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''We are the overwhelming underdogs in our group'' - Philippines coach Yeng Guiao
MANILA (Philippines) - The Philippines will have their work cut out for them at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China later this year.
"We're coming with the mindset that we can win at least one, maybe two games. Probably that will enable us to go to the next round."
That's after Team Pilipinas watched last night's World Cup Draw, where they ended up in the Group D together with European powerhouse teams Italy and Serbia along with elite African squad Angola.
No less than Pilipinas head coach Yeng Guiao noted the increased degree of difficulty that awaits them in Foshan, China, where Group D's games are set to be played.
"We are the overwhelming underdogs against any of those teams," Guiao said. "But we won’t go there just to participate. We will give a good account of ourselves."
The Philippines have the third-highest FIBA Men's ranking in Group D. Serbia are highest at rank #4 followed by Italy at rank #13. The Philippines are ranked 31st in the world, while Angola are 39th.
This will be the Philippines' 6th appearance at the World Cup and 2nd straight after making quite a splash in the 2014 edition in Spain, where the Filipinos delivered scares to some elite international sides like Croatia, Argentina and Puerto Rico. Team Pilipinas ended their 2014 campaign winning just 1 game (against Senegal) and losing their other 4 assignments.
They are raising their targets for 2019, though, with coach Yeng aiming at shocking their group and notching a higher win total than they had 5 years ago.
"We're the weakest in our group, but we're coming with the mindset that we can win at least one, maybe two games," he explained. "Probably that will enable us to go to the next round."
Known as a fiery bench tactician in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), coach Yeng was more tempered in his assessment of the Draw results, especially regarding their three opponents in Group D.
"If there's a team that we can hope to maybe upset, it will be Angola," he bared. "Serbia is really a powerhouse, a world class team certainly. It's the same with Italy. I also don't think this time teams will take us for granted, and those teams are going to prepare for us as hard as we're going to prepare for them."
Team Pilipinas veteran Gabe Norwood also chimed in, noting how proud he was to see the Philippines again among the world's best basketball teams and remarking his confidence in the team's future preparations.
"Just watching and knowing that we are world class again was awesome," he said after seeing the Draw results. "Preparations and player compositions are up to the coaching staff, and I’m sure they’ll be on top of things and scouting from now until the day World Cup starts."
The Philippines are the only country outside of Europe and the Americas to ever finish on the podium in any FIBA Basketball World Cup, though the last time they won more than one game at the tournament was 45 years ago when the World Cup 1974 was held in Puerto Rico. Coach Yeng, Gabe and the rest of Team Pilipinas are hoping to surpass that feat in China later this year.