The USA is going to play the Ukraine in a meaningless game for the Americans on Thursday — Team USA has already secured the top spot in Group C. For the Americans it will be about just trying to execute and improve, plus not get injured.
But there is a lot on the line for other teams on Thursday.
There are four groups of six in the World Cup and the top four from each group advance to the 16-team bracket of knockout play (single elimination). Basically there are two kinds of games going on Thursday:
1) Teams trying to qualify for the knockout round.
2) Teams trying to position themselves to avoid the USA/Spain super teams for as long as they can.
Here are the games to keep an eye on Thursday:
• Mexico needs to beat winless Korea (arguably the worst team in the tournament) to ensure they advance to the knockout stage. Their reward for advancing? Team USA on Saturday.
• By the way, Australia advanced to the knockout stage with a win over Mexico on Wednesday behind a big game from former Spur Aron Baynes.
• Winner of the Turkey vs. Dominican Republic game advances the knockout stage. The loser likely will as well, but it will come down to a tie breaker between them, the winner of the New Zealand vs. Finland game, and the Ukraine (which will lose to the USA). All three of them will be 2-3 and two will advanced based on the tiebreaker (which is what FIBA calls “goal average,” calculated by points scored divided by points allowed in the two head-to-head games against the other teams in the tie). What, you expected FIBA to have a straight forward tie breaker? (To be fair, in a two-team tie it is head-to-head.)
• Senegal and Gorgui Dieng can secure a knockout round berth but they need to beat a winless but feisty Philippines squad. Lose and it could head to a tie brea
• Lithuania takes on Slovenia to see who see who wins Group D? Winner gets to avoid the USA until the semi-finals (lose that game and you still play for the bronze), loser gets the USA in the quarter finals a round earlier.
• Argentina and Greece are doing the same thing, just trying to avoid Spain on the other side of the bracket.