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Basketball - 11. December 2014.

Bring it on! Swedes already thinking about EuroBasket Women

STOCKHOLM (EuroBasket Women 2015) - Sweden coach Lars Johansson is thrilled to have the opportunity to take on one of the host nations at EuroBasket Women 2015 to be staged in Hungary and Romania from 11-28 June.

The Scandinavians have been drawn in Group D, which includes the Hungarians, and the two teams will square off on Day 2 of the competition on 12 June, in Sopron.

"This is a positive (being in Hungary's group)," Johansson said.

"We know that there will be great interest and big crowd for our games. I'd rather have that than playing in a group that is seen as less interesting."

Next year, the team will also take on Lithuania, the Slovak Republic and Spain in Group D.

The Swedes didn't have any trouble getting pumped up to face the host nation last year.

They very nearly pulled off the biggest shock at EuroBasket Women 2013 when they led France late in their Quarter-Final, only to end up falling 87-83.

Had they won that game, Sweden would have clinched a spot in the 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women.

A strong performance next summer in Hungary/Romania would see Sweden stay in the hunt for a spot in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Sweden have been one of the revelations in women's basketball the past few years.

A solid youth program has helped deliver top-notch players to the senior side with the likes of Frida and Elin Eldebrink and Louice Halvarsson blossoming into real stars for the program.

They have blended well with veterans like the tough-as-nails Anna Barthold and naturalized guard Ashley Key.

Players looking to feature at a EuroBasket Women for the first time will include Amanda Zahui, a 1.92m center, 1.88m small forward Kalis Loyd and 1.80m guard Binta Drammeh.

All three competed for Sweden in their successful qualifying campaign for the EuroBasket.

Johansson's honest assessment of Sweden's draw is that while opponents will offer challenges, his players once again have every chance of advancing from the opening round.

In 2013, Sweden had to survive a difficult group that included Spain, Russia and Italy.

"Spain are the reigning European champions and and the big favorites in the group," Johansson said.

"Maybe we could have had an easier draw on paper, but it no doubt could have been a lot tougher."

Sweden also squared off against Slovakia at last year's event and edged them, 75-72.

Johansson isn't sure what to expect from them this time.

"We beat Slovakia in the European Championships in 2013 but if they have (naturalized) Kristi Toliver with them, they will have a strong reinforcement," he said.

Toliver, a 1.70m shooting guard, played in the qualifying campaign for Slovakia and averaged 8.5 points, a competition best six assists and three rebounds per game.

Maros Kovacik is the coach of the Slovakians.

Another player that will be a handful is Zofia Hruscakova, a 1.90m power forward who led the Slovakians with averages of 11 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.

The 19-year-old had the third best field goal percentage (58.2 percent) among all players in qualifying.

As for the host team in Sopron, Johansson said: "Hungary is on the rise after a small dip for a few years. It will be interesting to see how good they are."

One thing that Sweden shares with all of the other teams which will be taking part at the EuroBasket Women is excitement.

After the draw, the national basketball federation tweeted an announcement saying "the countdown has begun! 194 days to go until the European Basketball Championships 2015 in Hungary/Romania."

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