FIBA World Cup 2019 Qualifiers: How Philippines can still qualify for the tournament

Gilas Pilipinas was impressive in its 84-46 victory over Qatar, but it needs to do the same and more in its last game versus Kazakhstan in Astana on Sunday.

The team currently sits in 4th place in Group F with a 6-5 record. In the other group, Jordan, China, and Lebanon are tied for 3rd-5th place, with all three teams having the same record of 6-5. This means Gilas Pilipinas will need to win its last game versus Kazakhstan to give themselves a chance of advancing to the World Cup. But that is just one part of the equation. A win over Kazakhstan will still not guarantee Gilas a FIBA World Cup berth. The reality is that they no longer has its fate in its own hands.

The more difficult part of the equation for Gilas Pilipinas is to hope that certain teams lose their games—something that the national team will have no control over.

So what are the different scenarios that have to play out favorably for Gilas in order for them to advance to the World Cup?

Scenario 1: Japan unexpectedly loses to Qatar and Iran expectedly loses to Australia. This will result in a three-way tie among the Philippines, Japan, and Iran. In this scenario, the quotient will apply, but only for those games that the three teams played against each other. In this case, Japan will be at +11, the Philippines will be at -5, Iran will be -6. Gilas will end up 3rd in Group F and will automatically earn a World Cup slot. However, the chances of that happening are slim given Japan’s fine form as of late. Japan has been on a tear with seven straight wins, a testament to the fact that they have already fully-embraced the system of legendary Argentinian Coach Julio Lamas. Qatar, on the other hand, is still adjusting to its coaching change and has not shown that it is on the same level as Japan.

Scenario 2: Japan wins over Qatar. This means regardless of the result of the Iran-Australia game, Gilas will only finish 4th in Group F. The only chance for the Philippines to qualify is to be the best 4th-placed team. But there are a number of possibilities that can come out of this:

2.1) Lebanon loses its last game versus Korea or Jordan loses to New Zealand, or both Lebanon and Jordan lose their last game. Gilas will qualify for the World Cup due to having a better record compared to Lebanon and/or Jordan.

2.2) Lebanon and Jordan both win their last game and end up with 7-5 records, the same as the Philippines. Jordan will end up 3rd in Group E because of higher goal difference in its head-to-head games against Lebanon. Goal difference will be applied to Lebanon and the Philippines. Since the two teams have not played each other, the goal difference of all their games in the tournament will come into play. Gilas is currently at +17. Lebanon is at +99. Lebanon will be the higher ranked 4th placer and will earn the World Cup spot.

Even if Jordan loses its last game, it can still qualify for the World Cup if Gilas also loses to Kazakhstan. This is because Jordan has the higher goal difference at +80.

What are the chances of Lebanon and Jordan losing their last games?

Lebanon and Jordan will be the underdogs in their respective final games as they both will face teams that have already beaten them. But one thing going for Lebanon and Jordan will be the homecourt advantage.

Lebanon will battle a Korean team that beat them, 71-84, last November. The team was up by eight points at halftime until Korea went full throttle in the 3rd quarter to regain control of the game. For the last qualifying window, Korea is still bannered by naturalized reinforcement Ricardo Ratliffe (now known as Guna Ra), twin towers 6’8 Seounghyun Lee and 6’9 Jongkyu Kim, and main gunner Junghyun Lee. Korea cruised to an 87-74 win yesterday versus Syria with Guna Ra posting a double-double with 25 points and 12 rebounds.

Jordan will be facing a New Zealand team that won on a three-pointer in the closing seconds over Lebanon yesterday, 69-67. In their first encounter last November, New Zealand won comfortably over Jordan, 95-69. New Zealand will be missing Corey Webster, but it still has most of the players from their November line-up back for this February qualifying window. Leading the charge will be veteran Tom Abercrombie, who finished with 18 points—including the winning three-pointer—versus Lebanon.

The bottomline is Gilas Pilipinas cannot afford any scenario where it ties the records of Lebanon and Jordan. This, unfortunately, is something beyond them at this stage in the competition. The most that Gilas Pilipinas can do is to go all-out for a win tomorrow versus Kazakhstan, then hope that fate and the stars align to reward them with a spot in the FIBA World Cup.

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