GILAS Pilipinas may not be in the same league as the US team of NBA superstars or the European squads, but former national coach Rajko Toroman believes the Philippines stands a chance against a few nations in the 2014 Fiba World Cup in Spain.
Speaking after the Philippines punched a ticket to Spain with a runner-up finish in the Fiba-Asia championships, Toroman said Gilas has a realistic shot at beating a few African countries, New Zealand, and the other Asian teams that will join them in the August 2014 tournament.
“I think we have a good fight from Asia. But teams from Africa, I think we can be competitive,” Toroman said.
Toroman, a veteran of international play having led Iran to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, mentioned Nigeria, Tunisia, and New Zealand as some of the teams that Gilas can beat.
Nigeria is a 2012 Olympic qualifier while Tunisia was the 2011 Fiba-Africa titlist. New Zealand also competed in the 2010 Fiba World Championships in Turkey.
“At this moment, Nigeria, we don’t know what kind of team they have. Tunisia is maybe the strongest at the moment. Maybe New Zealand, too. But I think we can be competitive against them,” said Toroman.
The former Gilas coach admitted the Filipinos are still well below European standards but refuses to rule out an upset victory at the worlds, citing Iran's victory over his own native Serbia in a Fiba-sanctioned event in 2008.
“When I was with Iran, nobody expected us to beat Serbia. But that was maybe the biggest result in the history of Iran basketball,” Toroman said.
Gilas Pilipinas capped off its historic campaign in the 2013 Fiba-Asia Championship with a 71-85 loss to Iran for the title but Toroman still likes the chances of the team in the World Cup.
“First step is we have to be very optimistic about the future. Second step is to be as competitive as possible for the world championship. We have excellent players,” said Toroman.