|15 June 2013|
EUROBASKET WOMEN 2013
Expected to battle it out for the last ticket to the second phase of the competition behind group heavyweights Spain and Russia, this has the feel of a ‘first day final' for each team.
|Sweden's captain Elin Eldebrink is ready to tame the Italian offence |
Last Time Out: Both Sweden and Italy come into EuroBasket Women 2013 having won their respective groups during qualification last summer.
Key Match Up: Elin Eldebrink going up against Giorgia Sottana should be a treat. The former, who is renowned for her defence, is likely to be tasked with locking down the latter, who is an ever-present offensive danger for the Azzurre. Whoever comes out on top could swing the game in favour of their side. Sottana is a tricky customer and the hub of her team's offence. If Eldebrink puts the shackles on her rival, it will be a long night for the Italians. Added spice comes in that both played in the Italian League last season so know a lot about each other.
Key Stat: Some 87.5% of the 24 players involved will be making a major tournament debut, meaning the venue is likely to be even more super-charged with emotion, nerves and excitement.
X-Factor: Neither team is particularly stacked inside and this could be where the game is won and lost. Both teams have relative depth in the guard and wing spots, so foul trouble for one of the frontcourt rotations could have an impact. With Italy looking slightly short on firepower, Sweden must rebound well defensively to avoid giving up precious second chance points.
From The Camps: "The defeats that came during preparation do not scare us, because those games are helpful to get ready for this Championship. Sweden is a tough opponent but we are determined." - Italian playmaker Giorgia Sottana.
"We have players who can play defence one-on-one and that means that we do not get a lot of strange [defensive] rotations and so we can help each other to collectively manage rebounds." - Swedish play-caller Lars Johansson, who recently had his contract extended by the Federation until 2015.
Meanwhile in the other Group B game, Russia tip off the defence of their EuroBasket Women crown against fellow favourites Spain.
Spanish duo Silvia Dominguez and Elisa Aguilar have the inside track on their opponents after playing in the Russian League last year for UMMC Ekaterinburg and Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje respectively.
After a protracted and complicated saga over her ankle injury, all eyes will be on Epiphanny Prince, the new naturalised player for Russia, who takes over from Rebekkah Hammon.
Both Alfredas Vainauskas of Russia and Lucas Mondelo of Spain are coaching at a Final Round for the first time and each will be expected at the very least, to oversee qualification for the World Championship for Women next summer and ideally, get on the podium - so the pressure is on.