EUROBASKET WOMEN 2015
|Maros Kovacik is optimistic looking ahead to next summer's qualification round with Slovak Republic|
Players and coaches have been reacting with excitement in the wake of the draw for the EuroBasket Women 2015 2nd Qualification Round.
A total of 22 teams will compete next June for the eleven remaining spots, with recently installed Slovak Republic coach Maros Kovacik pitted against Luxembourg, Poland and Slovenia, in Group A.
"The group is not easy, but we have no other aim than progressing," said Kovacik reacting to the hand he was dealt.
"Poland are an annoying opponent because they are represented by two EuroLeague Women teams with quality players, but it will depend on whether they appear.
"Slovenia have a good generation of female players and it will not be easy against them and Luxembourg should be clear underdog.
"I was just glad to avoid Russia," he added.
Group B looks to be one of the most wide-open in paper as Great Britain, Lithuania, Belgium and F.Y.R. of Macedonia fight it out.
The Brits are out to make their third EuroBasket Women tournament in a row, but with the added pressure of lingering question marks over funding, National Teams Director, Warwick Cann knows it is vital to continue competing at major tournaments.
He said, "It is critical that we maintain the momentum we established this year in France and continue to build towards EuroBasket Women 2015 and Rio 2016.
"There are no easy games in Europe and we will take each one at a time. I am confident with the right coaching staff, preparation and player commitment, we can advance through to Hungary and Romania."
Belgium haven't played at the Final Round since 2007 and head coach Daniel Goethals is keen to make the most of what he views as a reasonable draw for his team.
"Great Britain and Lithuania are very difficult to play, but it is true that it could have been worse. It is very feasible" claimed the play-caller.
"I'm already glad I could avoid nations like Latvia, Sweden, Russia and Italy.
"There is room to do something, especially as the number of teams goes up to twenty.
"I am unable to say with which team and under what circumstances we will have in the campaign. Our work will be to create a favourable climate and as a coach, I really want to be spoiled for choice.
"The games are to be played in June and this gives us one more option to attract players. There is Emma Meesseman, (to convince) but there are others too."
Much of the early attention was thrown onto Group E, with Sweden and Russia picking-up where they left off at EuroBasket Women 2013, when the Swedes helped to knock out the defending champions. They are in a three-team group with Netherlands.
"It would have been fun to get to play six games and for us to show up for the home crowd three times," said Swedish head coach Lars Johansson.
"What we have to remember now is to respect Netherlands as opponents, they are also a good team."
And, with the spotlight and arguably pressure on the co-favourites, it gives Netherlands a chance to spoil the party with Marlou de Kleijn outlining their approach by stating, "We have nothing to lose as the underdogs, so we can make some surprises."
In the other three team pool, Croatia, Bulgaria and Israel will play in Group F, with Israeli coach Eli Rabi eager to focus on the importance of preparation rather than his opponents
He said, "We'll look at the best way to organise our campaign since in past experiences when we managed it better, we were good regardless of rivalry.
"So, the main effort will be to prepare and put the best team out and hope that we will be in order."
Croatian forward Ana Lelas meanwhile thinks Croatia should be confident.
|Aiming for first place in Group F: Ana Lelas |
She said, "I think we're favorites of this group and it might seem that it's an easy group to some, but we can't forget that only first place is taking us to EuroBasket Women 2015!
"So, we have to be careful because every team will give their best to win and especially at home, but I believe in our team."
Montenegro are out to go to the Final Round for the third successive time and team leader Jelena Dubljevic could barely be happier with being drawn with Finland, Germany and Ukraine, in Group D.
"We could not get a better group and we have to be satisfied," said the ZVVZ USK Prague forward.
"We played Finland a few years ago, Ukraine was an opponent in France and we met with the Germany at EuroBasket Women in Poland two years ago.
"There are no more easy opponents because all play basketball, but it is clear that everything depends on us, and that we have a realistic chance to qualify.
"But, we have to be serious and to be at the highest level return to the right path after our failure in France," warned Dubljevic.
Each team will play their group rivals on a home and away basis, with the six group winners and five second-best placed teams advancing. The game days will be 8th, 11th, 15th, 18th, 22nd and 25th of June.