BEIJING - Gilas Pilipinas has been relegated down to the fight for crumbs, but things are still not expected to get easier for Team Phl.
Lumped with the teams fighting it out for 17th to 32nd places, the Nationals begin the grind Friday night versus a Tunisian side led by 7-1 Dallas Maverick Salah Mejri.
The Philippines and Tunisia mix it up at 8 p.m. at the Wukesong Sports Arena in the Chinese capital.
But the Tunisians could be even tougher with the Angolans, being the 2017 FIBA Afro champs who clobbered the Iranians, 79-67, and barely missed a WC second round entry on a 64-67 heartbreaker against the Puerto Ricans.
Mejri, a Dallas Mavericks regular since 2015, is among the players to watch along with naturalized player Michael Roll from UCLA, power forward Ben Romdhane and point guard Omar Abada.
But Mejri is definitely the Tunisian lead force with his averages of 17 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.3 steals culled versus the Spain, Iran and Puerto Rico.
The Tunisians and the Angolas carry over 1-2 marks in Group N in classifications as against the Filipinos' and the Iranians' 0-3.
In Group M are Nigeria, China, Cote d'Ivoire and Korea. Yet to be completed are the rosters in two other brackets that will surely include other Asian teams Japan and Jordan.
After a 0-3 shutout by Italy, Serbia and Angola in the first round, the Nationals play two more games to wind up their 2019 WC stint, and they hope to at least match or surpass Team Phl's 1-4 showing in Seville in 2014.
The job isn't yet done, and the Nationals have to regain their bearing and composure to have a shot versus the Tunisians.
They practically shot themselves in the foot in their 81-84 loss to the Angolans Wednesday.
It was a heartbreaking loss going with their harrowing experiences versus Euro giants Italy and Serbia in their first two games. (SB)