"We came here to amaze the world. well (the appointment), it's Wednesday, gentlemen! " Monday 9 September, after the short defeat against Australia in the last match of the group stage of the World Cup, Vincent Collet, the coach of the French basketball team, had harangued his troops in the locker room. "We need to move on something else", had also pressed the back Evan Fournier. Two days later, in Dongguan, in the south of China, the Blues answered present. By winning (89-79) against the Americans, double world champions, in the quarterfinals, they hit a big blow. And achieved one of the greatest feats in their history. Friday, they will face Argentina for a place in the final.
"We remained united, very serious and disciplined, savored Vincent Collet, the coach of the Blues. We came back and took control again to finish the job "
"We are dogs, we have not dropped anything"After the meeting, Evan Fournier, one of France's most prominent Frenchmen, came to the meeting with pivot Rudy Gobert. Even when the United States recovered and went up ten points in the third quarter, before taking seven in advance, the French shots suddenly became more difficult, the teammates of the captain, Nicolas Batum, did not derogate from their game plan. "We remained united, very serious and disciplined, savored Vincent Collet. We came back and took control again to finish the job. "
Sign that these Blues have grown, not for a second they have looked at the Americans with deference. The time when the opponents of the 1992 Dream Team took pictures of NBA stars from the bench is over. Evolving daily in franchises of the North American flagship league, the Gobert, Fournier or Batum rub shoulders with their opponents and assume to look in the eye without complex white. Utah Jazz's pivot, Rudy Gobert, reminded his opponents why he had won the last two NBA Best Defender of the Year awards.
Back to basics in defense
Above all, the Blues have returned to their fundamentals. "We are euphoric because we score? No ! We are the defense that makes us win "Vincent Collet hammered Monday, raising his voice at the break against the Australians. "We're not ourselves, guys, we're not mean! ", added Evan Fournier, recalling that an iron defense has always been the DNA of the teams of France. On Wednesday, facing the Americans, everyone remembered it.
"This group is amazing, savor Rudy Gobert. Sometimes you are part of a very talented group; sometimes you are part of a less talented but humanly superb team. This year, I think we have both. "
The Americans will not become the first team to achieve the world triple. This training was made up, it is true, of neophytes at the international level – its biggest stars, who evolve in NBA, had not been able or wanted to make the trip to China. These players have some " lack of experience "Vincent Collet noted. Without minimizing the feat of his men: even deprived of his major players, "It was still Team USA" !
"It does not matter what players made up our team," said Gregg Popovich, the US coach. Coach Collet and his group did a great job "
This is also what the American coach, Gregg Popovich, one of the most esteemed coaches in the world, made a point of underlining his French counterpart, long criticized for his lack of authority or underestimated benefit from the exceptional generation of players he has had under his orders, these last ten years. "France beat us! Regardless of the players who made up our team, he started. Coach Collet and his group did a remarkable job. It's the best team in France I've seen. They play strong in defense, they are physical, they defend well individually. They all really complement each other. "
"People will say it's a huge surprise, considering who we are and what the team has been doing for years. But they played really well, also pointed out the American leader Kemba Walker. In the previous resounding defeat of the United States, at the 2006 World Cup against Greece, it was the mistakes of "Team USA" that had weighed especially. Today, the gap between the Americans and the rest of the world has dwindled, and it takes more than their team B to fly over the planet basketball.
"What we want is the title"
However, the Blues have not exploded with joy at the siren. Because "Beat the Americans was not the goal, what we want is the title"insisted Rudy Gobert at the end of the match. But also because the French, even if they are bombarded favorites of the semifinal against Argentina of the eternal Luis Scola (39 years), remember the World Cup 2014. A number of them were there .
That year, after having achieved the feat of beating Spain, one of the leading nations of basketball, at home at the same stage of the competition, they had fallen high in the semifinal against Serbia. "We made a huge mistake after Spain's match. Unfortunately we had relaxed for a quarter of a time, and our dreams had fallen apart, analysis Evan Fournier. We do not want to repeat the same mistake. "
"Before this victory against the United States, we also proved that we could lose games stupidly", recalls Frank Ntilikina, evoking Australia, Monday. "Argentina is a much more experienced team. They are not there by chance, this is not the first time they reach this stage », warns Vincent Collet.
Like the Blues, the South Americans have defeated the prognosis by taking the best of Serbia, favorite of the competition behind the United States. "They are proud, we know them", the coach continues, recalling the rich history of the 2004 Olympic champions.
However, the Blues, qualified, as Spain, for the Olympic tournament in 2020, thanks to the victory of Australia against the Czech Republic, do not change their speech one iota. "From the beginning, we say we came here to win. Nobody believed in us, but it does not matter », asserts Evan Fournier. From the first day of the rally, at the end of July, Rudy Gobert assured: "Our potential is unlimited. " After having "Amazed the world"The goal of the French is to take a seat on the throne, which is now vacant.