The groups for the 2019 FIBA World Cup, which will run from August 31 to September 15 in China, are set.
Gilas Pilipinas was placed in Group D together with Italy, Serbia and Angola, based on the draw which took place at the Shenzhen Cultural Center in Shenzhen, China on Saturday.
Serbia is ranked 4th in the world, Italy 13th and Angola 39th, according to the FIBA World Ranking. The Philippines, meanwhile, is ranked 31st.
The eight groups are:
Group A: Venezuela, Poland, China and Ivory Coast
Group B: Argentina, Russia, South Korea and Nigeria
Group C: Spain, Puerto Rico, Iran and Tunisia
Group D: Serbia, Italy, Philippines and Angola
Group E: USA, Turkey, Czech Republic, Japan
Group F: Greece, Brazil, Montenegro, New Zealand
Group G: France, Dominican Republic, Germany, Jordan
Group H: Lithuania, Australia, Canada, Senegal
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) president Al Panlilio believes Group D is "a very challenging group."
"Serbia is a basketball super-power and ranked #4 in the world. They currently have 4 active NBA players who could be part of the national team including 7'0 superstar Nikola Jokic, 7'3 Boban Marjanovic, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Nemanja Bjelica. Italy is ranked #13 by FIBA. NBA stars Danilo Galinari and Marco Bellenelli could make themselves available for the World Cup. While Angola, although ranked #36, is one of the best teams in Africa," said Panlilio.
Gilas head coach Yeng Guiao, meanwhile, said "we're not going to get an easy game" against the other teams.
"There are no weak teams in our group. We're probably the weakest team in the group, certainly the underdogs. But we will go into the World Cup with a positive attitude, with a mindset that we can win maybe one or two games that will probably enable us to go into the next round," Guiao told SportsCenter Philippines on Saturday.
"Looking at Italy, Serbia and Angola, those are certainly tough teams. We're the overwhelming underdogs against those three teams."
Because of the performance Gilas displayed in the previous edition of the FIBA World Cup in Spain, Guiao said other nations won't take the Philippines lightly this time around.
"If there is a team that maybe we can upset it's Angola. Serbia is really a powerhouse, world-class team and Italy is the same. We are not going to surprise any team anymore. From what happened in 2014, we were able to stay close to teams like Argentina and Puerto Rico, but now we will be well scouted," he added. "Those teams are already going to prepare for us as hard as we're going to prepare for them."
The national team coach said he is set to meet next week with the SBP and PBA to discuss the schedule and preparation of the team.
"What we need right now is to look at the PBA calendar and come up with the best training schedule for our Gilas Pilipinas," said Panlilio. "The competition is going to be a lot harder and we are compelled to bring the best available talent and give it all we've got to compete and win games."
Guiao told ESPN5 he would want the team to practice at least two to four months before August 31 and hopes to bring in naturalized Filipino Andray Blatche early "to make sure he's in really good shape before we go to the World Cup."
The games of Group D games will be held at Foshan International Sports and Cultural Center in Foshan, China.
The 2019 FIBA World Cup will be the biggest in history with 32 competing teams, a big jump from the 24 that competed in the 2014 World Cup in Spain.
Instead of four groups of six teams each and five guaranteed games per country, there are now eight groups of four teams each, which means there are only three games guaranteed. The top two teams in all groups will then advance to a secondary group stage.
In case the Philippines advances to the next stage, the next opponents would be the top two teams from Group C, which includes Spain, Iran, Puerto Rico, and Tunisia.
ESPN5's Carlo Pamintuan contributed to this report.