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Basketball - 21. January 2008.

BLR - Belarus just deal with tough draw

VILNIUS (FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament) - The surprising 2007 EuroBasket Women bronze-medalists Belarus were frustrated, yet confident after their tough draw for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Women.

Belarus, who finished third in their first ever EuroBasket Women last October, were slotted into Group D along with Cuba and Chinese Taipei.

The difficult and more important game will be their quarter-final, because awaiting them in the last eight is likely to be hosts Spain or Brazil, who are in Group C with Ocean minnows Fiji.

"We just have to take whatever we get," said Belarus center Yelena Leuchanka, who averaged 11.3 points and 7.1 rebounds at last summer's EuroBasket in Italy.

"We can't sit and think oh I wish I was in a different group. Our groups (C and D) are tougher than the others without a doubt. But that's what we got."

"As long as everyone is on board and healthy I don't see why we shouldn't advance. I just hope all the girls finish the season healthy. The season is long so we will have to be ready to go."

Five places for the Beijing Games are up for grabs at the tournament with the quarter-final winners advancing.

The losers of the last eight ties drop into a pool that will battle for the one remaining spot.

Those four teams will play in semi-finals, and then the winners of the final will clinch passage to China.

Leuchanka added: "But this is a once in a life-time experience. We're not like Russia or Spain who get to these events often. We just have to try to pick up where we left off last summer."

Leuchanka admitted that she had a feeling that Cuba, the team that finished second at the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship that no team wanted to face, would land in Belarus' group.

"Maybe that was from seeing them," said the 1.96m center, whose TEO Vilnius team faced top Cuban side Basketball Club Habana at the FIBA Women's World League last October in Ekaterinburg, Russia.

Nine players from the Habana club are on the Cuban national team.

"We can definitely play against them. They're good, but I guess it's good that I know a little of their style of play. I saw quite a bit of them since it was a week. And I'm sure we can beat them," added Leuchanka.


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