FIBA: Can Gilas shock Italy?

Enzo Flojo on Aug 30, 2019 05:41 PM
FIBA: Can Gilas shock Italy?
The winner of the match between Gilas Pilipinas and Italy will very likely end up booking the second ticket from Group D to the next round of the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

When Gilas Pilipinas takes on the Squadra Azzurra tomorrow at the GBA International Sports & Cultural Center in Foshan, China, the stakes will be quite high. The winner of the match, after all, will very likely end up booking the second ticket from Group D to the next round of the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup, assuming powerhouse Serbia holds form, sweeps the group, and books the first ticket. 

Given this context, let's look at the general positional matchups we can expect for the crucial Philippines-Italy match.

BIGS

Philippines: Andray Blatche, June Mar Fajardo, Troy Rosario, Raymond Almazan, Japeth Aguilar

Italy: Paul Biligha, Danilo Gallinari, Amadeo Tessitori, Luigi Datome, Jeff Brooks

- It's might be tempting to say nobody can stop Andray Blatche, but the reality is it's even easier to say that nobody will be able to stop Danilo Gallinari, who's looking good even after an appendectomy he went through earlier this month. Much of the pressure of trying to stop Gallo will probably fall on the laps of Japeth Aguilar and Troy Rosario, who are really the only ones on our team with the combination of size and mobility to maybe match Gallinari's. The OKC Thunder forward won't be the Filipinos' only problem up front, though. They also need to worry about Fenerbahce's Luigi Datome, who's an explosive scorer, and naturalized player Jeff Brooks, who was Italy's leading rebounder in the Qualifiers. 

For the Philippines, Blatche obviously needs to put up big numbers for our squad to have a shot. Likewise for June Mar Fajardo, whose low post game can pose problems for Italy if the Azzurri focus too much on Dray. Needless to say, the Philippines will need to control the boards and protect the rim well to boost their chances of upsetting Italia.


WINGS

Philippines: Gabe Norwood, RR Pogoy, CJ Perez

Italy: Awudu Abass, Daniel Hackett, Marco Belinelli

- As has always been the case even in the Qualifiers, our wingmen are short on size and length. Abass, Hackett, and Belinelli are all 6'5" or taller, while our wings are 6'5" or smaller. Belinelli will be the most dangerous of this bunch, of course, owing to his deadly sniping, while CSKA Moscow's Daniel Hackett can also, well, hack it from long range. The same is true for Abass, who Italy's third-best scorer in the Qualifiers. 

Gabe Norwood needs to play a fantastic defensive game to slow down Belinelli, while hopefully Pogoy knocks some threes down, and Perez gets to run rampant in transition. If none of those happen, our weakness at the wings will be glaring once more. 


GUARDS

Philippines: Paul Lee, Kiefer Ravena, Robert Bolick, Mark Barrocca

Italy: Amedeo Della Valle, Alessandro Gentile, Luca Vitali, Ariel Filloy

- Our guards can compete with Italy's. Yes, Amedeo Della Valle was sensational in the Qualifiers, especially from long distance (3.5 triples per game), while Vitali and Filloy were capable playmakers. Gentile, for his part, was an aggressive ball-handler and slasher. 

For us, I expect Mark Barroca to make quite an impact, especially dfensively, while I'm hoping Kiefer Ravena's and Paul Lee's shooting will on-target. If those guards play their A-games, we have a chance. Bolick, meanwhile, will likely be the spark of our supporting cast. If by any chance, Bolick gets some easy baskets or hits some long toms, Italy will surely take notice. 


COACHING
 

Philippines: Yeng Guiao

Italy: Romeo Sacchetti

- Sacchetti is one of the most iconic players and coaches in Italy, having been a multiple-time winner in the Lega Basket Serie A and being named Coach of the Year in 2012. As a player, he also won EuroBasket gold all the way back in 1983 and played in the 1986 FIBA World Cup. He's experienced in all the right ways, and he'll use every bit of it in the game against us.

As for Coach Yeng, well, does he really need much introduction? He's a terrific motivator and the players will really do anything for him. I mean, he's a 7-time PBA champion coach and 2-time Coach of the Year. Success at the international level has eluded him a bit, but a win over Italy will certainly be a golden achievement for his career.


OVERALL

Italy will be tough and, honestly, favored against the Philippines. As always, size will be a challenge for us, especially at the wing positions, but if our defense holds up and our shooting touch is sharp, then we have a decent chance of sticking close enough to Italy to give them a scare or even blindside them on opening day. 

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