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Israel: Blatt Aware Of Qualification Pitfalls

13 June 2005
By Jeff Taylor, PA International

Israel coach David Blatt is under no illusion about the task his national team faces in the additional qualifying tournament for Eurobasket 2005.

"In a competition of this nature," Blatt said to PA International, "you can't make any mistakes.

"You can't hope to qualify with a second placed ticket, either, because only one team will go.

David Bluthenthal (Dynamo St. Petersburg)
Blatt is hoping he can rely on David Bluthenthal in Israel's quest for Eurobasket qualification
"The task is daunting for everyone involved."

Israel played in the 2003 European Championships when they were staged in Sweden but they did not qualify for this summer's Eurobasket after finishing third in their group behind Latvia and Bulgaria.

Unlike past tournaments, though, the nine teams that failed to qualify have been given the chance to grab the one remaining place.

In the additional qualifying tournament, Israel must finish top of Group B, which also includes Belgium and the Netherlands.

Should they do so, they will then have to win the second phase against the winners from Groups A and C.

"You've got nine good teams all hopeful of obtaining one good spot," Blatt said.

"The key factor going in is that many players who didn't play in the past tournaments will come and play in this event."

The Czech Republic's Jiri Welsch is one example.

His commitments with the Boston Celtics last year prevented him from playing for the Czechs but he has already announced that he is available.

One star who could bolster the Israeli line-up is forward David Bluthenthal, who played for Maccabi Tel Aviv on their triumphant Euroleague side in 2004 and this season turned out briefly for Blatt at Dynamo St Petersburg before leaving to join Benetton Treviso

"David's participation is a little up in the air," Blatt said, "but I really want to see him and hopefully we'll be able to see him get to that point." 

Israel begin their preparations on July 3 and their first game is in Belgium on August 20.

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