In tune-ups, Asian squads bleed vs non-Asian counterparts
By Jeremaiah Opiniano, contributor Updated Tuesday August 26, 2014 - 4:23pm

Iran and the Philippines, the top two placers in last year’s FIBA-Asia Championships, are expected to face rough sailing in the 2014 FIBA World Cup. (Photo by Glenn Michael Tan, posted in www.smartgilasbasketball.com)

Editor's note: This article was originally published in thefilipinoconnection.net and has been posted with permission from the website.

MANILA, Philippines - Iran and the Philippines had been busy playing tune-up matches leading to the coming FIBA World Cup this Saturday in Spain.

But it is both squads' performance against non-Asian national teams that deserve a careful look, even if half of the Iranian World Cup team had led the country to bagging the FIBA-Asia Cup last July in Wuhan, China

The Philippines participated in the Antibes International Basketball Tournament in the French city of Antibes (15-16 August), said to be the toughest international tournament a Philippine team had played thus far since a 2002 pocket tournament in Sondrio, Italy.

Gilas Pilipinas surprised world no. 8 France with resilience until the FIBA-Asia 2013 runner-up lost to Les Blues, 68-75. The Filipinos then stood for three quarters against Australia until the Boomers' fourth-quarter surge led the Australians to a 97-75 romp.

An even bigger romp was dealt by world no. 45 Ukraine onto world no. 34 Philippines, 114-64, in a game where the Ukrainians drained 19 triples. The Ukrainians surprised the French team with a 63-56 upset the day before the Gilas game, while the Australians won the Antibes meet with a sweep of its games.

To Spain then Gilas went. In San Sebastian, and with Filipino workers and immigrants going to the venue through bus trips, an experienced squad from multiple-time FIBA-Africa champions Angola defeated the Philippines, 83-74. That was said to be the Philippines' first encounter with an African national team after a long while, though African college recruits have flooded Philippine collegiate tournaments.

Gilas, this time playing in Guadalajara, then withstood a barrage of open treys by Egypt's national team to eke out a 74-65 win over the FIBA-Africa runners-up. And yesterday (August 25), the Philippines fought tooth-and-nail with an experienced Dominican Republic team and fourth-quarter breaks pulled the world no. 26 Dominicans through, 86-79.

Dominican Republic is the first Latino national team the Philippines fought in international play after a long while. Prior to the Philippine tune-up match, the Dominicans had sized up the depleted US team but got waylaid, 62-105, in their televised New York City tune-up.

Not counting a loss to a Spanish basketball team called Euskadi, the Philippines won one of six tune-up matches with the world-ranked national teams.

Three-time FIBA-Asia titlists Iran also had a 1-6 card against national teams after it had competed in two pocket tournaments.

Hamed Haddadi and the Iranians competed in the Torun Basket Cup in Torun, Poland last August 1 to 3. World no. 20 Iran, competing in its second straight FIBA World Cup, got thrashed by world no. 54 Sweden, 58-75, before coming back with a 69-55 triumph over world no. 50 Portugal. Host Poland completed its sweep of the Torun Basket Cup with an 83-70 win over Iran.

Sweden, Portugal and Poland are not competing in this year's FIBA World Cup.

But Iran joined a tough pocket tournament in Ljubljana, Slovenia featuring fellow World Cup qualifiers. Haddadi and company first bowed to world no. 13 Slovenia, 69-77, and then fought hard against world no. 4 Lithuania before losing, 67-80.

Iran ended its Ljubljana stint with a 52-92 shellacking that Brazil (world no. 10) dealt them.

The Philippines and Iran will be group mates in the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, Korea. But in Spain, the Philippines is bracketed in Group B together with former Olympic champions Argentina, former FIBA-World Cup silver medalists Greece, Croatia, Puerto Rico and Senegal.

Iran, for its part, is said to be in a tougher bracket - Group A - together with former FIBA World Cup champion Spain, 2013 FIBA-Europe titlists France, former FIBA-Americans champion Brazil, equally-tough European squad Serbia, and Egypt.

At the 2010 FIBA World Cup in Turkey, Iran lost to the United States, Brazil, Croatia and Slovenia but won over Tunisia, 65-60. The Asian champions placed 19th in Turkey.

A third Asian qualifier to this year's FIBA World Cup, Korea, interestingly only had four tune-up matches - all against the New Zealand Tall Blacks (world no. 19) on the road to Spain. New Zealand beat world no. 31 Korea, two games to one, in the best-of-three Burger King International Test Series held in New Zealand.

The Tall Blacks won game 1, 102-69, but the Koreans got back with a 76-75 squeaker. New Zealand clinched the best-of-three series with an 89-81 win.

Two final exhibition games between the two countries were held, this time in Seoul, and the Koreans surprised the Tall Blacks, 64-58 in the first game. But a buzzer-beating triple from NBA veteran Kirk Penny was enough for New Zealand to win the second match, 71-70.

Come the FIBA World Cup in Spain, Korea will be playing in Group D against Angola, Australia, 2010 FIBA World Cup bronze medalists Lithuania, Mexico and Slovenia. This year's FIBA World Cup is Korea's first since the 1998 edition of the tournament held in Greece.

The top four teams in each of the four groups will proceed to the 16-team knockout stages, while the last two squads in all four groups - though playing five games in the preliminaries - will not play anymore classification games to determine the 17th to 24th-placed squads.

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GROUP B
TEAMS WIN LOSS
Greece 4 0
Argentina 3 1
Senegal 2 3
Croatia 2 2
Philippines 1 4
Puerto Rico 1 3

 

Saturday, August 30, 2014
10:30 GMT
Croatia vs Philippines
Sunday, August 31, 2014
18:00 GMT
Philippines vs Greece
Monday, September 1, 2014
15:30 GMT
Argentina vs Philippines
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
11:30 GMT
Philippines vs Puerto Rico
Thursday, September 4, 2014
12:00 GMT
Senegal vs Philippines
RANK COUNTRY POINTS
1 USA 940.0
2 Spain 885.0
3 Argentina 490.0
4 Lithuania 432.0
5 Greece 376.0
6 Turkey 294.0