The two Mali teammates at the centre of a shocking brawl at the women's basketball World Cup have broken their silence about the ugly incident.
Fellow Mali teammates and viewers around the world were left in shock after the scuffle erupted in the media zone at the tournament in Sydney on Monday.
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World governing FIBA is investigating the incident, which was caught on camera on Serbian TV, while one of their players, Serbia's Sasa Cado was being interviewed.
The clash came after Serbia's 81-68 win over Mali, with emotions spilling out between Salimatou Kourouma and Kamite Elisabeth Dabou.
Kourouma could be seen throwing at least three punches at her shocked teammate as other Mali teammates rushed in to break up the fight.
Mali's women's national team get into a fight...amongst themselves...while a Serbian player talks to the press 🤯pic.twitter.com/gOGkjqq3ig
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) September 27, 2022
The two players fronted a press conference after their final tournament game, an 88-65 loss to Canada in which both featured, and apologised.
"We are here to apologise for the image that was on social media, it was not our intention," Dabou said as they sat side-by-side.
"We were frustrated because of the loss and we're here to apologise to the whole of the FIBA basketball World Cup. We are sorry."
They took no questions.
FIBA said was investigating and once concluded "will decide on any applicable disciplinary measures".
Coach Joaquin Brizuela called the fracas a "sad incident".
"They are two of our key players and even though it was a sad incident, it was more about they wanted to play basketball at a higher level, and they did show that today," he said through an interpreter.
"We have learned a lot from playing this tournament."
Mali failed to win any of their five games after qualifying for their second World Cup as a late replacement for Nigeria, who pulled out citing administrative difficulties around the sport in their country.
Host nation Australia fared much better, with the Opals' group stage win against Japan meaning the Aussies cannot meet red-hot tournament favourites USA until at least the final.
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The knockout stage begins in Sydney on Thursday and is structured to prevent the winners of the two pools meeting in the quarter or semi-finals.
With a loss to Japan, the Opals would have moved into the path of Group A winners Team USA but have now finished on top of Group B with a 4-1 record and will face Belgium in the quarter-finals.
Australia and Japan traded blows early on Tuesday night in Sydney, with the lead changing 13 times in the first half.
Bec Allen sat out a second consecutive game out with a rib injury and her presence was missed as the Opals again struggled to find their rhythm in offence early.
Japan enjoyed early momentum on the back of full-court pressure.
Injected into the contest late in the first quarter, Lauren Jackson settled the nerves with an important three as the seconds ticked down to quarter-time but finished with only four minutes on court.
Australia averaged the second-most turnovers of any team at the tournament heading into their fifth game of the group stage but cleaned their ball security up against Japan.
The Opals capitalised on their height advantage, Ezi Magbegor and Marianna Tolo proving popular offensive targets as the Australians worked harder on rebounds and took a two-point lead into the main break.
The Opals ran in seven unanswered points to start the second half when Japan's early pressure began to wane.
Cayla George went on a late rampage to help the Opals lock up what was then a game-high lead of 13 heading into the final change.
Japan's wayward shooting brought them undone in their attempt to mount a comeback, finishing with only 28 per cent accuracy from the field, as Australia held on for an important win.
Earlier, the USA defeated Bosnia & Herzegovina 121-59 to set a team record for most consecutive wins at the World Cup (27).
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