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Canada basketball
Holly MacKenzie

Canada, Serbia meet in World Cup semifinal on Friday

MANILA, Philippines (Sept. 5, 2023) –  After reaching the semifinals for the first time ever at the FIBA Men's Basketball World Cup, Canada will look to book the country's first-ever ticket to a FIBA World Cup Final on Friday when they take on Serbia in semifinal action.

Who: Canada (5-1) vs. Serbia (5-1)

When: Friday, Sept. 8, 4:45 a.m. ET / 1:45 a.m. PT

Where: Mall of Asia Arena- Manila, Philippines

Things to know heading into Friday's semifinal against Serbia:

- Semifinals: Team Canada advanced to the FIBA Men’s Basketball World Cup 2023 semifinals after taking down Slovenia 100-89 on Wednesday behind a 31-point, 10-rebound performance from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. RJ Barrett added 24 points and Dillon Brooks and Nickeil Alexander-Walker scored 14 points apiece as Canada used a strong third quarter to pull away. Serbia advanced to the semifinals after dismantling Lithuania 87-68 on Tuesday behind 21 points from Bogdan Bogdanovic and 17 points from Filip Petrusev.

- Making history: After accomplishing their first goal of making the Olympics following a victory against Spain, Canada continues to make program history in Manila. Wednesday’s victory against Slovenia in Canada’s first ever quarterfinal game at a World Cup guaranteed Canada a top-four finish at this year’s event. It also allowed Canada to tie their record for most wins ever at a World Cup (five wins, 1986). Friday’s game against Serbia will be Canada’s first ever semifinal game. Canada has won all four of their games against European teams in this year’s World Cup after losing the previous 21 games against a team from that continent. “It means a lot,” Barrett said after Wednesday’s victory against Slovenia. “This is the furthest we’ve been in program history with this tournament. It’s been a special tournament. We’re just trying to keep it going.”

- Familiar faces: NBA fans will recognize a few faces on Serbia’s roster, led by Atlanta Hawks forward Bogdan Bogdanovic. Miami Heat forward Nikola Jovic is also playing for Serbia at the World Cup, as is Marko Guduric, who spent time with the Memphis Grizzlies. Bogdanovic has been Serbia’s leading scorer at the World Cup, averaging 18.8 points per game while big man Nikola Milutinov is averaging 13.2 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. Bogdanovic has scored at least 20 points in nine FIBA World Cup games since the start of the 2019 World Cup, something no other player has done more than seven games in that span. Serbia is currently ranked No. 6 in the FIBA World Ranking Presented by NIKE. They finished fifth in the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

Extra assists:

- Know your opponent: After Canada’s victory against Slovenia, Team Canada head coach Jordi Fernández was asked about Friday’s matchup against Serbia. Fernández, who grew up in Spain and began coaching when he was just 15 years old, is very familiar with the success of Serbia’s national program over the years. “They’re a very good team,” Fernández said. “Coached by one of the best European coaches ever [in Svetislav Pesic]. I’ve watched him coach since I was a little kid. He won the first EuroLeague with FC Barcelona in [2003]... A great coach, a great program, [with] guys that know what it is. They have a lot of FIBA experience, something that we lack, but we’re getting the FIBA experience day-by-day. Like I said since day one, we’re going to get better every single day, every single game. Today we were better than we were against Spain and when we play Serbia we will be better than we were today.”

- Earned respect: When Canada opened the World Cup with a dominant 30-point victory over France, the team put the basketball world on notice. After building on their success with a 5-1 record heading into the semifinals, Canada continues to earn the respect of their fellow teams in Mania. Following Wednesday’s Team Canada victory, Slovenian head coach Aleksander Sekulic had the ultimate praise for Team Canada. “Canada has a hell of a team,” he said. “They can play different lineups, with small ball, with two bigs. They have big guards, strong guards, they have guards who can create. They have everything they need to go all the way. I think they can match up with the United States. We’ll see. I think they are the team, and I said this before the start of the tournament, Canada is one of the teams that is favourite to win the medal and I still stand [by that] and now they are in the semifinals.”

- Win to advance: At this phase of the World Cup with only four teams – Canada, Serbia, Germany, the United States – remaining, it’s win and advance to the final or lose and play for third place. While this will be Canada’s first ever semifinal at a Men's World Cup, it’s the third semifinal for Serbia, who along with the USA, are the only two teams to have reached that stage three times over the last four editions of the World Cup. Friday’s game should be a battle as Canada and Serbia are the two teams with the highest offensive ratios among all teams at the World Cup. Canada is averaging 134.4 points per 100 possessions and Serbia is averaging 130.2 points per 100 possessions. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been a huge part of Canada’s offensive success as he has topped 30 points in Canada’s last two games and is averaging 25.0 points per contest. Gilgeous-Alexander’s 150 points through six games is the fourth most by a Canadian in a single World Cup tournament and only Luis Scola has had more 30-point games in a single World Cup tournament in the 21st century.

- Where to watch: Fans in Canada can catch all of the action live on Sportsnet, as well as streaming on SN Now.