|11 May 2007|
By Alex Brooker, PA Sport
Not many people are giving Poland much of a chance at this summer's EuroBasket in Spain, but the country's national team coach Andres Urlep isn't one of them.
Even though Poland are in a 'Group of Death' that includes Italy, France and Slovenia-three sides that competed at last year's FIBA World Championship-Urlep is optimistic.
"Of course we hope to get into the next round," Urlep told PA Sport.
"We are in a very tough group and we will be up against some top teams.
"Poland are not at that level, but we hope to get our best players together, prepare well and we will see.
" We will go into every game playing to win, rather than hoping to win."
Urlep's side were close to missing out on the tournament after being relegated to Division B following a heavy defeat to the Netherlands.
|Players like Andrzej Pluta will have to step up if Poland are to make a spalsh at EuroBasket.|
However, in light of the fact they were hosting the EuroBasket in 2009, the Poles were granted a reprieve and allowed to stay in Division A.
They took that chance with both hands, coming through a qualifying group that included Bulgaria and Ukraine - two sides that competed at EuroBasket 2005 in Serbia & Montenegro.
For the objective observer, the task does look very difficult for Poland.
While France can call on the likes of NBA star Tony Parker and Italy will have Toronto Raptors rookie sensation Andrea Bargnani, and Slovenia will have several leading players from the NBA and Europe, the Polish squad does not appear to possess any headline names.
Most in the squad play in the Polish league, in fact, and not compete at the highest level of club competition.
"It is important to get our best players together, but not all of them play all of the games for their clubs," Urlep said.
"Many of them are on the bench or they are played out of position which is a problem.
"It will be very difficult for us but it is what it is. We just need to get our best players together.
"All we can hope is that someone in our squad steps up and produces great performances."
Poland haven't qualified for the EuroBasket in 10 years and their last appearance was, coincidentally, when the tournament was last held in Spain.
In that 1997 event, the young Polish team finished seventh and they were tipped for future success.
It never materialised.
The lengthy absence of the Polish team from the EuroBasket has created a lot of excitement in the country.
And with the 2009 EuroBasket being held in Poland, the sport is gaining a lot of public interest.
"We have not played in the EuroBasket for a long time and the fans want to see Poland in the EuroBasket," said Urlep.
"Now we must perform well for them."
Urlep isn't sure specifically what tactics he will employ.
"I cannot announce how we will be playing before the tournament," said Urlep.
"It will all depend on the teams that we face, the players they have and the players we have.
"But we will definitely be playing to win."