FOSHAN, China -- Gilas Pilipinas was officially relegated to the classification stage of the 2019 FIBA World Cup after a 59-point loss to Serbia. The Philippines, though, still has a chance to end the group stage on a high note with a win over Angola on Wednesday.
Angola is ranked 39th in the world, eight spots lower than Gilas, but head coach Yeng Guiao said they can't underestimate their foes.
"It's going to be really tight. I feel Angola is a strong team, and Italy and Serbia are just in a class by themselves and not at our level. But I guess Angola and the Philippines would be a good matchup. Angola also has the size, actually. They also have the strength, they have the veterans," explained Guiao.
"Some of those players have played Euroleague and Division 1 basketball, actually. So it's going to be a tough matchup for us, especially coming from these tough two losses. We have to lift up the spirits of the guys to be able to play well in the next game."
Angola coach Will Voigt, who had stayed in Manila briefly in the past to help the Phoenix Fuel Masters at the request of then coach Ariel Vanguardia, has a good sense of what the Philippines' playing style is and hopes his team can keep Gilas out of transition.
"I'm familiar with some of their players from the time I've spent in the Philippines. For us, we're gonna have to guard them one-on-one, they do a lot in the open court. So hopefully our guys are ready for that challenge," he said.
Voigt agrees with Guiao that the Philippines and Angola "match up pretty well," but it all depends on Andray Blatche's production.
"Obviously Blatche is always the x-factor for the Philippines. When he has big games, it makes them a lot harder [to play against]. But I think it'll be a close game."
Blatche has yet to play his best basketball in this tournament. In the loss to Italy, he had 15 points and 10 boards, but underperformed in the Serbia blowout, finishing with only five points after making just 2-of-10 shots.
Gilas coach Yeng Guiao, though, gave more emphasis on proper execution of their game plan, rather than nitpick Blatche's numbers.
"Of course I'm disappointed, but I don't want this game or even the last game to get in the way of us still trying to play well in the next few games that we have," said Guiao. "I'm sure Andray's disappointed himself, and I guess the best way for him to make up, and for us to make up as a team is to be able to play well and try and win the next few games that we will play."
Another concern for Voigt will be the amount of crowd support Gilas will have on Wednesday.
"For both of us, it'll be a big game. I understand the importance of the game for the Philippines. I know there will be a crowd environment, so for us, that's gonna be new," said Voigt.
"We've played two European teams so obviously the following for them hasn't been that big. I would expect a good crowd of support for the Philippines and that's a little added energy for them. We've got to be able to match their intensity level. Every game you play takes a little more out of you, [so] the team who can come out with the most energy will probably win."