As the champions of Group E and F, respectively, the Philippines and Iran have proved over the last two weeks of competition why they’re both deserving of a place in this year’s FIBA Asia Championship.
Iran have looked the more impressive of the two, however, and head into Sunday’s encounter with the favourites tag, having shown the staunchest defence and second-highest-scoring attack in the group phase.
That being said, the Philippine hosts have shown a hefty resolve in front of their home support too and may yet utilise their weapons with the view to upsetting that particular bandwagon.
With such a fixture, some of Asia’s brightest basketball talents of late are set to collide, with each outfit boasting their own key attributes.
Iran’s Key Man—Hamed Haddadi
In the run-up to this tournament’s final, Hamed Haddadi has been perhaps the most consistent player in an Iran team that has dominated every side it has faced.
As the first Iranian player to feature in the NBA and the only member of his national roster currently based in the U.S., Haddadi bore a heavy burden coming into the competition.
However, the 28-year-old has coped terrifically with the pressure, flourishing under his responsibilities rather than being overcome by them.
In Iran’s semifinal win over Chinese Taipei, the 7’2” center registered 17 points and 14 rebounds, figuring as crucial to his side’s 79-60 rout.
In truth, Iran would have a good chance of winning even if they were to lose Haddadi’s services, such is their depth compared to others. That said, head coach Memi Becirovic will be glad to have the Phoenix Sun among his ranks in the upcoming final.
Marc Pingris Impression
Forty-eight hours ago, Marc Douthit would have been looked upon as the Philippines’ go-to player if they were to reach the final of this year’s tournament.
But such plans have been thrown into disarray after the Smart Gilas center aggravated a preexisting calf injury in Saturday’s semifinal, making him a doubt for the Iranian finale.
In his stead, another of coach Chot Reyes’ men will need to step into the leadership role for his side—a position that Marc Pingris will be a candidate to fill.
The 31-year-old added a double-double in his side’s semifinal win over Korea. Journalist Quinito Henson was quick to praise Pingris on Twitter:
A good deal shorter than Haddadi, Pingris will look to use his advantage in speed and agility when it comes to restraining Iran’s lumbering talisman in defence.
Philippines' Home-Court Advantage
Although the advantage perhaps isn’t amplified quite as much as it may be in other sports, the fact that the Filipinos are playing in front of home support is bound to have its influence come Sunday’s matchup.
Already, Reyes’ side has defied the odds in reaching the final and booking a place at next year’s World Championships. The team has been egged on hugely by the home crowd.
If the Filipinos are to pull off an underdog victory in the tournament’s crescendo, the backing of the hosts needs to be at its best in Manila, driving them past that last hurdle.
Iran already know they have the talent necessary to pull away with the title, but questions will be raised regarding mental toughness come tipoff.
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