VANNES (EuroBasket Women/FIBA World Championship for Women) - It’s been six years since Giorgia Sottana took Italian basketball by storm.
Sottana was only 18 in the summer of 2007, yet irrepressible.
The 1.77m point guard was so good at the U20 European Championship that year that Italy put her in their senior squad for the EuroBasket Women in Chieti.
As fate would have it, the Treviso-born playmaker hasn't made a EuroBasket Women appearance since.
Less than a couple of months before the start of the Final Round in Latvia in 2009, Sottana was playing for Umana Reyer Venezia when she tore her ACL.
Then in 2011, Italy failed to qualify for the event in Poland.
Her return to the big stage happens on Saturday, when Italy take on Sweden.
Sottana, who averaged almost eight points and four assists for Schio in the 2012-13 EuroLeague Women, and her teammates had better be breathing fire when they run onto the floor to face the Scandinavians.
The clash could be Italy's best chance of winning a Group B game and advancing to Round 2.
Should Italy lose to Sweden, whose last appearance in the Final Round of the tournament came in 1987 when it was called the European Championship, the Azzurre would need to win a game in Group B against Russia or Spain to have a chance of advancing.
Russia are No. 3 in the FIBA Ranking Women and Spain No. 6 (Sweden do not have enough points from FIBA competitions to have a ranking, yet, while Italy are No. 30).
Italy have suffered some losses in their friendly games, which suggests they may struggle.
Most recently, at the Torneo di Mogilev, the Azzurre fell 69-60 to Ukraine, 75-67 to Belarus and 73-62 to Serbia.
"The defeats that came in tournament preparation do not scare us," Sottana said, "because those games are helpful to get ready for this European Championship.
"Sweden is a tough opponent but we are determined and we want to win."
Italy and Sweden have a lot in common.
One similarity is that both teams lost their openers in the Qualification Round but then won seven games in a row.
Making Sweden’s qualification even more impressive was that twice they defeated Spain.
Just as Sottana is Italy’s leader, Sweden’s point guard, Frida Eldebrink, is their talisman.
"This first game is already worth half a qualification," admitted coach Roberto Ricchini.
Five places for the FIBA World Championship for Women - which will be staged in Turkey (27 September-5 October 2014) - are up for grabs at the EuroBasket Women.