It was the hit of the summer in the France team, haunting, which came back day after day. “We can't go far in this competition if we lose so many balls. » Vincent Collet has sung it in all tones since the start of the Euro. And having heard it all summer, the Blues found themselves very helpless when the wind came. Swept by a wind from Spain, the French men's basketball team lost on Sunday, September 18, in the final of the European championship (76-88). Gold diggers assumed before the competition, after bronze at the 2019 World Cup and silver at the Tokyo Olympics, the Blues still fail to climb this final step.
“Our worry in the tournament ended up killing us”, summed up the tricolor, fatalistic coach. Since the beginning of the preparation for the Euro, Vincent Collet has identified the " weakness " of his team, and tries to solve it. “The Spaniards scored 35 points following our loss of balls tonight, we scored seven. This figure alone is enough to explain why we lost this match. » Saved from the waters in the round of 16 against Turkey (87-86 after extra time), "miraculous" in the quarter against Italy (93-85 after extra time), the Blues failed a third time to extricate themselves from a badly started situation.
"We could have passed because of our loss of balls on many occasions, but we survived until then, blew the French coach. But Spain is not such teams. They don't lose the ball. » Before the final, the Norman technician boasted “Spanish basketball school”capable of renewing itself despite the international retirements of immense figures.
“They dominated us head and shoulders”
Before the final, this reunion had rekindled the embers of their past clashes. For more than ten years, the two neighboring countries have found themselves in cleaver matches, feeding resentment and frustration on both sides of the Pyrenees – more on the French side, more often on the wrong side of the coin. Stories of veterans, according to the Blues. “The rivalry with Spain is really old-timers. We feel that they have had a lot of bad times against them., exhibited Evan Fournier on Saturday. If he experienced disappointments against La Roja, the French captain recalls that Rudy Gobert, Thomas Heurtel and him won their first big duel against the Spaniards. In 2014, France, though deprived of Tony Parker, eliminated greater Spain of "his" World Cup in the quarter-finals.
The new Blues, whose team has been shaped since 2019, see Slovenia more as their main continental rival and do not harbor complexes against the Iberians. "It's a different era, but that's a good thing because this team didn't suffer as much against themanalyzed Vincent Collet on Saturday. Before, even if we wanted to get them out of our heads, they were always there a bit. » In view of the progress of the final, the troops of Sergio Scariolo resumed their ease in the heads of the tricolor.
“They dominated us head and shoulders. They played very well and targeted us welladmitted Evan Fournier after the game. It's hard to take. They were better than us. » From the start of the match, the teammates of leader Lorenzo Brown, once again very fair (14 points, 11 assists and no lost ball), jostled the French. Defending very hard on the back lines, and preventing the Blues from finding their insides, like a two-shot Rudy Gobert, the teammates of Willy Hernangomez – voted best player of the tournament – quickly took the lead. Before Juancho Hernangomez, his little brother, ignites from afar. With six shots from three points in the second quarter (for 29 points in total), the Toronto Raptors winger manhandled the French defense, and created a crippling gap.
"We weren't up to the occasionregretted the leader Andrew Albicy. In the third quarter, we understood that we were in the final and that we had to give everything. » But against Spain, led by Sergio Scariolo, the awakening was not enough. Returning to three lengths behind their opponents after being more than twenty points away, Evan Fournier's teammates never managed to completely reverse the trend. “The game was frustrating. We are trailing from start to finish but we are chasing the score all game long,” exposed Rudy Gobert. “In accuracy, we learned a lesson, continued Vincent Collet. It was a bit like the rock of Sisyphus, you go back up then you take a punishment behind. » Because Spain has never untied itself.
The Spanish Masterclass
Reigning world champion (in 2019), but landed in continental competition with seven neophyte players in international tournaments, Spain was keeping a low profile before the final. This game, "It's going to be an Everest", warned Sergio Scariolo. The Italian coach of La Roja, who won his eighth medal on Sunday, was anticipating a meeting "exciting"where his young troops were not favourites. "We'll have to be smart, and bring the game to a level where we can compete, he insisted on Saturday. To confront such a physical, athletic and technical rival head-on would not suit us. »
Outstanding tactician, who was able at the end of the semi-final to cut off German star Dennis Schröder from his teammates, Scariolo still has a few tricks up his sleeve. “You have to prepare an effective game plan and anticipate variations, because there is always something that does not work. » Sunday, against the Blues, he delivered a masterclass, constantly adapting. "As a basketball coach, I'm just happy with the way we played.savored the Italian. We had limits, which could have made us play badly, but instead, we were excellent. » Sa Roja wins a fourth continental title.
If disappointment prevails, inevitably, after "to have lost the gold", the France team must not throw everything away. Arrived without certainties and without two of his captains – Nicolas Batum and Nando De Colo – the Blues had a journey of ups and downs, before climbing to the final. “We came across a great team. To beat them, it takes more than that. It's not a question of courage, we fought but we don't have enough maturity.concluded Vincent Collet.
As soon as they received their silver medal, Evan Fournier and Rudy Gobert took it off and climbed the podium bare-necked. "I'm fed up with the money", sighed the center of the Minnesota Timberwolves after the ceremony. His generation, of which he and Fournier are the headliners, is still waiting for its first title. Two years before the Paris Olympics, the Blues found on Sunday that the road is still winding before they can touch the gold to which they aspire.