All Eyes On Starting Five For Portugal U20

09.05.2008

Portugal coach Orlando Simoes knows his team must have an excellent month of July if they are to make an impact at the U20 European Championship Division B tournament in Romania, in August.

The Portuguese, who have been drawn in Group A with Norway, Finland, Great Britain and FYR of Macedonia, finished 12th last year at the U18 European championship in Bulgaria and some of those players will be looking to climb even higher in the standings in Targu Mures.

"We will have a very intense July," said coach Orlando Simoes to FIBA Europe.

"We will be together until the European Championship, playing some tournaments in Lisbon and Porto."

Simoes, an assistant coach for Portugal's senior team, has a lot of options heading into the summer.

"We will be working with 22 players and then select 16 of them," he said.

"But our starting team may be Tiago Pinto, Claudio Fonseca, Manuel Sico, Jose Silva and Fabio Lima.

"These players are in different leagues and are giving us high expectations."

The top rebounder of the U18 European Championship last year was Fonseca. His 15 rebounds per game earned him a contract with Spanish outfit Pamesa Valencia.

"He is a promising player for Portugal," Simoes said.

"I have been talking with Moncho Lopez [Portugal's senior team coach] about him, and we are considering integrating him in the senior team after our Youth campaign."

Simoes would have liked to have started the preparations earlier, but the schedules of the different leagues his players take part made that impossible.

What has Orlando Simoes to say about their opponents in the U20 European Championship?

For starters, Norway is a well-known opponent for Portugal.

"Last year, we lost once and won another game against them, which makes us believe that we may have a chance against them," Simoes said.

Last year Portugal beat England (71-65) in the U18 European Championship. This year's team from the UK will play as Great Britain and that is giving Simoes sleepless nights as he expects a much tougher opponent.

"Great Britain may cause some trouble as the game in that country seems to be developing fast and well," he said.

"And they have players in Spain and some at USA universities. Great Britain is a team to be wary of."

The U20 team can draw inspiration from what happened at the senior level last year, when Portugal made a stunning run to the quarter-final qualifying round at EuroBasket 2007 in Spain and then upset Israel before bowing out.

What is the real aim of Portugal U20 side?

"To do better than previews occasions," Simoes said.

"It is very difficult to predict who will make it through as all teams come up with surprises every year.

"You can never predict what Eastern Europeans are going to bring to the Championships."


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