The Philippines have a tough road in the 2019 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers Asia. They open the second phase of the event with a revamped roster and a tough opponent in Iran. The Philippine National Team had to undergo a major overhaul due to the multiple suspensions handed out in the wake of their brawl with the Australian squad in the first round.
The Philippines’ pool of professional ballers is still pretty deep. Despite the absence of some of their top-tier players, the new-look team has come together – united in the hopes of advancing to the World Cup. Even their head coach Chot Reyes, who was suspended and was fined, had to take a backseat and allow new coach Yeng Guiao to reconstruct the team.
The new 12-man roster is composed of Raymond Almazan, Beau Belga, Alex Cabagnot, Paul Dalistan Lee, JP Erram, Marcio Lassiter, Allein Maliksi, Gabe Norwood, Ian Sangalang, Christian Standhardinger, Asi Taulava, and Scottie Thompson.
Despite the combination of talent and experience that this new team brings to the table, Iran has the clear advantage of chemistry. They have been mostly intact for over nine years now and playing together in this stage is not a new ride for them. On the other hand, the Philippine Team, also known as Gilas Pilipinas, is composed of professional players who play for various teams in the Philippines’ pro league, the PBA.
A key matchup to watch out for in tonight’s game will be between big men Hamed Haddadi of Iran and Christian Standhardinger of the Philippines. Haddadi has been at the forefront of the Iranian offense for over a decade, exercising his dominance in the paint via his scoring, rebounding and shot-blocking ability. At 33-years-old he’s not as spry as he once was, but still should not be someone to be taken lightly. The Philippines normally rely on naturalized American forward/center Andray Blatche to defend against Haddadi. Unfortunately, the former NBA big man will be unavailable due to a three-game suspension. Standhardinger may not have Blatche’s experience but he is younger and has proven to be effective in the qualifiers so far, posting averages of 16.0 ppg and 5.7 rpg.
Group F is a tough bracket. Aside from Iran and the Philippines, Australia, Japan and Qatar will make competition pretty tight in this phase of the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers.