BARCELONA: Gilas coach Chot Reyes said now that the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Central Board has named the four wildcard countries to play in the World Cup, he is even more convinced there will be no weak bracket in the 24-nation conclave where the preliminaries are set in four Spanish cities before the knockout games move to Madrid and this city.
The FIBA Central Board convened here on Saturday and chose the wildcard entries from a list of 15 candidates. Although there is no confirmation from FIBA, it was speculated that the wildcard applicants paid a “donation” of the equivalent of P30M just to be accredited. China and Russia, considered shoo-ins to be awarded wildcard slots, were left out and reportedly withdrew at the last minute. Picked to join the 20 early qualifiers were 2016 Olympic host Brazil, Greece, Turkey and Finland. FIBA limited each continent to three wildcards with Europe reaching the limit. Greece is ranked No. 5 in the FIBA world ladder, Turkey No. 7 and Finland No. 39. Turkey hosted the 2010 World Cup and Turkish appliance and consumer electronics firm Beko is a major sponsor of the tournament set Aug. 30-Sept. 14.
No confirmation has been made by the Chinese Basketball Association but it is widely rumored that national coach Panagiotis Giannakis was relieved after China failed to enter the Final Four at the FIBA-Asia Championships with the Greek at the helm in Manila last year. The vacuum in coaching and a slow transition in moving in replacements for the aging Chinese stars were cited as possible factors that led to the withdrawal.
Reyes said it was “amazing” that the Philippines is playing in the World Cup while Russia, the bronze medalist in basketball at the London Olympics, is not. Other countries that missed the bus are No. 14 Germany, No. 21 Italy and No. 25 Canada.