Gilas Pilipinas overcame tremendous odds in the gruelling Qualifiers to make it to the World Cup in China. But the next stage poses an even greater challenge for the Filipino quintet, as the team has been grouped with powerhouse squads Serbia, Italy, and Angola.
After seeing what’s in store for the national team in the upcoming tournament slated from August 31 to September 15, Samahang Basketball ng Pilipinas (SBP) president Al Panlilio bared his observations of the formidable teams in Group D.
“It is a very challenging group. Serbia is a basketball super-power and ranked #4 in the world. They currently have four active NBA players who could be part of the national team including 7’0 superstar Nikola Jokic, 7’3 Boban Marjanovic, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Nemanja Bjelica. Italy is ranked #13 by FIBA. NBA stars Danilo Galinari and Marco Bellenelli could make themselves available for the World Cup. While Angola, although ranked #36, is one of the best teams in Africa”.
Gilas needs at least one win in the first stage, as the the top three teams from each group will advance to round two. Last placed teams will play the best Division B teams to qualify for the next season’s Division A.
Both Serbia and Italy have already left a mark in the international stage, having legitimate NBA caliber players at their disposal. Angola, meanwhile, has won the FIBA Africa tournament 11 times.
“It is obvious that we are the overwhelming underdogs but we are certainly not going to give-up,” the SBP chief added. “What we need right now is to look at the PBA calendar and come up with the best training schedule for our Gilas Pilipinas”.
“The competition is going to be a lot harder and we are compelled to bring the best available talent and give it all we’ve got to compete and win games,” he concluded.
After three stages, only the top 8 teams (including host Japan) will make it to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Only two teams from each of the Americas and Europe, and the top team each from Africa, Asia and Oceania will be able to represent their country.