Sopanen Optimistic But Also Wary Of Team Form
Finland coach Miikka Sopanen is not backing away from the expectations that have been put on the team going into the U18 European Championship for Women Division B tournament, but warned that they are not playing their best basketball as they head to Romania.
Sopanen has the pleasure of coaching a group of players considered something of a golden generation in Finnish basketball, having earned promotion from Division B to Division A when in the U16 class two years ago before taking ninth place at the Division A Championship last year.
Now playing at the next level, they are making waves once again, winning the Nordic Championship in Solna, Sweden in May.
Sopanen is hoping that experience can help them in Romania.
"This group of players have good memories from two years back, when we the U16 team was promoted up to Division A," Sopanen said.
"Since then, we have learned quite a bit about playing an up-tempo game and being tough. We are proud that everybody now expects us to earn promotion from the U18 group as well."
Finland did not take it easy on themselves in preparations, playing a pair of games against Division A Lithuania.
They fell narrowly short on both occasions and Sopanen admitted there are things they still need to work on.
"We have had some ups and downs throughout our preparations," Sopanen said. "Occasionally we haven't been focused enough when we start the game, and you can't afford to do that at this level.
"But then in some games, our defence has been good and we have clicked very well on the offensive end. It's just a question of when we are able to find a common rhythm."
Finland have been drawn in Group C where they will face Estonia, Bulgaria, Scotland and England.