Maltsi Realistic, Optimistic

21.07.2007

Mike Perez, PA Sports

Evina Maltsi is under no illusions about just how tough it is likely to be for Greece to secure a place at the Beijing Olympics through this summer's EuroBasket Women, but she is not giving up hope.

Maltsi has described playing in the 2004 Olympic Games in her own country as one of the highlights of her basketball career, and the 28-year-old forward is keeping faith that she may be able to re-live that experience next year.

However, with only the EuroBasket Women winners earning an automatic berth to the 2008 Olympics - with the four next-best finishers facing a qualifying tournament - Greece face a real battle to make it to China.

Maltsi, who played a starring role as Greece made it to the quarter-finals of the Athens Olympics, told PA Sport: "I think that things are really difficult this year.

"On one side, the system to qualify for the Olympics became more difficult, and on the other we have a new team now, with younger players.

"We'll try our best though, we'll play our basketball and try to get what we deserve," added Maltsi, who averaged 24.3 points per game as Greece booked their place in the Italy-hosted EuroBasket Women finals with a 4-2 record in the qualifying round.

In the finals Greece, who have never won a medal in the event, have been drawn alongside France, Italy and Russia in Group C of the tournament which runs from September 24 to October 7.

France are first up for Greece on September 24, with host nation Italy next the following day and Russia their final group opponents 24 hours later.

Maltsi has singled out Russia as one of the teams to watch in the tournament, although she admits the eventual winners could come from any number of countries.

"Whoever plays better for the most time, will get it all," she said.

"I'm expecting Russia and Czech Republic to be very strong once again, while Spain will be somewhere near the top once more. We will see how every team has prepared for this championship."

The Czechs are the reigning champions, while Russia (one gold and two silver) and Spain (three bronze) have been medalists in each of the last three editions.

Maltsi, who will be playing her European club basketball for Spanish giants Ros Casares next season after joining them from French outfit Bourges, has urged her nation's supporters to get behind the team and help them as best they can.

"You need to stay with us," she told the fans.

"We are a new team and we need time to make it to our goal, but we can really play good basketball.

"Everybody needs for you to support us and follow our games in Greece."


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