DESPITE suddenly finding itself in the so-called “Group of Death” in the 18th Asian Games basketball competitions, the Philippines remains confident about its chances of “pulling off some surprises”
Due to its earlier decision to withdraw and late re-entry to the prestigious competition scheduled Aug. 18-Sept. 2 in Jakarta, Indonesia, the PBA-backed Filipinos have been bracketed with seven-time champion China and dangerous Kazakhstan in the three-team Group D.
That means the Rain or Shine-led Filipinos will have to beat either the Chinese or the Kazakhs in their elimination round game to advance to the eight-team, knockout quarterfinal round.
To be handled by coach Yeng Guiao, the Filipinos will battle the Kazakhs on Aug. 16 and the Chinese on Aug. 21.
Both Rain or Shine team owners Raymond Yu and Terry Que insisted the hastily-formed team has what it takes to compete against the leading Asian nations and improve its third-place finish in the Bangkok in 1998..
“Let’s admit it. It’s really a tough group but we should not be cowed,” said Yu who watched the team’s practice Wednesday along with co-team owner Terry Que and Asian Coatings Philippines chairman Yu An Kun.
“We also have good materials like them and we have an excellent motivational coach in Yeng Guiao,” added Yu in a statement released to the media.
Que echoed Yu’s observation, saying: “Knowing these players, they will do everything for the country. Great odds can bring the best out of these players.”
Yu, whose father Yu An Kun was a former member of the Philippine football training team, said Rain or Shine did not hesitate to support the team.
“We are always willing to sacrifice our team for flag and country,” added Yu. “Deep in my heart, I know we will take part in the event because basketball has a calming effect to all Filipinos. It is very close to our hearts.”
The late re-entry of the Philippines and the sudden withdrawal of Palestine, however, forced organizers to put the Filipinos in Group D.
The Philippines is originally bracketed with Iran, Syria and United Arab Emirates in Group B, while China, Kazakhstan and Palestine composed Group D.
The sudden change in the grouping also means the Philippines is set to meet one of the top teams in Group A composed of defending champion South Korea, Mongolia, Thailand or host Indonesia in the knockout quarterfinals.
Assuming China finish first in Group D and the Philippines edge out Kazakhstan and wind up second, the Filipinos will most likely meet Group A topnotcher South Korea in the quarters.
Actually, the Philippines captured the gold medal in the first four Asiads -- 1951 New Delhi, 1954 Manila, 1958 Tokyo and 1962 Jakarta.
The Filipinos did not win any medal in 1966 Bangkok, 1970 Bangkok, 1974 Tehran, 1978 Bangkok and 1982 New Delhi.
In 1986, the Filipinos finished third behind China and South Korea in Seoul.
The first all-PBA team to the Asiad and handled by PBA legend Robert Jaworski captured the silver medal in the 1990 Beijing,
The Norman Black-mentored squad came in fourth in 1994 Hiroshima and the Tim Cone-led team bagged the bronze in 1998 Bangkok.
In Busan 2002, the Chot Reyes-led Philippine team lost to Kazakhstan, 66-68, and settled for fourth place.
In Incheon 2014, the Philippines finished only seventh.