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Basketball - 05. July 2013.

SRB - A fourth place that 'shines like gold'

ORCHIES (EuroBasket Women/FIBA World Championship for Women) - There were moments during Serbia's EuroBasket Women Semi-Final against Spain that the coach of the Balkan team, Marina Maljkovic, was furious.

Serbia entered the game on a five-game winning streak but Spain, the eventual champions, stamped their authority on the contest from the off and effectively put the result beyond doubt by half-time when they led, 48-28.

Spain won 88-69.

Maljkovic was upset at times during Serbia's Bronze Medal Game clash against Turkey, too.

Serbia led 44-43, but Maljkovic's side fell away over the last two quarters and lost 92-71.

The team was so close to a spot on the podium, but finished fourth.

After the setback to Turkey, though, Maljkovic didn't speak of missed opportunities or dejection.

The play-caller spoke of the pride she had in her players.

She talked about an incredible and unexpected journey of a Serbian women's team.

In hindsight, there is a lot to like about Serbia and what they did in France, with the most important achievement being qualifying for the FIBA World Championship for Women.

"I'd like to congratulate my players," Maljkovic said.

"Not only on their showings at this tournament but way before, when no one really believed that we were going to qualify for the European Championship.

"We left such good teams, for example, as Poland, behind.

"Fourth place (in France) has great shine, has medal shine, because we're just a small country.

"We have six million people. We left behind us Belarus, Czech Republic, Croatia, Italy - all those big countries.

"We lost to a Turkey that puts so much money and works so hard, the federation works so hard - they're going to be hosts for the World Championship next year.

"So they are people that are working, working many years in the past."

Maljkovic spoke with a sense of wonder when she described all that Serbia had achieved in France.

"I don't know if you know," she said, "but in our country, we have 1,000 girls playing basketball. It's so hard. Women's basketball was dead, completely dead. It didn't exist in the country.

"So I really want to say all the best for my team, for all they showed here, for me as a coach, it shines like gold, I must say."

Serbia is a not a country that has teams in the EuroLeague Women.

The men's national team has garnered a lot of deserved attention over the years, but the women are virtual unknowns.

"With all the problems we have in the country, all the factors on and off the court," Maljkovic said, "I'm really happy and proud of my team and hope that women's basketball in Serbia will rise.

"If it won't rise now, it will never rise. We can bury it."

Maljkovic wants to believe that women’s basketball is now going to have a more visible presence in Serbia.

She would like to see the country arrive in Turkey next year, ready to build on the last two years.

When asked about the prospects of Serbia at next year’s 16-team FIBA World Championship for Women after her team’s loss to Turkey, Maljkovic couldn’t speak about certainties.

"We want to go back (home)," she said.

“The country has to wait for these girls and congratulate them for all they have done.

"I hope that I will have a positive answer in the next five days.

"Now that you ask me, I don't know anything.

"It's really, really hard. I have to go back home, I have to see the reaction in the country.

"It's either going to be great, and positive and then in five days I will already have normal plans that every coach would have already at this moment.

"I don't want to think negative. At this moment, I can't give you one simple answer."


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