|Katerina Elhotova is supposed to take over as the new leader of the Czechs|
Road to EuroBasket Women 2013: Czech Republic qualified via finishing in fourth spot two years ago in Poland and followed this up with a disappointing performance at the London Olympics last summer, losing four of their six games.
Team History: They have a mixed record in the competition, often blowing hot or cold. They have finished outside of the quarter-finals and in ninth spot on three occasions, with their most productive period between 2003 and 2005, when they reached the Final of the competition and went from silver to gold.
Keep an Eye On: A terrific shooter and talent, Katerina Elhotova intriguingly comes into the summer off the back of her least productive club season, although fans will be hoping she can re-ignite her game in France. She is a real danger from long-range and a smart player who if on form, can have a big say in propelling Czech Republic to success. The weight on the shoulders of Elhotova to pick up the slack could prove a burden however, as she racks up a her fourth EuroBasket Women Final Round appearance. Jana Vesela is stepping out at an incredible seventh successive EuroBasket Women Final Round and will be a big powerhouse on the glass and a real asset as usual on defence.
X Factors: The onus on Elhotova is accentuated by the retirement of former FIBA Europe Player of the Year Hana Horakova and marquee wing star Eva Viteckova choosing to rest. Additionally, point guard Katarina Bartonova is still integrating her way into the team and establishing herself at this level. Understandably, the lack of experience in the guard spots has meant a recall for Veronika Bortelova, who missed Olympic action and Coach Blazek has gone on record as saying the 35-year-old combo guard can be a reliable flag-bearer for the national team once again - as suggested by her excellent 4.1 assists-per-game two years ago in Poland and displays in preparation. In stark contrast, the frontcourt speaks for itself, since Jana Vesela, Ilona Burgrova and Petra Kulichova all offer significant experience and quality, whilst 1991-born Alena Hanusova is slowly but surely beginning to establish herself in the rotation. Therefore once again the Czechs should be able to control the boards, meaning no opponents should get to take any liberties in the paint. Although notably, Horakova grabbed an eye-opening and team-high 6.8 rebounds-a-game in London last summer - something which should be of note to those players not on the front line.
In Summary: When Czech Republic play in Trelaze, they will be without their two most influential players from the last decade, who will be absent from the party. It won't be easy without both Horakova and Viteckova, but dwelling on their absence isn't an option. Lubor Blazek and his team must move on in positive fashion, if they want to avoid extending their medal famine. The big question is who can help to fill the sizeable shoes of the absent duo and how much should we read into their underwhelming results during preparation?