By REYNALD MAGALLON
The road to 2024 Paris Olympics remains wide open for Gilas Pilipinas and the rest of the Asian teams although they will be scrambling to catch up with Japan who managed to gain some head start after emerging at the end of the first round as lone Asian team with a victory.
As things stand, Japan ended at the third spot of its Group with a 1-2 record with lone win coming from a 98-88 overtime stunner against Finland. Gilas and Lebanon, on the other hand, finished the groups with 0-3 records while China, Jordan and Iran still have one more game to play in the final day of the group stage.
The Akatsuki Five actually had the chance to book a spot to the Round of 16 and subsequently the Olympic but lost to world No. 3 Australia, 109-89.
Gilas, likewise, needing a 13-point win against Italy, got the second round door slammed on the hosts after a 90-83 loss at the hands of the Azzurri.
The Nationals begin the classification stage for the 17th to 32nd spots, of course with the objective of finishing as the best Asian team and claiming the direct Olympic berth in mind.
For the relegation round, Gilas which finished fourth in Group A, along with Angola will be pooled with the third and fourth place finishers of Group B.
Carrying over the records of the first round, Gilas will play two more games, the first one slated on Thursday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum against either Asian rival China, high-ranking Puerto Rico and World Cup debutant South Sudan.
China, just like Gilas, remained winless through two games with its second round chances looking bleak after needing to beat Puerto Rico by 36 points to get past the first round.
As for Jordan and Iran, the two Asian teams are being pitted against global powers USA and Spain respectively as of press time.
For Gilas to win the coveted spot, it needs to sweep the remaining two games and hope that Japan and any other Asian team also drops their remaining games.
In the last edition of the World Cup, Gilas finished dead-last in the 32-team field with Iran claiming the Olympic spot after ending up at the 23rd spot.