Gilas Pilipinas are in the same bracket as Italy, Serbia, and Angola in this 2019 International Basketball Federation (FIBA) World Cup

By Nicole Ganglani | Photo from FIBA.Basketball

When National Basketball Association (NBA) legend Kobe Bryant announced the Philippines’ category in last Saturday’s televised FIBA World Cup draw, hundreds of Filipinos cringed after finding out what Gilas Pilipinas has to face.

Before the Philippines was chosen as part of group D, two European powerhouse teams, Serbia and Italy, were already part of the category. Minutes after Bryant drew the Philippines, Angola—Africa’s best basketball team—took the last spot in the group.

All teams will go up against each other in Foshan, China this August 31.

The Philippine team is once again this year’s ultimate underdogs in the tournament but this is something the national team has been used to over the years. Gilas will be going up against a lot of height, relentless skill, and veteran NBA players like Nikola Jokic (Serbia) and Danilo Gallinari (Italy).

With a tough road ahead in the world’s biggest basketball stage, here’s a breakdown of each game the Philippine team is set to play:

Game one: Gilas versus Italy

Last time the Philippines went up against Italy, they lost by 36 points (106-70). It’s clear that Coach Yeng Guiao and his squad will have to bring out more than just their A game when they take on Italy in the first day of the tournament. Besides having a whole lot of height, Italy boasts a powerhouse roster including Gallinari, Marco Belinelli, and Luigi Datome—players who can dominate the post, find ways to score, and challenge Andray Blatche.

Gilas will have to depend on their shooters and tighten their defense on the post to at least have a good chance to challenge Italy.

Game two: Gilas versus Serbia

After playing against Italy, Gilas will compete with Serbia—a team that, according to the FIBA World ranking, is fourth best in the world. The European team is known to be a basketball super-power team especially with players like 7’0 star Nikola Jokic, 7’3 Boban Marjanovic, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Nemanja Bjelica. The team also has an excellent track record: They placed second in the World Cup back in 2014 and fourth in 2010.

Reports are saying that Gilas will have to play the game of their lives in order to have a chance versus Serbia. The Philippines will have to find a way to answer to the height and experience of Serbia.

Game three: Gilas versus Angola

Unlike Serbia and Italy, Gilas leads the 38th seed Angola in the FIBA World rankings. However, Angola has won the FIBA Africa Championships over 11 times and has seen the world stage before. Gilas will have their hands full with locals Jean Jacques Conceicao, Jose Guimaraes, Carlos Almeida, and Miguel Lutonda.

It won’t be an easy start for the Philippine national basketball team but they have been in this situation for quite some time now. The battles awaiting Gilas are something they’re going to have to conquer in order to prove that they have what it takes to be strong competitors in the world games.