12 - 20
August 2016
9 Melwin Pantzar (SWE), 6 Erik Persson (SWE)
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New life sparked into Sweden with Persson the shooting star

RADOM (FIBA U16 European Championship 2016) - After two heavy defeats welcomed them up from Division B, it looked as though Sweden were going to have their work cut out to avoid an immediate return.

However, following an inspired victory over Latvia in their final group game, the Swedes gave medal hopefuls Croatia an almighty test before eventually succumbing to a heartbreaking 74-67 loss in double overtime.

Croatia had never led by more than a point until the first extra period and used a 7-0 run in the second to finally break the spirited resistance of their opponents.

From back-to-back 30+ point losses to within moments of a place in the Quarter-Finals was almost a remarkable achievement.

The turning point came in their game against Latvia.

Sweden could have been forgiven for a lacklustre approach following on from a tough start and knowing that their place in the Round of 16 was already secure in the A4 slot - but that was never going to be the case.

Michael Bree’s side came out fighting together and went on to record a 68-66 triumph with Erik Persson netting some big-time shots down the stretch.

"It was tough to come out with two losses by big numbers at the start, and the team was a little down," Persson admitted.

"It was a bad feeling, but we came out [against Latvia] with some new energy and really wanted the win.

"We took a lot of confidence from the game and we feel like a whole new team right now."

Persson finished with an impressive 32 points having made six three-pointers during the contest with his deadly accuracy from beyond the arc evident again in the Round of 16 thriller with Croatia.

The 1.85m guard is averaging 18 points per game and has made the most three-pointers (13) in the tournament.

"That was definitely my best game for the national team and one of my best-ever performances," he said reflecting on the Latvia game.

"I have been working a lot on my three-pointers and in that game I had a good touch and felt like it was raining threes."

The fight for survival intensifies on Thursday, but whatever happens, Sweden have gained plenty of admirers for the character shown in response to their difficult start.

"We have proved we can play at the highest level," said Persson.

"It was an amazing feeling to win our first game and it feels great knowing we are capable of beating Division A teams.

"The slow start didn’t help us, but we are learning a lot in this tournament, especially defensively."

Sweden take on Greece in their next game, knowing that victory will retain their Division A status for 2017.