With COVID hindering flight to PH, Korea fate hangs in balance
The governing Fiba (International Basketball Federation) still has to make official South Korea’s withdrawal from the World Cup Asian Qualifying window set for tipoff on Thursday at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Quezon City, as the fate of that country with regards to its participation in the 2023 showcase hangs in the balance.
With a COVID-19 outbreak hitting its national squad, Korea was forced to skip the flight to the Philippines on Tuesday and miss four scheduled games in Manila—two against bitter rival Gilas Pilipinas and one each against New Zealand and India.
A participant in the last two editions of the World Cup, Korea stands to forfeit all of its four games and lose a chance to make the main draw as the Koreans won’t have enough points to qualify even if they win their last two games in June, which will be against the Kiwis and the Indians.
The Fiba format of play allows teams to score points even after losses, but with zero points after this window, the Koreans could only collect four in case of wins over New Zealand and India in June.
By that time, the Filipinos, Kiwis and Indians could total at least six each and would complete the qualifiers coming from this window.
While the Fiba still has to make the Korea withdrawal official on its website at press time, speculation remains that, because the country has a valid reason for pulling out, those matches that the Koreans will miss could be played in the next window to give them a chance to qualify.
In the meantime, Gilas has shifted most of its focus on the two other teams remaining in the field, with the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas set to make an announcement on Thursday on what the final schedule will be.
The Philippines already has a main draw slot assured, being a cohost together with Indonesia and Japan, but the Filipinos are obviously going to use the window games to see how more they need to develop and give international exposure to potential members of the national five.
Coach Chot Reyes posted on Instagram on Tuesday that the withdrawal of the Koreans has thrown “a monkey wrench in our preparations,” with the team preparing hard for two expected tough—and loud matches against Korea with fans allowed to watch at Smart Araneta Coliseum—when news of the withdrawal broke.
“Having said that, we’d like to think that we built this team on versatility. Agility was one of the very first things we talked about in our very first day of practice and how we really need to be prepared for whatever jobs because what we’ve learned in this environment that we are playing in now is that you can never really know what to expect. And this is one such thing,” Reyes went on.
Dwight Ramos and Thirdy Ravena came back from Japan to play, and Ange Kouame will suit up as Gilas’ naturalized player. Several TNT players are on the roster to complete the national squad.
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