Tough World Cup grouping sets up rough Paris journey for Gilas – rezal404
The Philippines will try to quench its never-ending thirst to return to the basketball competitions of the Summer Olympics when it cohosts this year’s International Basketball Federation (Fiba) World Cup, and its route will be read with familiar stumbling blocks.
Gilas Pilipinas will face the Dominican Republic, Angola and then global power Italy in the classification round of the global showcase starting Aug. 25, looking to not only turn in a better performance after a ghastly outing in China the last time but also hoping to become the best Asian finisher to get to Paris next year.
“Our objective here is to get to the Olympics in 2024. That is the goal. That is the dream,” national coach Chot Reyes told reporters shortly after the draw at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Quezon City last Saturday night.
“Hopefully, we can get a win or two in this World Cup to give us a chance to qualify,” he went on.
This year’s edition of the World Cup, which will be cohosted by Japan and Indonesia, will serve as a pathway to the Olympics in the French capital. Gilas will be tested right away on opening day, facing the Dominicans at Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan. The visitors are shaping up as a handful, especially if they decide to bring in NBA standouts like Karl Anthony-Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Chris Duarte of the Golden State Warriors.
Angola seems to be the lightest assignment for the Philippines, but the Africans are no pushovers either with Atlanta Hawk Bruno Fernando at their disposal for the duel set on the 27th.
The Philippines will have its steepest trek on the 29th when it battles Italy, the World No. 10 that won by 46 points the last time they clashed.
Reyes said it is imperative that Gilas leaves nothing to chance during the group phase, considering China and Iran’s groupings.
“It’s important that our other Asian competitors are in tough groups because there’s just one (Asian team) that goes to the Olympics. I think China is in a pretty good group. They drew South Sudan. Iran, I think drew Ivory Coast. Those are teams that they can beat,” he said.
“As much as I was looking at our group, I was looking at the teams that other Asian teams drew as well.”
Reyes will have some sort of an advantage when he steers Gilas on this stage, thanks to his wealth of international experience which includes an appearance in the World Cup in Seville, Spain, back nine years ago.
But the seasoned mentor is also no fool to think not much has changed in the sport since then.
“I think if we come in with a game that we brought in 2014, it is not going to be enough. We have to be much, much better,” he said. “I hope from now until then, we can find a way to really become a much better team. I hope the whole Filipino nation is behind us and praying and supporting that we put the best team forward.”
“[This is a] kind of a situation where I’ve been in before, I kind of know what to expect. But then again, the game is always evolving,” he said.
“The competition is always evolving and getting better, so it is incumbent on us to match that—to continue to do better.” INQ
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