|15 June 2013|
EUROBASKET WOMEN 2013
|Ivan Vojtko is full of praise for Slovakia's first opponent, Montenegro|
It has hardly been the smoothest of preparation for Group A underdogs Slovak Republic, and head coach Ivan Vojtko isn't expecting life to get easier in their opener against Montenegro.
Speaking ahead of the day one clash in Vannes, the play-caller is anticipating a tough initiation to EuroBasket Women 2013.
"The first match will be important," reiterated Vojtko.
"Montenegro entered the last EuroBasket Women famously and it even seemed that they would go for medals, but they gradually ran out of power.
"We have the misfortune to play them now in the opening match. They are very strong and experienced, particularly the guards.
"They have the ideal form of a team that dares to play for those precious medals."
Whilst finishing on the podium may seem a distant dream for the Slovakians at this stage, Vojtko will hope the likes of Lucia Kupcikova, Anna Jurcenkova and Gabriela Kubatova can inspire a strong opening display and his team won't be under-cooked after a light preparation schedule.
Montenegro meanwhile have significant continuity from EuroBasket Women 2011, with 10 of the 12 players who embarked on six successive wins back on board.
Only Milena Bajic and Jelena Culafic are new faces, with Bajic the youngest player in the tournament at just 16 years old.
The only concern for Montenegro is the fitness of shooting guard Anna DeForge who has not been involved in team practices recently due to an injury.
Having made the final two years ago, Turkey will be eyeing up another podium finish as they begin their campaign in Group A against Ukraine.
Head coach Ceyhun Yildizoglu cut two more of his younger players on the eve of the tournament, with Esra Ural and Cansu Koksal the two who missed out
Preferring the experienced core that delivered silver at EuroBasket Women 2011 and also reached the last eight of the Olympics, Yildizoglu doesn't look like he is allowing Turkey to engage cruise control and be distracted by the World Championship for Women next summer.
Ukraine will be buoyed that Turkey stuttered offensively in warm-up games, although they have not always had their big-hitters playing in unison. When the action gets underway, those preparation results will truly be put into context.
Whilst Turkey will be strong favourites, Ukraine head coach Vadim Czeczuro has been talking buoyantly about the spirit of his players - half of whom are stepping out for the first time on the Final Round stage.
And, they will have their hands full trying to slow down Birsel Vardarli and contain both Nevriye Yilmaz and Quanitra Hollingsworth in the paint.