Qualify Or Bust Say Italy, Russia

04 February 2014

EUROBASKET 2015

Italy Head Coach Simone Pianigiani
Italy Head Coach Simone Pianigiani would have liked to have been drawn in a group with four teams but is overall happy with the outcome of the draw

The outlook of the three teams in Group G of EuroBasket 2015 2nd Qualification Round on Monday seemed to be in perfect sync in the wake of the draw that brought them together.

Russia and Italy had similar views that, despite the degree of difficulty of the task at hand, clinching a spot at EuroBasket through next summer's qualifying campaign is the only acceptable option.

Switzerland on the other hand were happy to assume the role of the outsiders at this stage, and make the best of the experience that clashing with two traditional powerhouses of European basketball will bring.

"Both teams are good, Italy is stronger and they performed well at the last EuroBasket," Russia center Sasha Kaun told R-Sport news agency.

"They will be difficult games, but hopefully we will manage to qualify.

"This EuroBasket gives tickets to the Olympic Games in Rio and if we do not qualify there it will be a big surprise for everyone...I hope we can make it," the CSKA Moscow center concluded.

Italy head coach Simone Pianigiani offered a similarly determined outlook.

"There's not much to say, we have to qualify for EuroBasket 2015, and that's the aim regardless of the group," Pianigani said.

"I would have preferred that we were placed in one of the groups of four teams to play more games.

"But this is the way it went and now we will have to prove the level that we have reached starting with the double game against the Russians."

The director of the Swiss Basketball Federation meanwhile, Jean-Luc Rouiller, had a very positive reaction to the draw.

"We will have four games of the highest level for our national team," Rouiller said.

"This will be very attractive to our fans and in particular for our neighbours the Italians, who could visit in numbers to support their team.

Pietro Aradori (Italy)
Italy and Russia already know each other well, meeting at EuroBasket 2013

"Both teams [Russia and Italy] were present in the last EuroBasket and they are both teams who can line up famous players that compete in the NBA or at the top European level."

In the wake of the draw, the Swiss Federation also confirmed that head coach Petar Aleksic will remain at the helm of the national team during the upcoming 2nd Qualification Round as well as EuroBasket 2015, should Switzerland advance to the big tournament.

"Petar proved last summer [in the 1st Qualification Round] that he is capable of creating a strong cohesion between young and old players whilst instilling a winning mentality in the Swiss team," Rouiller commented.

"This change in mindset has been appreciated by fans and experts alike.

"The national team coach has repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to integrate into the team a group of young players, as was the case with the revelation of the great talents Marko Mladjan and Clint Capela."

Italy and Russia had also clashed heads at last September's EuroBasket, with the Azzurri prevailing 76-69 in the premiere of Group D.

The Italians went on to top the group and make it all the way to the quarter-finals, but Russia suffered a surprising First Round exit.

While Kaun's statement can be read as a declaration of intent from a player who missed out on EuroBasket in Slovenia, a key player for Russia cast doubts on his participation.

"After a hard season I want to relax and it's still early to think about qualification," said guard Vitaly Fridzon.

"At this point no one knows which players will play for Russia."

"[Regardless of this] the draw is interesting, you can pick out Italy who is a strong opponent, they started well at the EuroBasket in Slovenia, but their final games were not good.

"I think we will basically fight with them for first place."


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