Gilas Pilipinas’ hopes of making it into the 2020 Tokyo Olympics have just been thrown out the window.
The Filipino dribblers got blasted anew in the 2019 FIBA World Cup following their 67-86 defeat to African powerhouse Tunisia, Friday night at the Wokesung Sport Arena in Beijing, China.
That loss isn’t an ideal way to start the classification round, especially after Gilas’ near-win over Angola last Wednesday. But this particular defeat stings much more for Gilas.
This loss – plus China’s 77-73 win over Korea in another classification round duel – crushed their Olympic dream.
The Philippines’ aspirations of reaching Tokyo hinged on being the best-placed Asian team in the cagefest. It needed two wins in this round and two losses from its fellow Asian nations.
That is no longer possible with the loss to Tunisia and the host nation’s conquest of the Koreans.
Gilas can now only hope for a chance to participate in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament next year. And for a shot of qualifying, it will have to beat Iran on Sunday, September 8.
But it is easier said than done. The Iranians are fresh from a 71-62 victory over Angola, so a sweep via a win over Gilas and a loss by China will give them the coveted Olympic slot.
Sunday’s game will be a tough assignment for the Filipinos. But Gilas head coach Yeng Guiao sticks to positives heading into Sunday, such as Andray Blatche’s outing versus Tunisia.
The naturalized center poured a game-high 24 points on a 46.7-percent shooting clip alongside 12 rebounds.
And for the veteran tactician, Blatche getting his rhythm back would mean much for the Philippines as it looks to salvage its World Cup campaign that has been nightmarish so far.
“Andray has been struggling offensively. It’s a good sign that he’s able to get his rhythm offensively,” Guiao said. “He made some outside shots, he drove hard to the basket.
“So that’s a good sign.”