Sweden's women are not among the powerhouses in Europe but rest assured, they are quietly confident heading into their qualifying games for EuroBasket 2007 in Italy.
The Scandinavians are in Group C with Poland, Germany and Croatia and will play those contests in September.
It looks like a very tall order for the Swedes. The Poles won the European title in 1999, while Germany played in last year's tournament in Turkey.
But coach Eivind Möstl believes his Swedes do have a chance of advancing.
In an exclusive interview with PA Sport's Jimmy Fredholm, Möstl looks at his team's chances.
FIBA Europe: How ambitious are you going into the qualifying games?
|“||Our first priority is to stay in the A-group||„|
FIBA Europe: What does it mean for Sweden to be underdogs heading into their games later this year. Is this is a negative, or could it be a positive?
Möstl: It is perfect. We have a good squad, and in the end it is all about margins. However, we have a thin squad, so we cannot afford many injuries, which we are sadly having at the moment. However, we have played against these teams before and we played even games against Croatia and Germany.
FIBA Europe: Is there one player you simply cannot afford to lose to injury for the EuroBasket qualifying games?
Möstl: Maria Nasstrom (1.73m guard) is one of those. She has had a heel injury. She is fantastic and our most important player.
FIBA Europe: What would you consider to be your team's strengths and weaknesses?
Möstl: We are a complete team, and we no longer miss the height that was causing difficulties in previous years. But we work as a team, and we are complete. Our weakness is obviously our lack of experience. We have not played these sorts of games before, since we have played in the (Division) B-group.
FIBA Europe: How many professional players are there in the squad?
Möstl: I'd say that about eight out of our 12 players in the squad play abroad. However, the squad is not final yet, so I cannot really say for sure how many and which players that will be in the squad. Most of the
professional players play in Spain, but those who play in Sweden are more or less professionals as well.
FIBA Europe: What do you think about your team's ability to play strong defense?
Möstl: We often play against very skilful teams, so our defense has to be top-notch and one of our most important weapons. We need our defense to work, so that we can compensate for our lack of technical qualities.
FIBA Europe: What the offense?
Möstl: They are all international shooters. However, we work mostly as a team, where all five participates on the court.
FIBA Europe: Do you have a star player?
Möstl: No, that we are lacking. We do not have that one player who can make the difference.
FIBA Europe: How important is it for you and Sweden to include youngsters in the squad for the qualifying games in terms of gaining experience?
Möstl: I will select the best possible squad, and our squad is already young. Most of them are born 1980, and the average age is about 26. I have looked at players from all ages, from 18 to 35.
FIBA Europe: Do Sweden have any players who play college basketball in America?
Möstl: Yes, we have two players, but I doubt we will be able to get them to the national team ahead of the qualifying matches, as their education starts at that time.
(Chioma Nnamaka is a 1.78m guard at Georgia Tech in the ACC and Hanna Biernacka is a 1.8m forward at Texas Christian)
FIBA Europe: How would you like your team to play?
Möstl: We want to play an aggressive man-to-man game, where we will take our opportunities on counter-attacks. We are not looking to slow down the pace of the game, or play destructive, because then we would end up in situations that we do not like. We are not looking to end up on offense playing five against five. We want to be one man more each time, and push up our team.
FIBA Europe: Would you like to add anything?
Möstl: (Laughing) I hope they will underestimate us, because I think that would be a great thing for us.