Gilas joins Australia in Asia FIBA World Cup qualifiers bracket

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Gilas Pili­­- pinas found itself in a tough bracket after the draw for the 2019 International Basketball Federation (FIBA) World Cup qualifiers on Sunday in Guang­zhou, China.

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The Philippine team joined Ocea­nia powerhouse Australia and Asian rivals Japan and Chinese Taipei in Group B for the new qualifying round for the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China.

And this will only materialize if the Gilas 5 tops the coming 2017 Southeast Asian Basketball Association (SEABA) Championship for Men slated on May 12 to 18 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum and finishes in the top 14 of the 16-nation FIBA Asian Cup in Beirut, Lebanon on August 10 to 20.

In Group A are host China, New Zealand, South Korea and Hong Kong while Group C is composed of Syria, Lebanon, India and Jordan. Group D is led by former FIBA Asia champion Iran, Qatar, Kazakhstan and Iraq.

Unlike in the past where the qualifiers were usually held in one country, FIBA made a bold change for the qualifying round of the 2019 World Cup allowing the participating teams to play in a home-and-away format in the six window periods.

The first three windows will be held on November this year, February 2018 and June 2018. Only the top three teams per group will advance to the next round where they will play against the top three teams in the other group for the second round.

The next three windows are scheduled on September 2018, November 2018 and February 2019.

In the Asian qualifiers, the top three teams in Group A will join the top three teams in Group B to form the Group E where their first-round records will be carried over for another round of qualification games. Group F is composed of top three teams in Groups C and D.

The top three squads in Groups E and F after the six-window qualifying stage plus the seventh-best team in the Asian qualifiers will advance to the 2019 World Cup to be play in different cities in China on August 31 to September 15.

Only Australia, New Zealand, Jordan, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Qatar have qualified for the first phase of the World Cup qualifying stage while the rest, including the Philippines, are having their sub-zonal qualifying tournaments at this moment.

In case the Philippines fails to win the SEABA meet, the top team there will replace Gilas in Group B.

For the first round, FIBA already released the home-and-away schedule in the Asian qualifiers. The Philippines will face Japan on November 24 and Chinese Taipei this year, and Australia on February 22 next year. Gilas will again meet Japan on February 25, Taipei on June 29 and Australia on July 2.

Venues of the matches are yet to be determined.

Thirty-two teams, including host China, will battle for supremacy in the FIBA World Cup, formerly the World Championship. Five nations from Africa, 12 from Europe and seven from Americas will also compete in the tournament.

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