NAIROBI, May 21 (Xinhua) -- Playing at home in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire needed a warrior to lead them in their final battle for the Africa men's basketball qualifiers for 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in China.
Point guard Souleyman Diabate stepped up to the plate and guided Cote d'Ivoire to clinch the last ticket to a fourth FIBA Basketball World Cup appearance in China from Aug. 31 to Sept. 15.
Cote d'Ivoire, alongside Angola, Tunisia, Nigeria and Senegal will represent Africa at the 2019 World Cup in China.
Diabate made a stopover on transit in Nairobi on Monday on his way back to France, where he plays for Nancy in the country's second-tier league.
With the qualifiers done, Diabate is focused on helping his side stake claim to the title against the world's best teams.
The tall point guard will be competing in the global bonanza for the second time after a first experience in 2010 in Turkey, and he knows exactly what is needed for a successful display in the China 2019 showpiece.
"The World Cup isn't the qualifiers, we need to play some good teams and prepare well. We just don't want to go there for the sake of it, we want to do something exceptional in China," Diabate said.
In their last qualifier game against Mali, Diabate utilized his experience to net 16 points on the way to a 69-49 win.
Knowing they needed to win all three of their last games to qualify as the best-ranked third-placed team in Africa, Cote d'Ivoire made sure they did that at home in Abidjan in February.
However, winning alone was not enough. They had to prevail in all three games by a combined margin of at least 65 points. Anything short of that and Cameroon was to be the team punching the final African ticket to China.
"There was pressure on the team and we needed to stay calm. That is the same pressure we will face in China. We have to look inside, get the extra motivation from within to strike back at our opponents in the World Cup," he added.
Diabate hopes Cote d'Ivoire's resilience and courage will ride them through the World Cup. Having endured hardships in their cruise to through the qualification process a skill display at the global stage will be rewarding.
"We had a difficult time preparing for the Africa qualifiers. We kept motivating ourselves, knowing that we could do it. The organization around the team wasn't proper but we fought for this qualification and we're proud of ourselves," said Diabate.
At China 2019, Cote d'Ivoire will open their campaign in Beijing having been pooled in Group A alongside hosts China, Poland and Venezuela.