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Brazdeikyte Knows Lithuania Has Tough Road

23 August 2007
By Matt McGeehan

Lithuania captain Lina Brazdeikyte is aware of the mountainous task which faces her side at EuroBasket Women in Italy next month.

The tournament marks the 10th anniversary of Lithuania's greatest-ever women's basketball triumph, when, against all the odds, they claimed gold at the EuroBasket in Hungary.

Sandra Valuzyte (Lithuania)
Sandra Valuzyte will be key to Lithuania's success at EuroBasket Women.
However, Brazdeikyte, who was a member of the team which won gold 10 years ago, believes it will be extremely difficult to repeat the feat as preparations for EuroBasket 2007 have been tough, and the competition will be fierce.

Lithuania have only one win from five warm-up games, beating Ukraine at home and falling to defeat against Poland and in a four-team tournament in France to the hosts, Russia and the Czech Republic.

"Well, it`s kind of hard now," said Brazdeikyte.

"We had a friendly tournament in France and we lost everything, so it`s never good. But we`ll keep going.

"We can`t say we are going only to take part - we are going to win something, just for the win. Our objective is the victory."

Brazdeikyte, who will be 33 by the time EuroBasket commences on September 24 when Lithuania play Belgium, is one of the most experienced members of the National Team, which has concerns over three players.

"We have three players injured and they are coming back but they are not 100% yet," she added.

"We miss them a lot. They are strong players, they can run, they can score, they can play defence."

Rasa Zemantauskaite-Matlasaitiene, Vaida Pacauskiene and Sandra Valuzyte are all struggling, with only Valuzyte and Pacauskiene likely to be able to play in the competition.

Irena Baranauskaite-Vizbareine returns to the team, the 1.96m center having recently given birth, while Iveta Marciauskaite is back after a 12-month break and Kristina Vengryte joins the side for the first time.

But team talisman Jurgita Streimikyte has retired from the national side, having led the EuroBasket 1997 win as MVP, averaging nearly 20 points and seven rebounds per game.

She also played last year when Lithuania finished sixth at the FIBA World Championship for Women in Brazil.

Brazdeikyte believes the team must all step up to make up for Streimikyte's absence.

"This summer, Jurgita left our National Team, so now everybody has to take responsibility. Right now we don`t have a big personality but we have more equal players.

"Each moment, each player can take and must take responsibility for themselves."

And Brazdeikyte, who plays for COB Calais in France, has confidence in her team.

"I am optimistic," she added.

"I know my team-mates and I know that we have a competitive spirit - we always fight, we never surrender - so I trust that fighting spirit, I believe in that.

"Right now it`s difficult to think about first place, because we have five European teams who are really strong. And all five they want to be first, so it`s really hard.

"There can always be surprises, you never know. In a game, a lot depends on luck. If, for example, we get to the finals and have a really, really good day, why not? So we hope that we will be strong enough and the luck will go by our side."

However, after preparations were disrupted by injuries to key personal, and as a team in transition following the loss of Streimikyte, Brazdeikyte expects a bronze medal would be a more realistic target - but it will only be possible to tell once the tournament is in full swing.

"When you play, you can see how strong you are, how strong others are, and only then you can say 'ok, we are strong enough to be first', for example," she said.

Lithuania will play Italy, Serbia and Turkey in Turkey next week, before visiting Russia from September 9-12 to play Russia, Australia and China before the EuroBasket tips off.

The Baltic side is in Group B alongside Belgium, Romania and Germany and will play its preliminary matches in Lanciano.

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