By Jeff Taylor
Sunday's game in Liepaja between Greece and Hungary is a pivotal one as each team tries to set the tone for a good EuroBasket Women.
After a disappointing showing in the Final Round two years ago when they lost all three of their games, Kostas Missas' Greeks rebounded last summer. They won five of their six contests in Division A to win Group D and qualify for this month's big event.
Laszlo Ratgeber's Hungarians also qualified directly but as the best third-place team from the four Division A groups.
While Greece are making a fifth consecutive EuroBasket Women appearance, the Hungarians are in the Final Round for the first time since 2003. With Ratgeber, the coach of EuroLeague Women champions Spartak Moscow Region, at the helm and judging from some of their friendly results in the build-up to Latvia, Hungary will be one tough team.
Poland and tournament hosts Latvia are also in Group B.
Last time out: Greece signed off in their qualifying campaign by handing out a 79-40 beating to Belgium. In that contest, Evani Maltsi had a 30-point explosion for the Greeks. Hungary, needing a win in their final Division A game at Croatia to earn a ticket to the EuroBasket Women, prevailed 72-62 with Nóra Bujdosó's 17 points leading the way. Their 5-3 record in Group C was good enough to advance as they edged Ukraine (also 5-3 and third in Group A) on a tie-breaker to clinch the one spot on offer for a third-place team.
Key match-up: Anna Vajda is powerful presence down low for Hungary while Styliani Kaltsidou should be Greece's biggest weapon in the paint.
X-Factor: If Maltsi finds her range early in the contest and knocks down three-pointers, it's awfully difficult for any defense. Should Hungary coach Ratgeber come up with a strategy that takes her completely out of the game, Greece will be in trouble.
Stats: There has been a lot of Greek drama about the lack of size in Missas' team, especially with Nikole Beth Soulis and Polymnia Sarekgou unavailable this summer. The Greeks need to step it up, therefore, on defense. If Greece win, look to see if they have a huge advantage in steals and fast-break points.
Sounding Off: "We can play defense, and we can play fast. If we find success with that, then something good can happen" - Greece coach Kostas Missas