The French team begins Saturday, his second round of the World Cup by an eighth finals that does not say his name against the formidable Baltic.
"The mountain is coming! " Maybe Vincent Collet knows his Chinese geography on the tip of his fingers. Because after the plains of Shenzhen, in the south of the country, the French basketball team moved, the time of the two matches of the second phase of the World Cup in Nanjing, known for its "Purple Mountain".
But the tricolor coach takes over especially a bicycle metaphor. After a first week of well managed plain, the Bleus approach the high mountains. They face, Saturday, September 7, Lithuania (14 hours, French time) in "A match that will already be an eighth finals", says the coach.
Unbeaten after a round-robin first round (victories against Germany, Jordan and the Dominican Republic), Rudy Gobert's team-mates change gear, with the besides Lithuania on Saturday, the formidable Australians on Monday 9 September.
If the team of France made strong impression, in particular in defense around the tower Gobert, his opponents did not have the value of those who are profiled. "It's auspicious, but it will have to rise to the height of the event"Vincent Collet warned.
Nation where basket is a real religion, Lithuania is made of another wood than the first three opponents of the Blues. Candidate declared on the podium – in the same way as France -, the Baltic country relies on a pair of high-flying interiors, NBA players Jonas Valanciunas (Memphis Grizzlies) and Domantas Sabonis (Indiana Pacers). Even the Americans, who have arrived in China, do not have such a palette inside.
"It's going to be a fight"
"It's quite rare to see a doublet of this quality in Europe, or even in the world, analyzes the French captain, Nicolas Batum, questioned by AFP. This is the best team in the tournament offensive rebound, an area in which we have a little sin. " For if Rudy Gobert gave back in the first three games in China his best NBA defender costume, ubiquitous in defense, the French interiors have not yet had to rub to a rough adversity.
Lithuanians no longer have a master to play at the level of their legend Sarunas Jasikevicius, but they offer a basketball licked, composed "One of the best passing games in the world", according to Vincent Collet. They can also count on a myriad of shooters who, if they have not really found the sights since the start of the World Cup, are permanent dangers, in the greatest Baltic tradition.
"It's going to be a fight, we'll have to have an oppressive defense to prevent them from setting up, warns the coach. We have to defend every single piece of land, as Australians have been able to do. " At the end of a hotly contested game, the Boomers defeated the Baltics on Friday, September 6th (87-82). And put them back on the wall.
Avoid Americans, if possible
With a record of two wins and one defeat, the Lithuanians can not afford to lose any game, where the Blues have a joker: they can, in case of defeat, reach the quarterfinals if they beat Monday the Australians. "Even if it's basically chicken games, it's actually like cleaver matcheswarns Nicolas Batum. Each team has very few jokers. The Lithuanians have none at all, we have one. If we can avoid grilling … "
In case of victory, the French will face the "Boomers" with the challenge of the luxury of "choosing" their opponent in the quarterfinals. Logically, the first group of the Blues will not have to face the American favorites in the next lap.
In addition, the group's first place will be synonymous with a quarter-final match in the city of Shanghai, not far from Nanjing, while the team that finishes second in the group will have to cross the Middle Kingdom to Dongguan, China. the South, without additional day of rest. An element well noted by Vincent Collet, concerned with the recovery of his troops.
Strong against the weak (Jordan, Dominican Republic), how will the team of France react to the upper displacements? The way to the quarter-finals goes through a solid performance on Saturday against the Baltics. Avoiding the munchies, now that the mountain is coming.
France – Lithuania, Saturday at 2 pm (French time), on Canal + Sports and Le Monde. fr en live