GILAS Pilipinas will open its Fiba World Cup bid against Croatia on August 30 in Group B action to be held in Seville, Spain, kicking off a campaign that will see the nationals playing five games over six days.
The Philippine team's match against the Croats will mark the country’s return to basketball’s biggest stage after 36 years, or since 1978 when the country hosted the event and placed eighth.
National head coach Chot Reyes, who announced Gilas’ schedule on his Twitter account, sees a tough schedule for a team that punched its World Cup ticket by placing second to Iran in the Fiba-Asia championships.
Reyes is bracing for a formidable challenge from Croatia, which finished third in the Eurobasket competition last year behind champion France and Lithuania.
“Pero di tayo patitinag. Lalaban ng patayan,” Reyes tweeted.
The nationals next face one of the four wild card entries in Greece on August 30 before a game against world No. 3 Argentina on September 1 where Indiana Pacers forward Luis Scola could possibly see action.
The Philippines takes a day off on September 2 before clashing with Puerto Rico on September 3 in a possible match-up with former Petron import Renaldo Balkman, who was banned for life by the PBA due to an infamous choking incident with teammate Arwind Santos.
The Filipino cagers wrap up the Group B preliminaries against Africa’s bronze medalist Senegal on September 4.
Reyes figures two wins in Group B will be enough to advance to the round of 16, where Gilas may cross paths with world basketball superpower United States.