By Paul Nilsen
|Finland guard Petteri Koponen, the leader of the team at EuroBasket 2011, is far from a household name back home but this could be about to change on Monday evening |
They stand on the verge of catapulting themselves into the all-time list of Finnish sporting achievements.
Even before they potentially realise the mother of all basketball dreams by making it to Kaunas, the current accomplishments of Finland at EuroBasket 2011 already places them on the list of favourites of many Finnish sports fans.
Quite where they are currently placed can't be determined, but they have a chance of really shooting up the list.
During the summer, readers of Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat were given the opportunity to vote on the most significant Finnish sporting achievement of all time.
Not surprisingly, long distance athletes Paavo Nurmi, who racked up an astonishing nine Olympic gold medals during the 1920's, and track legend Lasse Viren, who won gold at the Munich and Montreal Olympics, topped the list.
With footballer and Champions League winner Jari Litmanen in third place, there is now a new challenger on the block for the next vote.
Should they manage to reach the quarter-finals, don't be surprised if the team pushes Litmanen off this particular podium.
Even if they don't make it to the final phase, their exploits have already gained huge acclaim with their most high profile supporter being Minister of Sports and Culture, Paavo Arhinmäki, who travelled to Alytus to watch them in action in the First Round.
Ahead of their big showdown with Slovenia, the minister has spoken of just what kind of impact Coach Henrik Dettmann and his players are having.
He said, "The success of the Finnish National Team of basketball is an inspiration for all team sports."
"It shows that even country the size of Finland has a chance to succeed. I have been following the team closely and with enthusiasm.
"Qualification to the EuroBasket and advancing to the Second Round are both such high-level achievements that it would have been important to get the games to open TV channels.
"The success of Team Finland shows that great team effort will get you far," continued the Minister.
"What the team might be missing in height, it has been compensated by hard-nosed hustle.
"It has been a magnificent journey and achievement for the National Team thus far!"
That could be an understatement if Finland manage to take one more truly incredible step.