Iran Advances to Next Round

 Behnam Yakhchali was the top performer of Iran roster with 20 points. Behnam Yakhchali was the top performer of Iran roster with 20 points.

Iran basketball team beat Kazakhstan 88-56 in the first round of Asian Qualifiers for 2019 China World on Monday at Azadi Sports Complex in northwest Tehran.

In the second leg of the group matches Iran faced Kazakhstan at home turf. Iran made the point gap in the early first quarter with 31 points at hand and giving only six to the rival, according to the results on FIBA.Basketball website.

Iranian players, enjoying the home atmosphere, kept the spirit in the following quarters.

The Kazakhs pushed to reduce the point gap but the second quarter also ended for the good of Iranian giants with 25 points for Iran and 14 for the other side.

Iran collected 20 points in the third quarter and gave nine to the rival. Iranians had a whale of the game also in the last quarter making 23 points while Kazakhstan made 16.

Behnam Yakhchali was the top performer of Iran roster with 20 points, seven rebounds and two successive steals.

 Bitter Farewell

The sweetness of the victory and advancing to the next round soon faded with Oshin Sahakian’s unexpected farewell to the national career, leaving his teammates in total shock.

After more than a decade with the Iran national team, power forward Sahakian, 32, has decided to hang up his national team kits for good.

His unexpected farewell stunned his teammates as he had not informed any of them but only his coach of his intention. He kissed the corners of the court of Azadi Sports Complex after the game with Kazakhstan, a gesture which in the Iranian culture means bidding farewell to a sports career.

Sahakian has been a mainstay of Team Melli since first playing for Iran’s senior national team at the FIBA Asia Cup 2007. With Sahakian as one of the team’s frontliners, Iran won three FIBA Asia Cups (2007, 2009 and 2013) and three FIBA Asia Challenges (2012, 2014 and 2016).

He was a member of the All-Star-Five in 2013, averaging around 8 points and 7 rebounds per game.

The 2.00m forward also saw action in two FIBA Basketball World Cups (2010 and 2014) and one edition of the Olympics (2012).

 Next Round Ticket

The victory sent Iran to the next round of Asian Qualifiers atop Group D table. Kazakhstan is second, Qatar third and Iraq at the bottom end. Three first teams have advanced to the next round and Iraq got the boot.

Now in a new group Iran is with Australia, Japan, the Philippines, Kazakhstan and Qatar. Since having played with Kazakhstan and Qatar in the first round, Iran will not play them again and will only meet Australia, Japan and the Philippines in two-legged games (home and away).

The other group includes Jordan, Lebanon, New Zealand, South Korea, China and Syria. Three top teams of each group and the best 4th place finisher, making the total of seven teams, will get the ticket to the FIBA World Cup games next year in China. Host China is not included.

The 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup will be held next year, August 31-September 15. Rescheduled from 2018 to 2019, the upcoming edition will be the first FIBA Basketball World Cup since 1967 that will not occur in the same year as the FIFA World Cup, but a year following the latter. Also the group stage will expand from 24 to 32 teams.

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