Philippines: No other option but thru backdoor

MANILA, Philippines — All is not lost, but Gilas Pilipinas would now need to sweep two games away from home to get a shot at a backdoor entry in the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China.

The flickering hopes of Team Phl rest on victories over Qatar and Kazakhstan on their turfs and a friendly help either from Iran or Qatar.

The Nationals can salvage third place in Group F if they beat the Qataris in Doha on Feb. 21 and the Kazakhs in Almaty on Feb. 24 then the Japanese suffer a loss either against the Iranians or the Qataris.

Through the fifth and penultimate window of the FIBAWC eliminator, the Philippines (5-5) dropped to fourth place behind Australia (9-1), Iran (7-3) and Japan (6-4).

But though being swept at home in the last window and going 1-3 since the Gilas-Australia brawl, coach Yeng Guiao remains hopeful they can salvage the WC dream.

“I still feel that this is a good team. I still feel this is a strong team. The chances are slimmer going to the World Cup, but I still feel it’s doable. Kaya pa rin natin,” said Guiao.

Most probably, Gilas would bring back naturalized player Andray Blatche in the final window.

“After this game, we’ll have to make some assessments, evaluations, and some decisions,” said Guiao after their 70-78 loss to Iran Monday night at the MOA Arena.

With Blatche, the Nationals posted a 4-2 mark in the first three windows. The 6-foot-10 NBA veteran, however, had to serve a three-game suspension by FIBA in the aftermath of the Gilas-Australia fracas.

In an earlier The STAR exclusive, Blatche had expressed disappointment over his exclusion from the pool for the Iran game, but assured he’s still  ready to answer the call to play for the national team.

Because of limited time, Guiao chose Christian Standhardinger over Blatche for the Iran match in an experiment that didn’t work.

“Sinabi ko naman that this is an experiment. We can fail or we can succeed, then we always have something to go back to,” said Guiao. 

If the Nationals are no longer able to dislodge the Japanese at third spot in Group F, their last chance to make the China World Cup is to have a stronger finish than the fourth placer from Group E among New Zealand (9-1), Korea (8-2), China (6-4), Lebanon (6-4), Jordan (5-5) and Syria (2-8).

“Kahit papaano yan, we would do our best to make it,” said Guiao.

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