Ukraine, Croatia Confident After Wins

06.01.2009

Ukraine came from behind to beat Bulgaria 81-76 on Sunday. Now both sides have turned their gaze to Germany, the other team in Group A of the EuroBasket Women Additional Qualifying Round.

For Volodymyr Bryukhovetskiy's Ukrainians, there will be no shortage of confidence on Wednesday in Kyiv against the Germans following the vital road triumph in Bulgaria.

Volodymyr Bryukhovetskiy (Ukraine)
Volodymyr Bryukhovetskiy admits that his team couldn't have hoped for a better start after winning their first game on the road

"This was an important win for us," Bryukhovetskiy said. "A win in the opening game on the road is extremely valuable.

"It didn't come easy though. We had a lot of new players and I had to give them some playing time to see them perform for at least a couple of minutes.

"This was the reason we didn't do well in the first half. But in the second half our leaders, who played most of the time, brought us back."

Ukraine went into the game short on information as to how the Bulgarians would play, which also contributed to their slow start.

They trailed by 12 points in the second quarter but hit back to win.

"Unfortunately, we never got a chance to see Bulgaria's videos, so we were getting the opponents' profiles from the girls who play with them," Bryukhovetskiy revealed.

"Olena Zherzherunova and Milena Tomova play on the same team, so Olena told us all about Milena.

"We also got a lot on Noel Kuin.

"This is how we were trying to prepare for the game.

"We started out with our regular defensive sets, but by half-time we figured Bulgaria out, changed our game and it paid off."

Bryukhovetskiy had particular praise for Lyubov Alyoshkina, who finished with nine points and nine rebounds.

"Lyubov Alyoshkina was at her best - she had several blocks and steals, starting a few fast breaks," Bryukhovetskiy said.

"We played really well during the third quarter - that was when we showed our true level. It was very hard to hold on to the lead in the fourth, especially in the end when the Bulgarians drained several key baskets and set the home crowd on fire.

"But we fought back. I was happy to see how the girls battled for every ball."

Next up are the Germans. Ukraine won the first game between the two in Division A last year 93-39 but crashed to defeat when they played the second game in Germany, a loss that ultimately cost them direct qualification for the EuroBasket Women.

"We are now at a training base, preparing for the game against Germany," Bryukhovetskiy said.

"Last year we played them three times and had only one win. The victory was one of our best games and probably the worst game for Germany, but everybody now thinks they are a weak opponent."

Bryukhovetskiy won't be fooled into agreeing with them.

"They are a great team," he said. "Their players play in Turkey, Poland, and in a very strong German championship.

"But we hope we take the win. We hope the home court and the home crowd will really be to our advantage."

As for Bulgaria, who take on the Germans next weekend, coach Nikolay Boroukov said: "It won't be easy in Germany, but we will do our best because we still have our chances."

Croatia Overcome Short Preparation

11. Ana Lelas (Croatia)
Ana Lelas had a great performance for Croatia against Belgium

Croatia coach Stipe Bralic could only smile after watching his team win their opening Group B game over Belgium.

The Croatians didn't just win. They throttled the team from the Low Countries 103-81.

"Given that we have combined the only two or three practices that we had, I was  pleased - especially with the attacking game."

By the end of the first quarter, Bralic's team had a commanding 34-15 stranglehold on the game.

Croatia will be looking to build on the win.

"Before Saturday, we have to do a little work on the game against Italy's defense because it has a very strong team, considering that all of their team play in the domestic (Italian) championship," Bralic said.

Arvid Diels, the Belgium coach, remained upbeat despite the setback.

"Our team is very young and I am satisfied with how we played," Diels said, "mainly because we managed to recover a few times in the game."

The Italians have more experience and should present a far more difficult test for the Croatians, although they will be missing a couple of important players.

Marte Alexander and Francesca  Modica have left the team's headquarters in Venice.

"They are both two important players for us but as we have always said, the health of the players is more important," coach Giampiero Ticchi said.

"Modica arrived with a doctor's note which stated she needed a month of rest and the national team doctors have agreed with this.

"Alexander has had a growing pain in her right knee in recent weeks and even though she asked to remain, for the good of Marte and the respect to her club we have decided to leave her out."

Alexander also missed last summer's tournament through injury.

"I am really saddened because this is the second consecutive time that I've been forced to leave the national team in the most crucial time," Alexander said. "I have asked the girls to win the games also for me. In June, I will try at all costs to be 100% in view of the EuroBasket Women."

Ticchi has yet to choose a substitute for Alexander.


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