Philippines needs backdoor path–an help from nemesis Iran–to make it to World Cup
The Philippine stint in the Fiba World Cup in China next year is still an achievable dream, but the Filipinos will have to get help from a team they have a lot of painful history with to get it done and make it via the backdoor.
With clashes on the road against Qatar and Kazakhstan coming—must-wins in February—Gilas Pilipinas must hope that Iran, a long-time nemesis, continues playing its heart out and treats its last two assignments with the same importance as it did its previous 10 outings.
Gilas’ situation is a precarious one heading into the sixth window, as it occupies fourth spot at 5-5 in Group F with Japan a rung above after scoring an 86-70 ripping of Kazakhstan at home also on Monday for a 6-4 record.
So for the Philippines to qualify, Iran must inflict a loss on Japan even after having qualified to the World Cup already on Monday after a 78-70 nipping of the Filipinos.
With only the top three teams from Groups E and F and the better fourth-placed team from both groups advancing to China, the Filipinos are in a one-miss-you-die situation and are holding on to one last remaining bright spot.
Team Philippines handily beat the Japanese twice in the earlier windows, with Japan still without naturalized player Nic Fazekas and Japanese-American and potential NBA first-rounder Rui Hichimura, and will win a tiebreak between the two countries.
“It’s still doable; the chances are slimmer, but it’s still doable,” coach Yeng Guiao told reporters.
Japan’s other game will be versus the Qataris.
The Filipinos were comfortably seated on third spot heading into the fifth window, only to take two shock home defeats against Kazakhstan and an undermanned Iran squad.
The game against the Qataris will be in Doha on Feb. 21, before the Filipinos fly to Astana to battle Kazakhstan three days later.
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