|17 July 2012|
|Elvis Evora is one of four players from last year's squad returning for Portugal this summer.|
Portugal coach Mario Palma knows his squad will have to pull out all stops to reach next year's EuroBasket in Slovenia.
The Portuguese, who open their Qualification Round campaign on 15 August against Italy in Sassari, will also face Belarus, the Czech Republic and Turkey in Group F.
After being swept by Great Britain in two friendly games over the weekend in Sheffield, Palma says his inexperienced players are falling short in numerous areas and must improve quickly if they are going to be competitive against some very good teams and make it to next year's Final Round in Slovenia.
"We were unfortunate in the draw," Palma said to FIBAEurope.com.
"Besides Italy and Turkey, we'll face the Czech Republic who are, in my opinion, the best team from the third pool in all the groups."
On Saturday Portugal, who just started their preparation a week before they travelled to the north of England, lost 83-68.
One day later and the Brits won again, 86-66.
Palma, who had a lot of success at the helm of Angola and also guided Jordan into the 2010 World Championship, says what really hurts the Portuguese is their lack of experience in top European club competitions.
"Even the elder players do not play in Europe for years," Palma said.
Portugal, who competed at last year's EuroBasket but lost all five games, have Miguel Minhava, Joao Santos, Claudio Fonseca and Elvis Evora back in this year's team.
Joao Gomes has also returned after missing the EuroBasket with an injury.
"We are renewing the national team," Palma said.
"These are players who do not even play for their clubs."
FONSECA STEPS UP
One of the young players looking to make his mark for Portugal is Claudio Fonseca.
The 2.06m center averaged 2.6 points and 3.2 rebounds per game at EuroBasket 2011.
The 23-year-old said: "At the end of the day, despite some new faces we have the same goal.
"It will be very difficult for us to qualify, but we will try to make it.
"It is a very difficult group, but we will step on the court to get the best results we can.
"Our goal is EuroBasket 2013.
"My personal goals are helping my team more than I did at last year's EuroBasket... to help more in all aspects of the game."
Palma cut a frustrated figure at last year's EuroBasket in the Baltics.
They had to take on eventual winners Spain, EuroBasket hosts Lithuania, 2010 World Championship silver-medalists Turkey, Great Britain and Poland.
They may be underdogs heading into this year, but Palma has always been a fighter and he'll expect his players to be combative.
"We will play hard to win home games, and away," he said.
There is a sense of gloom around Portuguese basketball right now with speculation that FC Porto may no longer have a team.
Success by the national team could spark interest.
"Portuguese basketball has closed in itself," Palma said.
"Men's basketball is the only national sport that does not participate in European competitions.
"Even women's basketball does.
"We have one of the weakest leagues in Europe and the national team is deeply affected by all these events.
"The current economic crisis does not help, at all.
"If Portuguese players depend on the national team to play internationally, it is not good."