16 - 24
July 2016
11 Matej Svoboda (CZE), Italy vs Czech Republic
to read

Svoboda promises "big things"

HELSINKI (FIBA U20 European Championship 2016) – As team-mates pass chanting "MVP", Matej Svoboda’s reluctance to accept such praise speaks volumes. 

The 19-year-old forward put on a show during Czech Republic’s FIBA U20 European Championship opening-day defeat of Italy in Helsinki, Finland. 

Smart footwork and a smooth stroke from the outside helped Svoboda pour in 28 points off 10-of-12 shooting.


But while his offensive skill set and stat line caught the eye on the court, it is a stubborn 'we before me' attitude that stands out off it.

At times the words border on cliché, but from Svoboda the sentiments are sincere, with the evidence on the floor for all to see.

The Czechs face a tough challenge to build on last year’s best-ever sixth-place finish at this event. But the CEZ Nymburk man is ruling nothing out.

"This team has played together every second year so we know each other well, also from the Czech league, so we are good friends. I think we can do big things here," he said.

"We don’t feel any pressure. We know that we can surprise people. 

"Four of us played in this championship last year so we are more experienced and we know what to expect coming into these games.

"This makes us less nervous about making mistakes.

"Maybe [opponents] will throw more defence [at me] but that doesn’t matter. The important thing is that we win. I can score zero points, and as long as we win, I am happy. 

"Italy was the favourite before the game, but we are a good collective, we play together and we believe in each other. This was the difference between us and Italy."

There is something a bit different about this Czech group too. 

“If you remember at U16, we fell down to Division B and now we are here beating Italy. It’s good.” - Matej Svoboda

As well as returning the core of the squad that performed so well in Lignano Sabbiadoro, Italy 12 months ago, Petr Czudek’s side contains five players that were relegated to U16 European Championship Division B back in 2012.

That dose of disappointment, coupled with the confidence and ambition they showed in tipping off their Group D campaign in such style, could prove a powerful mix. 

Svoboda added: "To stay in Division A is, of course, the most important thing for us, but I think the quarter-finals are the goal.

"If you remember at U16, we fell down to Division B and now we are here beating Italy. It’s good."

It was very good, and it could yet get even better.