For Kazakhstan coach Matteo Boniciolli, the Fiba Asia quarterfinal match between the Philippines and his team will all boil down to heart and desire.
“I’m not a tactical coach. I trust in men, in their wishes, in their dreams,” said the Italian who coached several teams in Europe and became Italy’s assistant coach from 1996-2001.
“It’s going to be heart and desire, nothing else.”
But the Kazakhs, who wound up fourth in Group F and drew Group E topnotcher Gilas Pilipinas, will need more than just mental toughness and character to arrange a semifinal showdown with either Qatar or South Korea.
Bruised and battered, they are hurting with key outside gunner Konstantin Dvirnyy already out of the tournament due to a severe knee injury.
Naturalized point guard Jerri Jonson and post defender Mikhail Yevstigneyev (chest) also sat out in their 53-85 defeat to unbeaten Iran at the end of the group stages on Wednesday.
Boniciolli, 51, said the 6-foot Jonson strained his legs and Yevstigneyev, who loves to pound it inside, was hit in the chest in a losing effort against China.
“Jerri has some muscle problems so we didn’t risk him against Iran, while Mikhail has been having problems breathing. We’ll both have them back in the next game,” said Boniciolli.
Thrilled at the prospect of playing before a rabid pro-Gilas crowd, Boniciolli considers themselves underdogs.
“It’s a great chance to play against the greatest crowd I’ve ever seen. It’s even clear that we are the complete underdog. Philippines is a great team with great fans,” said Boniciolli.
Aside from homecourt advantage, Gilas has the mental edge after narrowly beating Kazakhstan in a tuneup match before the Asian championship that offers three continental spots to the 2014 Fiba World Cup in Spain.
“I don’t trust the box in one (defense) or triangle (offense). It’s the group that makes the difference, not the tactics,” said Boniciolli.
NBA material Anton Ponomarev is expected to deliver for Boniciolli along with Rustam Yargaliyev and Alexandr Zhigulin.