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Swiss basketballers resume Euro 2001 campaign

Lugano's Mike Polite could make his international debut against England

(Keystone)

Wednesday marks the start of a crucial week for Switzerland's national basketball team, as they continue their campaign to qualify for the 2001 European Championships.

With just five qualifying matches left to play the Swiss have a surprisingly good chance of reaching the competition's finals for the first time in 46 years.

Having won three of their first five games, Switzerland are currently joint second in their group along with Hungary. The two top sides go through to next year's finals in Turkey.

Switzerland now face a challenging schedule of three matches in eight days. They begin at home on Wednesday against England, who were beaten 73-60 by the Swiss in the two sides' first encounter.

A year has passed since Switzerland's victory in Sheffield, though, and the home side will have to adjust to a number of changes. Most significantly the Swiss now have a new coach.

Former assistant coach Renato Carettoni has taken over from his former boss, Dusko Ivanovic, after the Montenegrin was forced to step down by his new Spanish club side Tau Vittoria.

Switzerland are also expected to miss their influential centre Gary Grimes who announced his retirement after the first round of qualifying matches.

Carettoni has strengthened his squad accordingly by calling up two naturalised former Americans, Jonathan Edwards and Lugano's Mike Polite. The rules of international basketball will only allow the coach to name one of the two players in his final line-up, however.

England will not be able to call upon the services of their most famous player, John Amaechi, who has become one of the biggest stars in the NBA. In his absence England have also looked abroad for firepower, adding another American-born player, Tony Dorsey, to their ranks.

Three days after the England game, Carettoni's men face a tough assignment in Riga against a Latvian side which beat Switzerland 91-76 in their last meeting.

The hardest game of all though is likely to be next week's home match against the group leaders Croatia. The Balkan side have won all five of their matches so far, including a 93-53 hammering of the Swiss.

swissinfo with agencies


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