By Tom Ross, PA International
Czech Republic have been placed in the easier of the two groups for Eurobasket Women 2005 in September, but believe the apparently benign draw could in fact pose a hidden threat to their title chances.
The Czechs, top seeds in Group A, will face Latvia, Germany, Greece, France and a qualifier still to be determined which would seem to give them an excellent chance of reaching the knockout stages.
||Russia are clearly the favourite and I hope we don't have to play them
However, the Czechs believe that could leave them a tricky quarter-final against a Group B side - with the more difficult pool including champions and favourites Russia, Spain, Lithuania, Serbia & Montenegro, Romania and hosts Turkey.
Milos Prazak, secretary general of the Czech Basketball Federation, said: "Our group seems to be weaker but sometimes that can be dangerous.
"I think the hardest team we have to play are France - they are very dangerous and we must hope we can beat them and qualify for the quarter-finals.
"We could face a very tough match in the quarter-finals - Russia are clearly the favourite and I hope we don't have to play them."
The draw was attended by 45 journalists, three television stations and there were four live broadcasts.
Turgay Demirel, president of the Turkish Basketball Federation, told PA International: "It is a first experience for us to host such a tournament - we are a good team and we have some young talent - maybe we are lacking experience and we have a very difficult group.
"We are looking forward to taking part and hope we will qualify for the World Championships - it won't be easy but we will do our best.
"The matches with Spain and Russia will be difficult - they are very, very strong and have many qualities - we must beat Romania and Serbia and then we will see what we can do."
He believes his team have the ability to reach the knockout phase, adding:
"Last year we played 11 games in our country and won 10 of them."
Serbia & Montenegro team manager Milorad Djuric also rued being in the toughest group.
"We are in a difficult group - we have the first match with Turkey which will be a tough match," said Djuric.
"We must try and at least get to the quarter-finals and we really must beat Romania. The match with Spain could be a crucial one for us.
"It will be difficult but I believe we are capable of finishing in the top four."
The Czechs were not the only team to believe that being drawn in the apparently easier Group A is not the blessing it would first appear to be.
France head coach Alain Jardel said: "In my subjective analysis, the two groups are very unbalanced - the Russian group is very hard.
"As far as we are concerned we are in a better group - with teams like the Czech Republic. We hope to finish high up in the competition."
However, Jardel warned: "We could however face very difficult opponents in the quarter-finals - hard teams like Russia or Serbia, maybe Lithuania.
"I think Group B is very difficult and we must do our best to try and win our quarter-final."
Jardel believes Les Bleues can go a long way. "We want to reach the podium at least," he said.
"And one of our most important objectives is to qualify for the World Championship."