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Former national team player Feihl believes Gilas "super team" can beat mighty Iran

For former national team member EJ Feihl, the current Gilas squad can edge Iran in their all-important FIBA World Cup Qualifiers clash. Rick Johnsen Dela Cruz (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--With how the Gilas Pilipinas pool for the fifth window of the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers has been formed, many touted it as the "best team ever assembled", especially that it boasts a solid big man rotation featuring Greg Slaughter, Junemar Fajardo, Poy Erram, Beau Belga, Ian Sangalang, Chris Standhardinger and Japeth Aguilar, streaky shooters in Matt Wright and Marcio Lassiter; and cat-quick guards in Jayson Castro and Stanley Pringle.

However, the said team underwent a reality check on Friday night after bowing to Kazakhstan at home, 88-92.

[Related Story: Kazakhstan avenges bad beat to Gilas with road shocker]

Up next for Gilas is a must-win clash against Iran on Monday as both teams look to solidify their bid for a Top 3 finish in Group F, which means outright qualification for the FIBA World Cup, especially with Japan and, all of a sudden, Kazakhstan also in the chase.

Ahead of a tall order against the bigger Iranian squad, former Philippine Basketball Association star center EJ Feihl believes Gilas can hold its ground.

"Kaya naman nila ang Iran eh. Andoon naman yung mga tall players natin, sina Fajardo at saka si Aguilar. Andoon naman ang mga shooters natin," the seven-foot Ginebra legend, who was once part of the Philippine team in 1998, told Dugout Philippines.

The 1998 Nationals popularly known as the "Centennial Team", arguably the best all-pro Philippine squads ever formed in the pre-Gilas era, won the Jones Cup  and captured the bronze medal in the Asian Games that year.

The Centennial Team and the current Gilas team have some similarities like having the top PBA centers, top-caliber wingmen, and legit outside threats during their respective eras.

If there is one key Gilas needs to have if it wants to edge Iran, Feihl said, "Teamwork lang--usap and communication."

Stats-wise against Kazakhstan, it seems like Feihl has a point.

Gilas only assisted on 16 on either its 35 made field goals or 10 made free throws on Friday night despite having solid court generals in LA Tenorio and Alex Cabagnot.

Castro, who is fresh from a three-game ban handed by FIBA, makes his Gilas return on Monday night against Iran to help Tenorio, who was his Gilas teammate in the 2013 FIBA Asia Cup, in the point guard chores.

Standhardinger will also suit up for Gilas, taking Pringle's role as the designated naturalized player, while Arwind Santos and Troy Rosario were also called up to backstop Lassiter, Wright, and Gabe Norwood in the wings.

[Related Story: Slaughter, Cabagnot, Erram take backseat for Castro, Rosario, Santos in Gilas team vs Iran]

Iran will be playing sans Samad Nikkhah Bahrami and Hamed Haddadi on Monday night.

[Related Story: Bahrami, Haddadi out for Iran vs Gilas]

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno