Gilas Pilipinas' campaign in the 2019 World Cup comes down to a face-off with old Asian rival Iran at the Wukesong Sports Arena in Beijing.
For Team Phl, it's a fight for regional pride -- and a positive vibe to end a nightmarish showing in the FIBA showpiece marked by blowouts against Italy, Serbia and Tunisia and an overtime heartbreaker against Angola.
The Nationals must salvage this game or they would be among the prime candidates as last-placer in the 32-team meet.
Through the Friday bill, Team Phl was among the winless teams together with Cote d'Ivoire (0-4), South Korea (0-4), Montenegro (0-3), Japan (0-3), Jordan (0-3) and Senegal (0-3).
While the Philippines yielded to Tunisia, 67-86, to remain with a big fat egg, Iran finally nailed a first win with a 71-62 conquest of Angola.
In Group N of the classifications, Tunisia is at 2-2, Iran and Angola at 1-3 with Team Phl at the rear at 0-4.
Group N plays come to an end Sunday with a pair of games pitting Tunisia opposite Angola, and the Philippines versus Iran.
The Iranians swept the Filipinos in their home-and-away series in the WC qualifiers, but Andray Blatche missed both games.
In 2015 in Changsha during the FIBA Asia Championship, Blatche and his Gilas teammates clobbered Hamed Haddadi and the Iranians in group play, with the Filipinos going on to finish second behind China.
After missing a number of games in the WC qualifiers, Haddadi and Nikkhah Bahrami are back in the Iran lineup in the world joust.
The 7-foot-1 Haddadi leads the team with averages of 13.5 points, 11.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists while Bahrami, the most lethal forward in Asian basketball for a long time, norms 11.5 markers and 3.0 boards.
Others likely to give Team Phl much problem are Benam Yakhchalidehkordi (averaging 11.5 points) and Aaron Geramipoor (10.8 points and 6.8 rebounds).
But at least, the Filipinos are familiar with Iran.
With hardly a knowledge of Tunisia, the Nationals suffered tremendous beating they had no answer to on Friday.(SB)
Photo : FIBA.basketball