The German basketball players have reached the first World Cup semi-final in 21 years and are very close to their declared goal of a medal. National coach Gordon Herbert’s team defeated outsiders Latvia on Wednesday in Manila with 81:79 (36:34) and will now face top favorite USA in the semi-finals. After the hard-fought quarter-finals, only one win from two games is missing from the second medal in German World Cup history. In the huge Mall of Asia Arena, Germany could even afford a poor performance from captain Dennis Schröder (9 points) to claim their sixth win in their sixth World Cup game.

As the only unbeaten team in this World Cup, Schröder and Co. will challenge star coach Steve Kerr’s Olympic champion on Friday (2:40 p.m. / Magentasport) and fight for the first World Cup finals. In front of 7584 spectators, the Herbert team had a lot of trouble against the Latvians, who had previously knocked out world champions Spain and European runners-up France.

When young star Franz Wagner made his comeback, it wasn’t Schröder who carried the German team this time. In addition to the returnee Wagner (16 points), his brother Moritz (12) and three-man specialist Andreas Obst (13) also impressed. The victory could be worth even more than just qualifying for the semi-finals later in the day. If Slovenia and superstar Luka Doncic lose to Canada in the afternoon (2:30 p.m.), Germany will qualify early for the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

The first positive news was already before the game started: Wagner, who had been injured for a week and a half, reported fit for the sporting comeback after a tough ankle injury. “Franz is ready. I don’t see any limit in the minutes. We want to bring him into play as early as possible and then we’ll look at it from there,” announced Herbert.

The 64-year-old left Isaac Bonga in the starting lineup and brought Wagner off the bench after around five minutes. In a threesome worth seeing, Wagner hinted at his potential. However, he did not seem to be as mobile as before the incident in the opening game against Japan. To stimulate the partly static offensive, the Orlando Magic turned pro anyway. In the meantime, the favorite was still 3:13 behind.

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Schröder also seemed strangely inhibited. The 29-year-old playmaker, who had excelled in the strong previous World Cup appearances, made several minor mistakes and missed simple lay-ups. Schröder missed all of his first twelve throws and went into the break with zero points. As a surprise team, Latvia turned out to be the expectedly tough test, even without the missing star Kristaps Porzingis.

“They were the best team in Europe that nobody talked about. They’ve been playing together for a long time and have good throwers,” Herbert warned in advance. Above all, the NBA professional Davis Bertans, who was outstanding that afternoon, repeatedly presented Germany with major problems with his long-distance throws. Schröder and Co. made a nervous impression and played much weaker than in the five previous games of the preliminary and intermediate round. But in the end, with a lot of fighting and an energetic performance, it was enough for the sixth victory.