Sweden: Fleverakis Looks Ahead To Difficult Task

By Sam Peters, PA Sport

Kostas Flevarakis faces one of the toughest jobs of his career as he attempts to steer Sweden into next month's EuroBasket in Serbia & Montenegro.

Flevarakis, a 36-year-old Greek, took over from Jan Enjebo as Swedish national coach in May following an unsuccessful qualifying campaign for next month's tournament which saw the Scandinavian outfit lose all four games to opponents Russia and Croatia.

The Swedes, given free entry into the EuroBasket two years ago as hosts of the event, now must win an extra qualification stage where they must beat Hungary and Portugal to first place in Group C, and then beat the winners of the other two groups in a mini-tournament.

For me the most important thing is to never give up
Kostas Flevarakis

Sweden take on Hungary on Tuesday, with the Hungarians having beaten Portugal in the first game of the group.

Sweden's warm-up for the additional qualifying tournament has not gone well. They had to cancel a friendly against Poland due to a lack of available players, "We have had a tough preparation for the games against Portugal and Hungary, with so many problems I can not believe it," Flevarakis told PA Sport.

"We will try our very best but there is no doubt we have a lot of problems.

"Many players have injuries, and even now we are trying to find players at the last minute.

"Even some of the players who do play will not be ready. Some are carrying injuries and some have been out of action for a long period of time."

If anyone in European basketball is capable of turning around such a difficult looking situation, then Flevarakis is the man.

The Greek almost achieved a miracle last season with Akropol.

In just their second season since gaining promotion to the upper echelons of Swedish basketball, Flevarakis took them all the way to the semi-finals of the Swedish play-offs.

Swedish fans should take heart from Flevarakis' record, and the man himself has vowed to give 100%.

"For me the most important thing is to never give up," Flevarakis said.

"I have never given up throughout my entire career and I don't intend on giving up now. Hopefully that will be enough."

Flevarakis has had so much to deal with since taking over from Enjebo, he has had little time to cast an eye over Sweden's opponents in the group.

The bad news for Sweden on Tuesday is that Tau Ceramica center Kornel David is playing for Hungary. David, a former player in the NBA, is one of the most underrated players in Europe and he will ask a lot of questions of the Scandinavians.

He had a game-high 23 points on Saturday to lead Hungary past Portugal, 87-76.

"Our main concern has been how we can solve our own problems," Flevarakis said.

"We know Hungary are a very tough team, and we know Portugal are also a very talented side.

"We have a tough challenge in front of us."

Sweden are a young side. If they do not reach the tournament in Serbia & Montenegro, at least the players will have gained experience at a very high level.

"Most of the players are new, and we are trying to do everything and anything to shape them together," he said.

"There are a lot of young guys, and it's a good experience for them for the future. The problem for us though is not the future, but now."


22.08.2005 - By Sam Peters, PA Sport
04.05.2005 - By Jeff Taylor, PA International

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