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PHL Gilas join FIBA Asia host China in Group D

July 7, 2011 12:13pm

Pilipinas-Smart Gilas avoided an early meeting with its highly-ranked opponents in the 26th FIBA Asia Championship that will be held in Wuhan, China from September 15-25 this year.

The Philippines (53rd in the FIBA men's world rankings) join Asian powerhouse China (10th), United Arab Emirates (67th) and unranked Bahrain in Group D.

"It is a good group to be in. Better to face China in the earlier round rather than facing them later. We can learn a lot from playing against an Olympic team like them and it can build our confidence and momentum," said Gilas team manager Frankie Lim.

"After all, we need to be in the top two of our group to advance. We can't take UAE and Bahrain lightly because they are strong teams, beatable teams but strong nevertheless."

The winner of the 11-day competition will earn an automatic spot in the 2012 London Olympics. The second and third placers will play in the FIBA Olympic qualifying tournament, which offers three more berths in the London Summer Games.

The Philippines – along with Lebanon, Japan, and Qatar, the other three semifinalists of the 3rd FIBA Asia Stankovic held last year – were distributed in different groups.

Gilas coach Rajko Toroman is confident of their chances saying that the team even placed fourth without naturalized Filipino Marcus Douthit in their line up. "A lot of people will be saying that we are lucky to be in this group."

"I say we deserve that because we were in the strongest group during the Stankovic Cup and played against Qatar, Lebanon and Jordan and we placed fourth even without Marcus Douthit. We played, we worked hard and I know we will have a good chance in September."

In Group A, Lebanon (24) joins Malaysia (70), Korea (31), and the first qualifying team from Middle Asia. Group B includes Qatar (29), Chinese Taipei (41), Iran (20), and the second qualifying team from Middle Asia. Japan (33), Indonesia (63), Syria (58), and Jordan (32) will compete in Group C.

The first spot from Middle Asia will come from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). India will host the SAARC member nations Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka in July to determine their FIBA Asia representative.

The second Middle Asia spot will be decided on in August, with host Uzbekistan competing against Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan.

As hosts, China has the right to choose its group. By choosing Group D, it was able to avoid the other six teams in the top 35.

"Our goal is to be competitive against them (China) and not for them to be better than us. After that, we will really see what's going on with our team," said Toroman.

The top three teams from the group stages will play in the second round. In this round, the teams will be divided into two groups. Group E will consist of the top three teams from Group A and Group B while Group F will pit the top three teams from Group C and Group D.

Given the current FIBA rankings, the Philippines is second in Group D. If Gilas gets past the round, it will face the likes of Japan and Jordan. The Philippines beat Jordan last year at the 3rd FIBA Stankovic Cup.

"Next round we will be facing Jordan, Syria and Japan which is also not so bad. Jordan had lots of problems with us. We will be a stronger team than Japan. Syria is a strong team, it's going to be the first time that they will be playing with two Brazilians who are respectable but we beat them with two Americans in a convincing manner."

"We have a good chance in the quarterfinals. By then we will be very good and competitive and will be in the best shape."

The top four teams that emerge from the second round will play in a knockout quarterfinal stage with the winner gaining the outright qualifying spot for the 2012 London Olympics. — with a report from Miakka Lim/RSJ/JVP, GMA News
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