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Mali players apologise for World Cup punch up

Two Mali teammates who fought following a loss at the women's basketball World Cup in Sydney have blamed post-match frustrations for their actions and apologised.

The scuffle between Salimatou Kourouma and Kamite Elisabeth Dabou broke out as Serbian player Sasa Cado was being interviewed in the mixed zone following her side's 81-68 win over Mali on Monday.

A Serbian news camera panned across to the altercation, capturing Kourouma throwing at least three punches before teammates ran in to diffuse the situation.

Governing body FIBA has launched an investigation into the conduct of the players, who both lined up in Mali's final match of the tournament on Tuesday afternoon.

After the 88-65 loss to Canada (4-1) at the Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre, Kourouma and Dabou fronted the media to express contrition.

"We were frustrated because of the loss so we are here to apologise to the world of basketball, FIBA, the World Cup," Kourouma said on the pair's behalf.

"We're here to apologise for the image that was put on social media. It was not our intention."

As FIBA deliberates whether to impose sanctions, Mali coach Joaquin Brizuela Carrion said he did not consider dropping the pair as punishment for their actions.

"These were two of our key players so even though it was a sad incident, it was more about that they wanted to play basketball," Brizuela said.

"We wanted to play at a higher level, and they did show that today."

As one of only two sides to have lost all five games in the group stage, Mali did not progress to the quarter-finals so any sanctions will not affect their World Cup campaign.

"FIBA acknowledged today that there was an altercation between Mali players in the mixed zone following the Group B game Serbia-Mali at the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2022," FIBA said in a statement.

"Following the incident, FIBA has opened an investigation. Once the investigation is concluded, FIBA will decide on any applicable disciplinary measures."

Mali qualified for their second World Cup as a late replacement for Nigeria, who pulled out citing administrative difficulties around basketball in their country.

The lowest-ranked side at the tournament at number 37 in the world, the Malians were competitive in patches, usually starting games well and playing with physical intensity, but a 118-58 loss to Australia was a low-point of their tournament.