Greece, Italy Battle For Spot In Worlds

20.06.2009

By David Hein

Proud basketball nations Italy and Greece square off in the 2009 EuroBasket Women fifth place game with the winner booking their spot at next summer's FIBA World Championship.


The victor also clinches a berth at the 2011 EuroBasket in Poland - a big step for both teams as well.
While both Greece and Italy came in with this double qualification for 2010 and 2011 as the main goal, neither really expected to be playing in Saturday's second game.

Giampiero Ticchi's Italians have already clinched their best EuroBasket Women showing since taking silver in 1995.

Konstantinos Missas meanwhile has already secured Greece their best-ever women placing, topping their ninth place at home in 2003.

Head-to-Head: Italy won both previous match-ups, winning a qualifier in 1999 and 65-55 at the 2007 EuroBasket Women in Italy.

Last Time Out: Greece fought past Slovakia 64-59 to reach the fifth place game. And Italy set up the match-up by beating hosts Latvia 68-66 in overtime.

Key Match-Up: Greece's Evanthia Maltsi vs. Simona Ballardini of Italy.  Maltsi is the tournament's leading scorer with 22.1 points per game for the tournament's lowest-scoring team (58.6 ppg). With Greece relying so much on each offensive possession, Ballardini can ill afford to give up easy baskets to Maltsi, who has proven she can score on anybody.

Key Stats: 56.8. Through eight games, Greece is even with Spain in first place for the fewest points allowed per game with 56.8. Missas's team has held opponents to under 60 points for the past four games.

X-Factor: Marte Alexander.  The Italian center has been extremely effective during stretches and she will need another strong showing in the blocks against the smaller Greeks. But the 33-year-old has been fighting some wear and tear of nine games in 14 days.

Sounding Off: "At this moment Greece are better than us. I told (my players) that after the game. Now we have to show that we can play against one of the best defenses at this tournament. But after this game maybe they have respect us more." Italy coach Giampiero Ticchi


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