Basketball: England forced to relive nightmare

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ENGLAND ARE having to endure severe sub-zero temperatures in Kiev before tonight's European Championship semi-final round with the Ukraine - and that is just in the hotel. Their coach, Laszlo Nemeth, and his players are reliving the nightmare of last season's trip to Belarus, when the team were fed pot noodles and biscuits because of the poor food.

That trip prompted a player protest, backed by Nemeth, who was suspended before his squad made it clear they would not appear for the national team unless he was reinstated. "My players are in a psychological war. Their rooms are sub-zero and the temperature outside is minus 14 degrees Fahrenheit," Nemeth said.

Nemeth, a Hungarian, hinted that he might be better suited to surviving than his players. "Westerners are not used to coping with these elements. You always expect hard trips to these places, but this one seems particularly brutal."

But he also suggested his players are determined to cope: "We have more younger guys in the team than last year and they are really fighting it."

England travelled to the Ukraine via Hungary from Spain, where they lost their seventh group match 74-58 on Saturday. They also encountered problems on the bus journey from Budapest to Kiev when exhaust fumes filled the sleeping compartments.

England must win tonight then beat Belarus, at home, and Israel, away in February, to have a hope of securing an automatic qualifying place for next year's finals in France.

Neville Austin has signed for Thames Valley Tigers from the Belgian club, Bree.