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Kikas, Angola geared up to face former coach Palma of Jordan

By winning their 10th African title in the last 20 years last summer in Libya, Angola sealed their passage to 2010 FIBA World Championship.

It has set up another exciting year for the Angolans, along with a complex mission.

Angola captain Joaquim Gomes, better known in Angola circles as ‘Kikas’, knows that upcoming Group A clashes with Argentina, Serbia, Australia and wild-card team Germany will be anything but easy.

Even group minnows Jordan, the bronze medalists at last year’s FIBA Asia Championship and a side led by former Angola coach Mario Palma, will be tricky opponents.

“Against Jordan, it will be a tough game as we may play on equal level,” Kikas said to FIBA.com.

“I am quite sure that Jordan will come to that game with a clear objective to defeat us given the circumstances of both teams.

“Coach Mario Palma knows all of us very well and he will never want to lose to us.

“This game may determine which team between us (Angola or Jordan) will move to the next round.”

Jordan’s coach, Guinea-Bissau-born Mario Palma – the most successful coach in Angola Basketball history with four African titles (1999/01/03/05), followed by Vitorino Cunha – is hot topic of conversation among the Angolans.

Angola and Jordan will go up against each other on Day 2 of the competition.

“I do not know much about the Jordan team,” said Kikas, the MVP of the 2009 Afrobasket in Libya, “but if they qualified, it is because they deserved to and have a good squad.”

Qualifying for the next round, just as they did in 2006, is Angola’s priority.

There truly are no easy opponents in Group A for Angola.

They will face EuroBasket silver medalists Serbia in their opening game before taking on Jordan, and then Argentina – the number one team in the FIBA World Rankings.

“This is toughest group in recent years,” Kikas said.

“Our main objective is to improve our classification from the last World Championship.”

Kikas has an idea on how at least one team will play in Group A.

“Argentina will probably fight to win the championship,” he said.

Germany and Australia are teams the Angolans know well.

“Germany has been improving very much in recent years,” Kikas said.

“Australia, everyone knows they have a good squad.”

With a renewed squad, Serbia is one of the toughest hurdles to overcome.

They made a stunning run to the EuroBasket Final in Poland last year before falling to Spain.

The Blues are clearly a powerhouse in the making.

“Serbia has many players in the best leagues in the world such as the NBA,” Kikas said.

“They always add good young players. They are tough to play against.”

Though Angola are always in the big tournaments, they go into the event in Turkey as the second lowest ranked in the group above Jordan.

This does not cause the Angolan captain sleepless nights.

“It is obvious that everyone knows that we lack height and weight, but our talent and will on the court are not to be ignored,” Kikas warned.

Angola’s preparations for Turkey 2010 have yet to be set in stone.

Kikas says this will clearly be a crucial part of their summer.

“Our performance in the World Championship is in the Federation’ hands,” Kikas said. “We’ll need a good training camp and need to play against strong teams.”

After Palma, the basketball federation signed Angola-born Alberto Carvalho, who led the country to the 2006 World Championship and to the Olympics in China.

Mozambique-born Portuguese coach Luis Magalhães took the helm last year and guided the team to the African championship.

He is in position to lead the country through Turkey 2010.

These are changes that do not affect the players’ performances, Kikas says.

“Each coach has his own philosophy, and coach Magalhães has worked well,” Kikas said.

“He brought in more harmony among the team. He settled well.”

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