EUROBASKET WOMEN 2013
|'We are a team of young players and we need to be strong mentally and play hard in defence,' Stefka Miteva says when asked about Bulgaria's chances of qualifying for EuroBasket Women 2013 |
By Paul Nilsen
Bulgaria suffered something of a tortuous qualification campaign after coming so near and yet so far from making it to EuroBasket Women in Poland last summer.
Rising star Stefka Miteva however believes they can make up for their disappointment this time around.
Of those teams who just missed out both during the Qualifying Round and then later in the Additional Qualifying Tournaments, Bulgaria has every right to be more rueful than most having allowed two big opportunities to reach EuroBasket Women 2011 slip through their fingers.
Narrow losses to eventual silver medalists Turkey and surprise package of the tournament Montenegro during qualification were evidence of the fine line between success and failure, which Bulgaria walked as their dreams of progression eventually ebbed away.
Nevertheless, having made a successful transition from youth level where she impressed on a regular basis, Miteva remains positive after reflecting on her first qualification programme with the senior team.
"It was my first qualification and I think I gained a lot of experience from playing in these games," Miteva told FIBAEurope.com
"I saw what is needed if you want to play at a high level because every team and every player was playing at that high level in those games and so of course, you must do the same.
"I realized you have to practice hard and play hard, always giving 100%. I learned that you must be patient and if you work, everything will eventually come."
"It's quite difficult to say why we did not qualify for Eurobasket Women in Poland," continued the center who recently returned home to Bulgaria after playing in Spain with Soller Bon Dia.
"It was not only some bad luck, I think we had our chance but maybe just didn't have the necessary experience like against Turkey for example, when we lost by only three points.
"We also lost against Montenegro by only two points and these were two important games we lost in the last minutes.
"But, despite this, I think we did a good job overall."
Bulgaria looks to have an equally tough task ahead if they want to progress to the EuroBasket Women Finals in France next year. They have been drawn in Group D with Germany, Spain, Sweden and Romania.
While Miteva accepts it will be difficult, she is confident they can prevail if they find the right ingredients.
"For sure Spain is favourite in this group. They are still one of the best teams at this moment and they have really good players.
"I think we are probably in the hardest group but like I said about last time, we will have our chance.
"Everyone can be important and everyone can be a leader when necessary for our team."
"Most of our team is built from young players and we need to be in good shape, be strong mentally and play hard in defence," she added.
"The offence will come with the good defence."
It will certainly be a case of Bulgaria having their credentials tested early since they open their qualifying campaign on the road against group favourites Spain on Wednesday 13th June.