Germany’s Franz Wagner eases back into his game after injury
MANILA, Philippines–Franz Wagner made an immediate impact in his return from a left ankle injury, helping Germany qualify for the Fiba World Cup semifinals for the first time in 21 years.
Wagner, who missed the last four games after suffering from an ankle sprain against Japan in their campaign opener in Okinawa, returned to action and led Germany to a nail-biting 81-79 win over Latvia on Wednesday at Mall of Asia Arena.
The Orlando Magic forward showed no signs of injury in his comeback as he delivered 16 points, eight rebounds, and three assists to help the Germans reach the semifinals for the first time since their country’s bronze finish in 2002, with a team led by tournament MVP and top scorer Dirk Nowitzki.
“[The injury] didn’t bother me throughout the game at all. It took [time for me] to get into a rhythm and get some confidence,” Wagner told reporters. “But my teammates made it easy for me to get back into a rhythm.”
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It was tough for the 22-year-old NBA player to watch his teammates from the sidelines but he never lost faith in them as they swept five matches in the group phase before extending their run to a six games on Wednesday.
“Really tough. As a competitor, you always wanna be out there, and help the team,” Wagner said. “Luckily, we got 12 really good players and I think we played great team basketball in Japan. Just happy I’m back and could help the team win.”
Wagner and his teammates also showed faith in Dennis Schroder, who shot 4-of-26 from the field and finished with nine points and four assists.
“I think everybody just kept on playing their own game, kept lifting him up. I think they did a great job of staying aggressive. I think that’s really important for everybody to see, and it’s a team game,” he said.
Germany battles Team USA on Friday, eyeing its first-ever finals in the World Cup.