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Sellout crowds set to spur Italy and Russia on at first Qualifiers home games

Italian fans will fill out Turin's Palaruffini for the national team's game against Romania on Friday. (Photo: FIBA)

TURIN, November 24, 2017 - The appetite to see international basketball and the World Cup Qualifiers is proving to be as great as expected in Turin, the northern Italian city that has hosted major sporting events in recent times.

Friday's game between Italy and Romania at the 4,500-seater Palaruffini is sold out, with fans eager to see the Azzurri host the First Round game.

Turin, which famously hosted the 2006 Winter Olympics, also staged the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) with Italy coming up just short of reaching Rio de Janeiro. There were large crowds at those national team games.

One of the highlights will be to see Pietro Aradori captain the Azzurri and also earn his 138th cap. The 28-year-old has been an important player for Italy at the last three FIBA EuroBaskets and also featured at the OQT.

"It's a great honor, I'm proud to have been named captain," he said. "I know I have responsibilities, that I need to help everyone, especially the younger players that are playing for the first time in the national team."

One of the aims of having the World Cup Qualifiers is to take international basketball to cities that might otherwise not host national team games. With that in mind, Russia's decision to stage their home game against Belgium in Nizhny Novgorod's Cultural Entertainment Complex "Nagorny" next Monday, November 27, can already be called a success.

More than 3,000 tickets have been sold to make it a sellout and additional seating is being envisaged.

Russian fans will pack Nizhny Novgorod's Cultural Entertainment Complex "Nagorny" for the team's clash against Belgium next Monday. (Photo: FIBA)

"We are happy that the first-ever Russian national team game in Nizhny Novgorod has drawn so much interest with the local fans," Russia Basketball Federation (RBF) President and former national team star Andrei Kirilenko told "It sold out so fast, two weeks before the game. Considering the situation, with our colleagues in Nizhny Novgorod, we have tried to find ways in which to increase the venue's capacity by opening additional sectors of the arena that were not previously used in basketball configuration. We will announce the additional sales shortly."

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