TWO former national coaches said the road to the Fiba World Cup in 2014 got significantly easier for Gilas Pilipinas following the shock exit of China at the quarterfinal stage of the Fiba-Asia Championship.
San Mig Coffee coach Tim Cone and Barako Bull consultant Rajko Toroman agreed that the chances of the Philippines returning to the Fiba World Cup for the first time in 35 years increased after Chinese Taipei ousted the defending champions on Friday night.
The Philippines faces Korea in Saturday’s semifinal round following its quarterfinal victory over Kazakhstan, 88-68. With a win over archrival Korea, Gilas Pilipinas will be sealing a trip to Spain for the 2014 world championship of basketball for the first time since the country hosted the competition in 1978.
Should the Philippines lose to Korea, Gilas Pilipinas gets another chance the last of three available spots on Sunday when they face the loser of the Iran-Chinese-Taipei semifinal match for the bronze medal.
Cone, head coach of the RP Centennial Team in the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok, said he will always prefer facing Chinese Taipei for a possible battle-for-third instead of China.
"I don’t want to assume anything but what an opportunity for us,” said Cone, whose pro-laden team lost to a Wang Zhizhi-led China in the semifinal round of the 1998 Beijing Asiad.
“I felt that China is beatable. Chinese-Taipei played wonderful. But as good as they are, you rather play them than China,” Cone said.
Toroman, who handled the amateur-laden Gilas Pilipinas squad in the 2011 Fiba-Asia Championship in Wuhan, agrees that it is now an easier route for the Philippines to get the world championship slot.
“Of course, it’s easier,” the Serb said. “Because (China) is a big team.”
Toroman, however, made it clear that Gilas still has to play the game on the court where anything is possible especially in a knockout format.
“Just on paper, it’s easier. This is only one game, anything is possible. But their chances are big. They won the last four games. They have a lot of confidence,” said Toroman.
Cone cautioned that it will still be a difficult road to the world championship slot.
“I don’t want to use the word ‘easy’. It’s never easy. But the chances are higher now. It’s still exciting where we are that I’m having goosebumps. The key is you can’t look past games. You have to take care of every game,” Cone said.