Finland the national men’s basketball team is facing a big challenge next week when the EC qualifiers start. Lassi Tuovin coached by the team will start their career on February 23 with an away match against Serbia. Serbia won silver at the World Cup last year and is fifth in the FIBA world rankings of the International Basketball Federation.
The other teams in qualifying group G are Georgia and Denmark, which Finland will host on February 26 in Espoo.
“Serbia and Georgia are more familiar opponents to us, and Denmark is a bit more recent. Serbia comes with a tough pack, and it’s a great challenge for us,” Tuovi said on Monday at Susijeng’s remote press conference.
“Denmark is really interesting, because their key players are in their prime and the team is seriously hunting for a place in the European Championships after the previous qualification disappointment.”
Finland is one of the hosts of next year’s European Championships, so its place in the final tournament is certain even before the qualifiers. In addition to Finland, the two best placed teams from the group advance to the final tournament.
“Each game can have a surprisingly big stake. The most important thing for us is the shared experiences and the fact that we get to play in front of our fans against the charming Denmark”, Tuovi said about the importance of the EC qualifying games and the upcoming home match against Denmark.
EC tournament will be organized in Latvia, Cyprus and Poland in addition to Tampere. The competition hosts play in the qualifiers for positions that affect the group draws of the European Championships.
It’s been a while since Susijeng’s last match, as the team was last in real action in September at the World Championships.
On Monday, 15 players were named for the two qualifying matches in February, of which Sasu Salin, Henri Kantonen, Mikael Jantunen, Elias Valtonen, Alexander Madsen, Edon Maxhuni, Ilari Seppälä and Jacob Grandison were involved in last year’s World Cup.
“Here is a bit of a continuation of where we left off in the fall, that is, quite a few World Cup players, but also players who deserve a place on the screen. We have a lot of players who have been in good form this season,” Tuovi said.
One of the Finns in “good form” is Maxhuni, representing the French Le Portel.
“I have been able to adapt my way of playing really well. I didn’t expect it to be such a physical series,” playmaker Maxhuni said about the French league.
Surprisingly HBA-Märskyn joins the national team for the first time Olavi Suutelawho is only 18 years old.
“For a long time, we have always had the goal of giving young people a chance,” Tuovi said about choosing Suutela.
After February, Finland continues its qualifying contract with two matches in November. Finland will end its European Championship qualifying campaign with two matches in February of next year. In July of this year, Susijengi will play the Olympic qualifiers.
Susigengi for the European Championship qualifiers in February
Aatu Kivimäki, Tigers Tübingen (Germany)
Sasu Salin, Lenovo Tenerife (Spain)
Luukas Vaara, Salon Vilpas
Henri Kantonen, M Basket Mazeikiai (Lithuania)
Mikael Jantunen, Paris Basketball (France)
Elias Valtonen, Baxi Manresa (Spain)
Alexander Madsen, CB Andorra (Spain)
Edon Maxhuni, Le Portel (France)
Jacob Grandison, no company
Ilari Seppälä, Saint-Chamond (France)
Olavi Suutela, HBA-Märsky
Topias Palmi, Karhu Basket
Daniel Dolenc, M Basket Mazeikiai (Lithuania)
Max Besselink, Belfius Mons-Hainaut (Belgium)
Remu Raitanen, CB Caceres (Spain).
Head coach: Lassi Tuovi.
Finland will face Serbia in Belgrade on February 23 and Denmark on February 26 in Espoo.