FORMER national coach Rajko Toroman believes beating China is not far-fetched for Gilas Pilipinas - more so if the home team plays as well as it did against Japan on Monday night.
The veteran internationalist and now Barako Bull Energy Cola coaching consultant did not hide his admiration of how well the Filipinos played in a 90-71 victory over the Japanese to start off their campaign in the second round of the Fiba-Asia championships preliminaries.
“I am impressed with how Gilas showed big improvements last night (Monday). I expected that. They had a good system and team play,” said Toroman. “The boys were looking very good. They didn’t give any opportunity to Japan especially how they closed out the outside shooters of Japan.”
The Serbian mentor also saw a lot of positives in how Gilas bounced back after a humbling loss to Chinese-Taipei on Saturday - something that Toroman said will only make the team stronger heading into the knockout rounds.
“The most important thing is they improved their shape and they seem ready for the quarterfinals,” he said.
With the performance against Japan, Toroman believes Gilas has a shot at beating defending champion China which it is projected to meet in the quarterfinals.
“How Gilas played against Japan was very impressive. Even if we play China the mission of beating them will be very possible. The Chinese are struggling,” said Toroman, pointing out how the defending champions struggled before beating Kazakhstan, 73-67, on Monday.
Asked if a struggling China that is riddled with injuries may be a less dangerous rival in the quarterfinals than South Korea and Iran, Toroman firmly said: “Yes."
The 57-year-old coach who led Iran to the 2008 Olympics feels the expected return of star big man Yi Jianlian will make little difference for China since NBA veteran is hounded by a mysterious injury.
“Maybe he will come back in the quarterfinals, but he wasn’t playing for the past five or six games. That’s a big chance for Gilas to go to the next round,” Toroman said.
“Again, if the Philippines play like how they played against Japan, they have a very, very big chance against China in the quarterfinals,” he added.