MANILA, Philippines – Gilas Pilipinas may have been bunched in the “group of near death” in the 2019 FIBA World Cup but former national team mentor Chot Reyes believes it is well capable of reaching the second round.
Ranked 31st in the world, the Philippines faces a tall order of making it to the next level as it shares Group D with world No. 4 Serbia, No. 13 Italy and No. 39 Angola.
“To be honest, [I’m] very optimistic about our chances,” said Reyes, who was replaced by Yeng Guiao in the middle of the Asian Qualifiers.
Only the top two teams in each of the 8 groups will advance to the second round and Reyes has full confidence the Philippines can pull off wins just like it did in the 2014 World Cup.
In 2014, the Philippines lost by an average of just 3.3 points to world powerhouses Croatia, Argentina and Puerto Rico before it toppled Senegal to end its campaign. Its lone double-digit loss came against Greece.
“[A]ngola, although they’re a very strong team, I think Angola is beatable the way we were able to defeat Senegal before,” Reyes said on Wednesday, March 20.
“Italy will be tough, but I don’t think they’re as strong as Argentina or Greece. I think we have a chance against them,” he added in a mix of Filipino and English. (LOOK: NBA players Gilas may face in FIBA World Cup)
“Serbia admittedly will be very, very tough. If Italy is tough, Serbia is very, very tough. Serbia is what Croatia was to us in 2014. But then we took Croatia to overtime. You can never really tell what will happen.”
Reyes also noted the Philippines will benefit on a more relaxed schedule compared to the 2014 edition where it only had one rest day in 5 games. (LOOK: Gilas Pilipinas schedule in FIBA World Cup 2019)
“We have proven before that we can compete and that there’s no reason with this team now, with the players that we have, with coach Yeng’s system, with Andray Blatche in shape, there’s no reason for us not to improve on that previous one win in 2014.
“I think if we get to two wins, that might be enough to get us into the next round.” (READ: FAST FACTS: Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA World Cup)
The World Cup will kick off on August 31 in China, where the Philippines and the rest of Group D will play in Foshan. – Rappler.com
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