In our house, we failed
THE Philippines’ quest for a ticket to the expanded 32-team FIBA Basketball World Cup in the People’s Republic of China next year took a huge hit when the Filipinos suffered heartbreaking defeats against Kazakhstan (November 30, 92-88) and the Islamic Republic of Iran (December 3, 78-70 ) at the Mall of Asia Arena in Window 5 of the two-round, six-window qualifying tournament from the FIBA Asia-Oceania zone with an end-game collapse each time.
The FIBA “This is My House” slogan was not kind to our boys. In our house, we failed. Not once but twice.
Now the Filipinos’ fate is no longer in their own hands, even if we beat Qatar (February 21) and Window 5 tormentor Kazakhstan (February 24) on the road in February next year. Our boys need at least one loss in its final two assignments by Japan, which registered two-game sweeps in Windows 4 and 5, and the “friendly cooperation” of Asia/Oceania countries that have already punched tickets to the 2019 World Cup such as New Zealand, South Korea, Australia and China (automatic qualifier as WC host) not to go easy against their opponents in the sixth and final window.
Heading to Window 6, the Philippines is fourth in Group F with a 5-5 record, trailing Australia (9-1, the only loss coming at the hands of Japan, 79-78, in Chiba, in Window 3), Iran (7-3) and Japan (6-4), whom our boys defeated twice, 77-71 and 89-84, in the first two rounds. Kazakhstan still has a slim chance at qualifying with a 4-6 mark while Qatar, at 2-8, is headed for an early Christmas vacation.
In Group E, New Zealand is on top at 9-1. South Korea ranks second at 8-2, China and Lebanon share third place with a 6-4 ledger and still-alive Jordan is fifth at 5-5. Syria hogs the cellar with just two victories in 10 appearances.The two-year qualifying tournament’s home-and-away format calls for the top three teams in each group and the best fourth-placer among the 12 teams to advance to the World Cup proper. As the WC host, China is an automatic qualifier, assuring that the FIBA Asia-Oceania zone will have eight representatives.
Lebanon will host both their final two games against New Zealand and South Korea, two teams that have already earned WC berths heading into Window 6. Lebanon and China own identical 6-4 records but the Lebanese are in a position to claim the third spot in Group B since the Chinese are an automatic qualifier. Lebanon and China each won a game on their home floor in the fourth and fifth windows, the former emerging victorious, 92-88, in overtime and the latter exacting revenge with a 72-52 rout in Foshan last December 2 behind ex-NBA player Yi Jianlian’s 15 points and seven rebounds.
Jordan’s two assignments in Window 6 are both at home – vs. China (February 22) and New Zealand (February 25). Japan will be on the road against Iran and Qatar in its final two outings while Kazakhstan will be playing on home soil against Australia and the Philippines.
Even if China – which travels to cellar dweller Syria in its finale – drops out of the top three in Group E, there is still the possibility that our boys may miss the WC dance depending on Jordan’s performance against two teams that are playing meaningless games in the sixth window.
The allocated qualifying berths to the FIBA World Cup to be held in eight cities in China from August 31-September 15 next year are as follows: Europe, 12; Asia-Oceania, 7; Americas, 7; Africa, 5; and host China.
Heading into the final window, 18 countries have earned tickets to the World Cup. They are host China; Angola, Nigeria and Tunisia from Africa; Argentina, Canada, United States and Venezuela from the Americas, Australia, South Korea and New Zealand from Asia; and Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Lithuania, Spain and Turkey from Europe.
The other 14 qualifying slots will be determined in Window 6 in February next year.
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