|02 June 2010|
By Julio Chitunda
Portugal's coach Moncho Lopez has praised FIBA Europe's decision to raise the number of teams from 16 to 24 for EuroBasket 2013.
The Portuguese won the hearts of all the spectators with a solid display at EuroBasket 2007 in Spain but missed out on EuroBasket 2009, falling in the Additional Qualifying Round.
The national team coach, Lopez, said: "This is fantastic news for Portugal. I think we now have more chances to qualify for EuroBasket 2013," he said to Basketball World News.
|Portugal will face a newly promoted Georgia side in Group C of EuroBasket qualifying.|
"Above all this move from FIBA Europe is a boost for the Portuguese players who are aiming to appear in such an important competition.
"This event is the showpiece of European Basketball that everyone wishes to take part in."
Lopez knows very well how special the EuroBasket is.
Seven years ago, he coached a young Spanish team that included Pau Gasol and Juan Carlos Navarro to the silver medal in Sweden.
"This decision decreases at a certain point the load we had on our shoulders to face more experienced opponents," Lopez said.
"In some cases, we had to play well beyond our limits."
As for Portugal this summer, Moncho is seeking to make some improvements.
"I'll promote two or three young players I have been monitoring for some time," he said.
"I'll be making their names public in the near future."
Portugal will gather on July 4 to start their preparations for a tough Division A campaign in the hope of reaching next year's EuroBasket in Lithuania.
Lopez's team are in group C along with Georgia, Belgium, Bulgaria and Poland.
"In theory our opponents are better than us," he said.
"But we are experienced enough to know that games must be won on the court, not on theoretical concepts.
"Bulgaria and Poland are the strongest opponents of the group."
Belgium will be no pushovers, either, as France discovered last summer when the Belgians won the first game of the Additional Qualifying Round Final against Les Bleus.
To get into that AQR Final, Belgium had to beat the Portuguese.
"Last year we lost two games to Belgium, but we showed that we can play at same level," Lopez said.
"Honestly, Georgia is an unknown team for me.
"I don't know much about their game.
"Facing those teams at home with the presence of our supporters will be a great experience for of us."
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy and Slovenia have expressed their interest to host EuroBasket 2013.
Would Portugal be ambitious and add their name to the list of candidate countries?
"Portugal has the infrastructures, good press and basketball fans who live the game intensively, but it is not my decision if Portugal should bid to host the EuroBasket. Personally, I would love to see it happen."
Last year, Lopez accepted the dual-challenge of leading both Portugal's national side and FC Porto.
He's taken the opportunity and run with it, guiding FC Porto into this season domestic play-off Finals.
They face an uphill battle to win the title, though.
Porto are 2-0 down against their arch rivals Benfica in the best-of-seven series.
Next Friday, Porto will host Benfica in Game 3.
"We will turn this result around," Lopez said.
"I expected more from my players in the first two games, but Benfica played well and showed some quality."
Portugal will start their EuroBasket 2011 preparations on July 4 with a preliminary squad of 14 player.
Lopez will then reduce the group to 12 before takes off.
Portugal expect to play in an international tournament with Angola and Jordan, two teams that will play at the FIBA World Championship in Turkey in the summer.