BEIJING, China – Conquer Asia first before the world.
That will be the order of business for Gilas Pilipinas as it seeks to wrap up its FIBA World Cup campaign on a positive note against continent rival Iran at the Wukesong Arena here on Sunday, September 8.
Blowout defeats to Europe's Italy and Serbia and losses to Africa's Angola and Tunisia have underlined the Philippines' need to raise its level of play in the international stage.
As things stand, Gilas Pilipinas has the second-lowest point differential in the entire World Cup with -127 behind only Jordan, which totes a point differential of -132.
So if the Philippines does not stack up well in the world now, head coach Yeng Guiao said why not start in the region first.
And what better way to test its mettle in the continent than to beat many-time Asian champion Iran.
"If we can't take on the world, maybe we should think first how to rule Asia, and we will definitely have to go through Iran, China, Korea, and Japan to accomplish that," Guiao said in Filipino.
"Maybe we should start our journey towards that goal, that before we think of the world, we should see first how we measure up in Asia."
The Iran team the Philippines will face, though, is significantly different from the one it tangled with twice – and lost to on both occasions – in the Asian Qualifiers last year.
Familiar faces Hamed Haddadi and Nikkah Bahrami are back, joining a retooled Iran squad parading its next generation of players, among them the seven-foot Aaron Geramipoor.
"We know Iran is a strong team. We know their veterans are all there and they have new guys who are also good. That's why this is a great challenge for us," Guiao said. – Rappler.com
Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.