Popovic Sets Sights On EuroBasket 2011

22 July 2010
Croatia guard Marko Popovic has already set his sights on the 2011 EuroBasket even as he prepares with the team ahead of this year's FIBA World Championship.

Croatia will take a young squad to Turkey - the 31-year-old Davor Kus is the only player older than 28 - and while Popovic has set a target of reaching the quarter-finals in Istanbul, he believes next year's EuroBasket presents a better opportunity of success for the team.

"It's too early to speak about our team's chemistry," he said. "There are many things that must happen before success is achieved.

"With this squad our goal is not this years' World Championship, but EuroBasket 2011 in Lithuania.

"We are young team, and we are working on things that could to be our advantage.

"We want to go to Istanbul as the best physically prepared team. And, thank God, we have enough players who are leaders for their respective clubs, so we can even hope we'll be successful in Istanbul."

Popovic believes that his team can repeat the success of the young Serbians at EuroBasket 2009, when they went all the way to the final despite being unfancied.

"If we draw a parallel line between them in 2009 and us in 2010, we could easily agree that even the Serbs didn't believe they'd reach the finals," he said of Croatia's bitter rivals.

"I'm not saying that we will play in the Istanbul finals, but we could earn a quarter-final berth.

Although we would surely face strong rivals in that phase of competition, I'm sure we could give them a good fight.

"That would surely make us happy, just as we would be more than satisfied if our performances in Turkey succeed in being a mix of quality and style."

However, if Croatia are to make it that far, they must first navigate a way through a group that also features the United States, Slovenia, Brazil, Iran and Tunisia - which would be no mean feat.

"That's why I've said that the quarter-finals will be a success in Turkey. It's not an easy task," he said.

"There are plenty of quality teams, which wasn't the case 10, 15 years ago when we didn't have Brazil and Argentina with such strength as they have now."

Coach Josip Vrankovic has begun preparations for Istanbul with a group of only 14 players.

BC Khimki guard Zoran Planinic is to miss the start of camp after knee surgery, and the 27-year-old is missing along with youngsters Mario Delas and Leon Radosevic, who were due to join the squad after helping Croatia to fourth place in the U20 European Championship, but picked up injuries along the way.

Preliminary squad of Croatia for FIBA World Championship 2010: Luksa Andric, Marko Banic, Bojan Bogdanovic, Davor Kus, Kreso Loncar, Hrvoje Peric, Marko Popovic, Kruno Simon, Kor Stipcevic, Marko Tomas, Ante Tomic, Roko Ukic, Vedran Vukusic, Luka Zoric



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