TEAM Pilipinas battles Iran without injured big man Greg Slaughter as the 7-foot center was left out of the official 12-man roster for the second window of the FIBA World Cup qualifiers that sets in motion on Thursday.
"I just want it to be a close match. I just want it to be tight towards the end against a home crowd, against playing in their home court," said Guiao just after the team left for the Iranian capital on Monday.
The ankle injury suffered by the Barangay Ginebra stalwart just a week before the meet has yet to fully heal, leaving coach Yeng Guiao no other option but to drop him out of the team's lineup for the game against a Hamed Hadadi-backstopped Iranian unit to be played in Tehran.
With Slaughter out, Guiao inserted Fil-German Christian Standhardinger in the roster to serve as the team's naturalized player to open the fourth window of the qualifying meet to next year's FIBA World Cup in China.
Scottie Thompson, Ian Sangalang, and Alex Cabagnot make their respective debut with the national team as they were likewise included as part of the lineup along with returning Marcio Lassiter, Paul Lee, Gabe Norwood, Raymond Almazan, Beau Belga, Asi Taulava, JP Erram, and Allein Maliksi.
Even without Slaughter, Guiao still likes the team's chances against an Iran side that hasn't lost yet in its home court so long as the Filipinos won't allow the opposition to pull away early.
The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) wishes Slaughter's full recovery from the injury and at the same time gives Team Pilipinas the best of luck against Iran.
"SBP is pleased with the roster that will play in Iran. We are praying that coach Yeng's final 12 will be able to compete and beat the strong Iranian team," said SBP president Al Panlilio.
Team Pilipinas arrived in Iran Tuesday and had the benefit to practice for two more days before its showdown against the home team.
Iran and Australia currently leads Group F with similar 5-1 (win-loss) records, while the Philippines is at solo third at 4-2 followed by Kazakhstan (3-3), Japan (2-4), and Qatar (2-4).
New Zealand, Jordan, and Lebanon meanwhile, are on top of Group E, all with identical with 5-1 slates, with South Korea (4-2), China (3-3), and Syria (2-4) behind them.
The top seven teams by the end of the six-window tournament will advance to the World Cup. As host, China is already assured of a berth in the meet.
Iran is coming off a silver medal finish in the recent Asian Games in Jakarta, where the Philippines placed fifth.
Guiao's coaching staff had the benefit of scouting Haddadi and Co. during the two-week long event and knows the tough task of bringing down a team the Philippines had last beaten during the 2015 FIBA Asia Champions Cup in Changsha, China, 87-73.
But the national coach is not about to make excuses before and after the game.
"Pagdating ng laro, it's either we win or lose on the credit of this national team that we have on their effort and on the preparation," said Guiao.
Team Pilipinas flies back to the country on Friday and is expected to immediately buckle down to work for its scheduled closed-door game against Qatar which it hosts at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Monday. (RG)