Gilas Pilipinas can make most of turmoil within the Iran camp in their must-win Fiba World Cup qualifier in Manila
- Philippines look to bounce back from their shock defeat by Kazakhstan on Friday
- Iran are in chaos with top player Hamed Haddadi and others refusing to be part of the squad
Gilas Pilipinas will be hoping to take advantage of conflict within the Iranian camp as they try to get their Fiba World Cup qualifying campaign back on track on Monday.
The Philippines lost 92-88 to Kazakhstan on Friday, just three months after comfortably beating the Central Asian side at the Jakarta Games in August. The Gilas defeat helped Iran, who lost heavily to Australia in another group F game, stay in second place in the standings.
Iran’s 76-47 loss to Australia on Friday highlights the turmoil the team are going through, with the absence of their star player, former NBA player Hamed Haddadi, and the refusal of six players to join the squad on their Asian swing.
“The Iran team has not had a good time these day and is facing a serious crisis,” said Iran’s Parsine website. “With the absence of Iran’s stars, the weakness of the team has increased.”
Haddadi was injured and sat on the bench when Iran beat Philippines in Tehran in September. However, he has since refused to play for the team even after recovering, with reports indicating he was unhappy with the support he received during his injury.
Iran media suggested that Haddadi might have returned to China to play for his CBA team
The 33-year-old, 2.18m Haddadi spent five seasons with the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies and one year with the Phoenix Suns from 2008-2013. He also played for the Sichuan Blue Whales in China.
Top players such as Samad Bahrami and Arsaleb Kazemi – formerly of the Washington Wizards – are also missing from the line-up.
Iran reached the final of the Asian Games by fielding their top players in August and, if the Philippines want to grab a crucial victory over one of the favourites to qualify for next year’s final, this is their chance.
The Philippines are joint third with Japan in the six-team group with the top three from the two pools and the best fourth-placed teams advancing to the finals in China.
New Zealand and South Korea are the latest teams from the Asian region to seal their place in the finals.
Philippines coach Yeng Guiao has not given up and is hoping for victory against Iran on Monday, telling local media he will embrace the pressure.
— ESPN5 (@Sports5PH) December 2, 2018
“Of course, our next game is a must-win one and of course there’s pressure, but that’s what we signed up for,” Guiao was quoted as saying. “We just have to embrace the pressure and accept the consequences.”
Stanley Pringle, who top-scored for Philippines against Kazakhstan with 29 points, sits out the Iran game and is replaced by Christian Standhardinger as Guiao goes for a taller line-up.
“There’s a common belief that if we just become bigger then we’re supposed to be better but it doesn’t necessarily follow,” said Guiao. “There are a lot of big guys in the international game but if you’re just going to be big for the sake of being big that’s not going to be enough.
“You have to be big, quick, and strong, and I think that’s what we need to factor in this game against Iran. You can’t just be big and expect to be stronger. You have to be big, you have to be skilled, you have to be quick, and those are the kinds of big men we have to contend with.”