It was written that it would be Spain. The path was however all mapped out for Germany to propel themselves to the final of " his " Euro, carried by a public won over to its cause. But the 2022 European Basketball Championship loves nothing more than getting out of the course that seems designed for it. And Friday, September 16, a few hours after the qualification of the Blues without trembling against the Poles, the Spaniards defeated Germany, to join their great rivals of the XXIe century in the end. " It's funnynotes the French pivot Rudy Gobert. Spain, even when you think you're not going to meet them, it always ends up happening. »
Sunday September 18 (8:30 p.m., on M6 and Canal+360), France and Spain will cross swords for the European title. A "classic" of basketball, as the two countries have competed for continental supremacy for almost twenty years - with a large advantage at La Roja (17 wins to 4 in the European Championship). The poster was however far from being guaranteed. “I would not have bet on Spain in the final”confirms Evan Fournier, the French captain.
Even Spain's very experienced Italian coach, Sergio Scariolo, admitted that " [ses] players [avaient] completely exceeded expectations. » Arrived in reconstruction in the competition, the reigning world champions defied the forecasts by climbing to the final. “This medal is the least expected of all, but perhaps the most satisfying for me”savored the Italian tactician, who already has seven at the head of Spain.
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“You have to know how to turn the page”, had warned Pau Gasol. Iberian icon, the former teammate of Kobe Bryant at the Los Angeles Lakers, has put an end to his immense career one year ago. For La Roja, the page is steeped in history. Since 2000, eight continental medals (three titles), two World Cup crowns (2006, 2019) and three Olympic medals (2008, 2012, 2016) have lined the trophy shelf of the Spanish basketball federation. For this Euro, in addition to Pau Gasol, his brother Marc and Sergio Rodriguez have retired; and forfeits piled up.
Rejuvenated and without much international experience, the team of the Hernangomez brothers (Willy and Juancho) and captain Rudy Fernandez landed in continental competition without certainties. "It's no longer the same team but it still has the culture of winning, the one that allows you to find a way to be good when you have to"warns Rudy Gobert.
"The best European basketball"
“Spain have been the best European team for fifteen years”, says Vincent Collet. On several occasions in the competition, the French coach has underlined the risks of underestimating this team. “When we started the Euro, I told my assistants that she would be there, relates the French coach. Without the Gasol brothers, everyone thought they were going to demote in the hierarchy but we must not forget the school of Spanish basketball, backed by the best European basketball and not a few stars. »
A school that once again shone in 2022. "It's the ninth final for Spanish basketball this summer"insisted Sergio Scariolo Friday after the semi-final won by his troops. “We must measure the magnitude of this figure: Spain has qualified a team in the final in each competition! » If the players reach the World Cup final, which begins at the end of September in Australia, they could complete the perfect summer for the Iberians, from under-16s to seniors, men and women alike - for three titles so far.
“Spain has special know-how in Europe. Whatever their group, you always find in them the notion of team., notes Evan Fournier. The coach of La Roja extends: "These successes don't happen overnight.. It's the result of many years of hard work, and it shows our values as teams. »
Lorenzo Brown's contribution
Added values, too, when, at the beginning of the summer, the selection chose to naturalize the American point guard Lorenzo Brown – having never played in Spain – to compensate for the absences of Ricky Rubio and Sergio Llull, injured, rather than to tap into the pool of young teams. The Spanish players' union regretted “the very harmful message sent to national players, having a negative impact on both the present and the future. »
Still, the native of Roswell, Georgia (United States), has integrated perfectly into the Spanish squad, and is applying, in the event of victory on Sunday, to the title of MVP (most valuable player, best player) of the competition. A winning bet for Sergio Scariolo, who "held up to the vox populibecause he knew he needed this player”, recognizes Vincent Collet. For him, “Lorenzo Brown further magnifies this collective, which does not need that”.
"If the other teams don't see this edition as an opportunity, I don't know when they will be able to have one"had joked Sergio Scariolo after the qualification of his Roja for the last continental four for the eleventh time in a row – series in progress since 1999. At 61, the technician from Brescia will play a new international final with Spain.
If he asserted, at the start of the competition, "The past is the past, we must move forward" so as not to compare his team to the Spanish golden generation, Scariolo has not changed his philosophy. “The idea remains to look for the unmarked player, and to play in the way that the whole world has admired this team for years. »
For the Blues, if not simple, the mission is clear: “We will try to remove them from this European supremacy, beating them would be a first step in this direction”, concludes Vincent Collet. And a second European title for his team.
France - Spain, Sunday September 18 at 8:30 p.m. (on M6 and Canal+360). To follow live on Le Monde. Fr