|Dominique Faurie has covered women's basketball all over Europe and will write regularly for FIBAEurope.com during the EuroLeague season.|
As you'll see it's not a big surprise considering how close one came to qualifying direct and the domestic success enjoyed by the other.
Ukraine: Thanks Miss Gorbunova
Simona Ballardini was key for Italy and for club side Umana Reyer Venezia.
The eastern girls finished third in their group in qualifying, just one point behind Israel and Lithuania. What's more, they were eliminated as the best third place team by Hungary only because of the tie-breaker.
It will be a wonderful thing to see a player like Aleksandra Gorbunova at EuroBasket Women 2009. The CSKA Moscow forward is one of the biggest talents in Europe. She proved it this winter, leading her team with 20.7 points per game, which made her the most efficient scorer of the competition. The former Sopron player also grabbed 7.5 rebounds.
Behind her, Ogorodnikova (11.2 ppg) and Zherzherunova (11.0 ppg) are efficient center or power forward. Biryuk (10.6 ppg) or Kochubei (injured during the first games) being alternatives in the outsides.
Ukraine was European Champion in 1995, and did not qualify in Italy. They will face Spain, the Czech Republic and Slovakia in Latvia. A tough road, but the team in yellow may just be up to the challenge.
Italy: Surfing on Venezia
Italy is back. In the last 10 years, Squaddra Azzurra have never qualified outright for EuroBasket Women.
They qualified as the host team in 2007 where they failed to reach the quarter-finals and finished 9th. That does not mean their performance was without it's bright spots, including a narrow defeat at the hands of champions Russia.
This time, Giampiero Ticchi's team got their ticket by trashing Belgium and Croatia after a third place finish in the qualifying round behind Turkey and Poland.
The National Team is walking in the steps of club side Venezia, first of its group in EuroLeague Women. The leader of the squad, Ballardini (13.2 ppg) wasn't there in 2007, because of WNBA commitments. She's on the court now, and is also a top value for Reyer.
Teammates Sottana and Nadalin also got confidence this season with Venezia.
Their domestic rivals, Schio, also made a good run in EuroLeague Women, even if they couldn't reach the Eighth Final. While Masciadri (13 ppg) and Ress (11.4 ppg) demonstrated they were efficient player at the highest level.
Now, Italy will try to take revenge in Latvia. The Italians will find on their road the same Belorussian and French, that beat them in Chieti. Like Venezia has, they expect to create a surprise.
Big Nations and major players will stay at home in June.
Belgium, without Wambe and Wauters, was too young to expect a ticket. Seventh in 2007, the Belgians are rebuilding a team, around Van Malderen and young talent like Leemans or Hendrickx.
Germany, orphaned by Fröhlich, won't be in Latvia and the same goes for Croatia, who was impressive during friendly games before EuroBasket Women 2007, but were unable to qualify without Kireta or Podrug.