By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On Sunday, July 10th, France defeated Canada 83-74, in the Olympic qualifying tournament championship game taking place in Manila, Philippines, to claim the final spot in the men’s 2016 Rio Olympics basketball tournament. France joins Serbia and Croatia who also won their final qualifying matches on Saturday, July 9th, rounding out the field of twelve teams, including the two-time defending champion U.S., competing for gold this August.
France punched its ticket to the 2016 Games thanks to a throwback performance from NBA veteran, San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker, who turned back the clock in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game against Canada.
Parker poured in fifteen of his 26 points in the fourth quarter clinching the victory for the French national team. For Canada, who last qualified for the Olympics in 2000 in Sydney, it was a heartbreaking loss extending the country’s Olympic basketball drought to at least twenty years.
On Saturday, Serbia and Croatia earned the other two remaining spots in the Olympic tournament with victories in qualifying matches in Serbia and Italy respectively. With a dominating 108-77 win over Puerto Rico in Belgrade, the home team Serbia earned its first Olympic appearance as an independent country. At the 2004 Athens Olympics, the team represented both Serbia and Montenegro.
Croatia, meanwhile had a tougher matchup against Italy in Turin on Saturday, but held on for the 84-78 overtime victory securing its spot in the 2016 Games. Following this weekend’s final Olympic qualifying games, the field of twelve teams is set for the 2016 Games with France and Serbia drawn into Group A with the United States, who won gold at the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympics.
The remaining Group A teams include Venezuela, China and Australia. Croatia joins Group B with host team Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Lithuania, and Nigeria.
The Carioca Arena 1 at Olympic Park in Barra da Tijuca will host all of the basketball games of the 2016 Rio Olympics, with the first slate of games scheduled for August 6th highlighted by the two-time defending champions, the U.S., taking on China.
The U.S. men’s team will be led by NBA star and New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, who is looking to become the first American men’s basketball player to win three gold medals.