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    Team Pilipinas' shock loss to Kazakhs makes road to World Cup tougher

    Nov 30, 2018
    PHOTO: jerome ascaño

    TEAM Pilipinas didn't just lose the game to Kazakhstan, 92-88, on Friday, it also blew its golden chance of inching closer to a berth to the 2019 Fiba World Cup.

    Had it won, the Philippines could've forced a tie for second place after Iran's 76-47 defeat to Group F leader Australia earlier in the day, which dropped Team Melli to a 6-3 record.

    A win could've also kept the pressure on its closest pursuer in Japan, which improved to a 5-4 card after an easy 85-47 waylaying of Qatar.

    Those possibilities, however, are now in the trash.

    The shock loss to the visiting Kazakhs complicated the Philippines' path to next year's global basketball meet in China as it now has to conquer rough seas and desolate lands for it to secure its spot.

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    Gilas will face the towering Iran on Monday for the last of their two-game homestands, before bracing for a rough sixth window, both of which are road games, where they will fly to Qatar on February 21 and then Kazakhstan on February 24.

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    All games are now must-wins.

    In Group E, New Zealand sits comfortably at the top with its 8-1 card, followed by Korea (7-2), Lebanon (6-3), China and Jordan (5-4), and the cellar-dwelling Syria (2-7).

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    Meanwhile in Group F, only Australia is secured of a World Cup berth with its 8-1 record, with Iran (6-3), the Philippines and Japan (5-4), Kazakhstan (4-5), and also-ran Qatar (2-7).

    Take into account that only the top three teams in the second round groupings will gain the automatic qualifications to the 2019 Fiba World Cup, with the best fourth-seed earning the last ticket.

    The pressure is now on Team Pilipinas to perform at the best that it could, especially with Japan drawing promising results from the duo of Japanese-American sensation Rui Hachimura and naturalized player Nick Fazekas in their games.

    Even finishing at fourth place in the group won't guarantee the Philippines anything as in that scenario, it must hope that China figures in the top four of its group to claim the last spot allocated for Asia and Oceania.

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    One thing's for sure at this point: coach Yeng Guiao and Team Pilipinas have no more room for error.

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    PHOTO: jerome ascaño
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