After getting over-rolled by hosts and European strongholds Spain in their debut at the FIBA U17 World Championship, Mali recorded their first win by defeating Argentina 56-47 to take the driver’s seat in avoiding last place in Group B.
“We are very happy to get this first win,” said the team’s coach Zoumana Coulibaly, whose team is one of six newcomers at the biennial tournament.
“What was really important was that we played team basketball and we need to continue to play this way,” added small forward Lassana Haudara.
Coach Coulibaly was pleased about the team’s response after a poor showing against Spain.
“We did have a very bad loss yesterday (against Spain) so today we brought the players together and we spoke honestly with them. We told them that we had to win this game against Argentina at all costs,” Coulibaly said.
The victory means Mali have good chances of avoiding last place in the group, which would likely mean avoiding a Round of 16 match-up against the three-time undefeated reigning champions United States.
Coulibaly said however that the victory will not make the team change its expectations for Zaragoza.
“No it hasn’t. You have to understand that we’re here representing not only Mali but the African continent. And we don’t measure our success or our expectations at this championship in terms of wins and losses,” Coulibaly said.