely to play Rojas in a 4-3-3 formation, where he will be expected to combine with Newcastle United's Miguel Almiron as the team's two-man creative hub.

Qatar - Almoez Ali (Al-Duhail)

Martin Lowe (Asian football expert): Ali went from relative obscurity to the name on everyone's lips at the Asian Cup, finishing as the highest-scoring player and breaking Ali Daei's record with nine goals from seven matches as Qatar claimed a surprise success. A languid target man with strength and the eye for a goal, he threatens from even the trickiest situations and cemented his MVP status at the Asian Cup with an outrageous bicycle kick in the final. Ali – born in Sudan – remains a contentious case amid questions over his eligibility, but he has been allowed to continue representing Qatar. He blossomed in a number of international youth teams, tending to fill his boots whenever he got the opportunity. His all-round game has improved, having been shifted out wide for his club side Al-Duhail, but he is mostly used as a static focal point with more creative types such as Akram Afif and Hassan Al-Haydos playing off him.

Colombia - Luis Diaz (Junior)

Simon Edwards (South American football writer): Diaz is a hugely exciting winger who will be tasked with bringing fresh impetus to Colombia off the bench. He was spotted by Carlos Valderrama and 'El Pibe' recommended Junior snap him up. He has become a star of Colombian league football, with offers received from River Plate and Cardiff City. Diaz plays with the fearless enthusiasm and the joy of a child, but has also complimented his unpredictable, weaving dribbles with goals and improved defensive discipline. He is now a complete attacking midfielder who tracks back and provides a threat. Diaz draws defenders but has the skill and invention to craft a solution. 'Luchito' will take risks and lose possession occasionally, but he also has the quality, pace and confidence to have a huge impact for this Colombia side.

GROUP C

Chile - Erick Pulgar (Bologna)

Adam Brandon (Chile-based South American football writer): Erick Pulgar will probably be given a chance to shine in central midfield in the Copa America after his stellar season with Bologna in Italy. The 25-year-old is good on the ball, passes well and can play a more defensive role as well. He also boasts an excellent penalty record, which could come in handy for Chile again in this Copa America, given how the 2015 and 2016 finals were won.

Japan - Takefusa Kubo (FC Tokyo)

Stuart Smith (Japan-based football writer): Japanese fans will line up to tell you 18-year-old attacker Takefusa Kubo, currently with FC Tokyo but almost certainly headed to a big European club very soon, is the Samurai Blue's player to watch. Small, fleet-footed and not afraid to try tricks, he has shown a maturity beyond his years this season in the J.League. He spent his formative years at Barcelona's famed La Masia, and his technical ability is a testament to that period. Excellent with both feet, extremely skilful and able to spot and drift into spaces that other players cannot, Kubo has the potential to develop into an outstanding player. Coach Hajime Moriyasu will try to manage expectations, but it will be difficult to keep such a talented player off the pitch for too long.

Ecuador - Jhegson Sebastian Mendez (Orlando City)

Xavier Zavala (Ecuadorian football analyst): Coach Hernan Dario Gomez will implement a defensive approach that will appeal to Mendez's greatest strengths, which are his tackling efficiency and relentless motor. The 22-year-old midfielder has shown he is capable of man marking without being rash or overly aggressive and his position with Ecuador will be similar to at Orlando City, where he plays a deep-lying role. The challenge he has is dislodging the Liga de Quito partnership of Jefferson Orejuela and Jefferson Intriago, but given the stamina the system used by 'El Bolillo' requires, rotation is to be expected. Once Mendez gets his chance, he will be in a position to prove his worth.

Uruguay - Nahitan Nandez (Boca Juniors)

Nick Dorrington (freelance South American football journalist): Nandez is an all-action midfielder who has become a regular for Uruguay over the last year or so, usually playing off the right-hand side. A boundlessly energetic little terrier of a player, he snaps away at the heels of opponents, runs up and down and back again, and gets the ball forward quickly. He is also capable of moments of genuine quality, such as the ball he played through to release Dario Benedetto for Boca Juniors' goal in their Copa Libertadores final defeat to River Plate in December. Linked with a move to Europe, the Copa America could be a useful shop window for the 23-year-old.

A power struggle for leadership of Venezuela that threatens to further destabilize the country has impacted the Gold Cup preparations of Trinidad and Tobago.

T&T were to have played in a friendly against the rising South American footballing power in a friendly on May 29 in Caracas that would have served as part of the twin-island republic’s preparation for the June 15 - July 7 CONCACAF flagship event.

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó on April 30 had led a failed military uprising in a bid to oust Nicolás Maduro.

On Saturday Guaidó said he's instructed his political envoy in Washington to immediately open relations with the U.S. military in a bid to bring more pressure on President Maduro to resign.

A once-wealthy oil nation, Venezuela has sunk into economic and social collapse marked by soaring inflation and a scarcity of basic goods that has sent an estimated 3.7 million of its citizens to emigrate.

Fortunately for the Soca Warriors, the game was just one of two friendlies, with the integrity of a game against Japan in Osaka on June 5 still in tact.

Trinidad and Tobago are in Group D of the Gold Cup’s preliminary round and take on Panama first up, before the United States and first-time qualifiers, Guyana.

While the Reggae Girlz fashioned a 2-1 win over hosts Colombia in their final group game of the 23rd Central American and Caribbean Games in Barranquilla, the victory was bittersweet as it was not enough to see them into the next round. 

Jamaica’ Reggae Girlz squandered a glorious opportunity to begin their Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games campaign in Barranquilla, Colombia with a victory over Venezuela. 

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