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Basketball - 11. January 2009.

EUROBASKET Women – Italy women battle Croatia in pivotal EuroBasket Women qualifier

VENICE (EuroBasket Women Additional Qualifying Round) - Italy and Croatia take center stage this weekend in the EuroBasket Women Additional Qualifying Round.

Both sides are going into the Venice encounter at 1-0 in Group B and though the Italians are playing at home, Croatia have the benefit of having not played since last weekend.

Croatia thrashed Belgium 103-81 in their opener and the Azzurre followed suit on Wednesday by beating the Belgians, 81-69.

The teams that finish top of Group A, and Group B, will advance to the Final Round in Latvia.

Italy captain Mariachiara Franchini, looking ahead to this weekend's game, said to the FIP.it: "At this point, Croatia becomes our direct rival towards qualifying.

"We must win and better to win by a big margin that can give us an advantage for the return leg.

"I am confident, if we pick up where we left off in terms of the determination shown on the court in the second half in Liege, we can achieve this."

Valentina Donvito, Emanuela Ramon and Benedetta Bagnara have all joined the Italy group in training.

Moreover, Adriana Grasso, who has earned her first Azzurre call up, will replace injured Marte Alexander.

Croatia won their first game 103-81 over the Belgians.

In Group A, Ukraine are 2-0 and they will sit back and relax while Germany host Bulgaria in a battle of 0-1 teams.

Germany coach Imre Szittya knows if his team loses this game, their hopes of reaching Latvia for the Final Round will all but vanish.

"The team that loses on Saturday is out and won't have any chance to come in first in the group," Szittya said.

"We knew from the beginning that we would have to win our home games. That's what we have to do in Hagen against Bulgaria."


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