Cologne (Germany) (AFP) – The immense competition, their hen with hormones and the absences of Nicolas Batum and Nando De Colo do not scare the eyes of the Blues, who have been beaten by Evan Fournier and Rudy Gobert, who are aiming for “gold or nothing” at Eurobasket from Thursday, a year after the lost final of the Tokyo Olympics.
Driven to power by the medal-winning summers of 2019 and 2021 as much as by the holidays of the innkeepers Batum and De Colo, Evan Fournier and Rudy Gobert, promoted captain and vice-captain, aspire to more than a podium, nine years after the only coronation European Blues.
“The silver medal is great, especially at the Olympics, but gold is the goal,” says three-time best NBA defender (2018, 2019 and 2021) Rudy Gobert. “Personally, it’s first place or nothing and I think that’s the mentality we have in the group this year.”
Of the twelve Olympic vice-champions, only four are absent. But two were in the starting five in Japan: captain Nicolas Batum and game guarantor Nando De Colo. Which makes Thomas Heurtel the only one to have known the coronation of 2013.
“I didn’t have many minutes, puts the leader into perspective. In the hierarchy I was behind Tony (Parker), so I was the youngster, in quotes, of the adventure.”
This explains the hunger of Evan Fournier’s gang – after the bronze medal of the 2019 World Cup and the silver of the Olympic Games – as much as it poses the challenge awaiting him in Germany.
Slovenia from Wednesday
Before imagining the final phase in Berlin, from the eighth, it will already be necessary to extricate itself in Cologne from a raised group B comprising Slovenia, Lithuania, Germany, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Hungary. Preferably in first place (out of the four qualifiers) to avoid crossing from the quarters Serbia of Nikola Jokic or Greece of Giannis Antetokounmpo.
In the best of cases, the head of the group will be played on Wednesday against Slovenia by Luka Doncic, showered with a point in the semi-final of the Olympic Games thanks to a block in extremis from… Nicolas Batum. Holders of the continental title, the Slovenes have recorded a return, that of Goran Dragic, MVP of Eurobasket 2017.
The 2017 edition had turned into a “resounding failure” on the French side, in the words of coach Vincent Collet. Namely an elimination in the round of 16 against Germany that the Blues meet at the start of Thursday (8:30 p.m.) at home.
“In the 2017 team, we must not forget that we missed Nicolas Batum and Rudy Gobert”, recalled the one preparing to lead the France team during a twelfth tournament. A certain Tony Parker, too, retired after the Rio Olympics. “This year, we are also missing players”, slipped Vincent Collet several times.
“Different Joints to Find”
“It does not change much, we are just a little less numerous to share the leadership, judge on the floor Evan Fournier. To say that we are going to have to reinvent ourselves is a big word. There are rather adjustments to be made, different articulations to be found.”
“Since I really have a main role in the France team, in 2019, it is still me who attracts the most defenses and who has the responsibility of the mark. Even if the fact of having other weapons relieves a little bit, recognizes +Antz+. But other players will take on a different role.”
Germany waiting for the Blues also summons happier memories. Those of 2019, when the French basketball players had started their World Cup with a victory against the Nationalmannschaft after a catastrophic first quarter (4 points scored). An adventure concluded with a bronze medal after beating Team USA in the quarter-finals.
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