Poland, symbol of a crazy Euro

Poland, symbol of a crazy Euro
The joy of the Poles after defeating the Slovenians, defending champions.

Mateusz Ponitka predicted it. “A week ago, I announced that every tournament has its Cinderella. And here we are: we are Cinderella today”, smiles the captain of the Polish basketball team. In French, we refer more to another tale, but it seems difficult to talk about Petit Poucet about a player measuring 1.98 meters.

Still, Poland is the fairy tale of Euro basketball, since an omnipresent Ponitka (26 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists) and his teammates fell from their throne, Wednesday September 14, the Slovenians, holders of the trophy (90-87). The “bialo-czerwoni” (“white and red”, in Polish) will face the French men’s basketball team on Friday September 16 (5:15 p.m., on W9 and Canal+ 360) for a place in the final.

Follow the meeting: France-Poland live: follow the match of the semi-finals of Euro basketball 2022

The Polish victory in the quarter-finals had the effect of an earthquake, in particular because it prematurely sent the Slovenian Luka Doncic to the cemetery of the “giants”, where he joined the two other headliners of the competition , Serbian Nikola Jokic and Greek Giannis Antetokounmpo. If the three superstars of the NBA (the North American basketball league) delivered remarkable performances in the continental tournament, their teams broke their teeth on opponents more experienced in European games.

The Poles were convinced they could do it. “No team qualified for the semi-finals is there by accident. Before the tournament, they were all podium contenders, ours included, insists coach Igor Milicic. Few people believed in us, but we believed in it, and the four best teams in Europe qualified for the semi-finals. » Or Poland, France, Germany and Spain.

A “raised” Euro

Since the beginning of the continental competition, the level of the competing teams has been highlighted by many players and coaches, and Poland embodies this extremely tight competition. “It’s an extremely strong Euro, because the eliminated remain very strong teams”, notes Vincent Collet. The coach of the France team had made Serbia the number one favourite, among “the six or seven teams capable of going all the way”. He added the Poles to the list, hailing their “remarkable defensive network” against Slovenia.

“Give credit to Poland. Most saw us as favourites, but Poland have a great team, like Belgium in the previous round.for his part hammered Luka Doncic after the elimination of his family, rather than talking about a poor performance by his team. “It’s not enough to be a favorite on paper, continues Vincent Collet. From the quarters, the sublimation aspect is very important. » Opposed to the Italians, winners in the previous round of Serbia, his Blues came close to elimination in the quarter-finals.

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The four teams still in contention in the competition have one thing in common: they rely on a collective, often polished by time. “These are first of all teams that are still there. Fortunately, basketball remains a collective sport, and [c’est] even more [vrai] in international basketball, notes Vincent Collet. Following the example of the Spaniards of multi-medal winning technician Sergio Scariolo, “the best for fifteen years in all that is collective articulation”, according to the French technician.

“A team with a capital E”

“We don’t have an NBA player, not a Euroleague player [compétition privée et semi-fermée rassemblant 18 clubs européens], but a team with a capital Einsisted, euphoric, the Franco-Polish Aaron Cel, after the victory of Poland on Wednesday. We know that each player can help another. We have been building these automations since 2014 [avec l’ancien coach, Mike Taylor]which has created an osmosis, a collective state of mind. We changed coach a year ago, and he added his tactical dimension. » The Slovenians are particularly stuck in the Polish defense.

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While many observers predicted a “remake” of the Tokyo Olympics semi-final between France and Slovenia (victory of the French on a counter in the dying seconds), it is Poland which therefore stands on the road to the Blues for a place in the final. And they don’t take the task lightly.

“To ask if the planets align for us is to disrespect our opponents, admonishes Captain Evan Fournier. These teams played the games very well, they really dominated them. We face the teams that have won, and it is not said that the matches are easier for us because we avoid [la Serbie ou la Slovénie] ».

The France team knows that it has little margin. Against Turkey, then against Italy, she almost found out the hard way. “There is fierce competition, summarizes Vincent Collet. The way we passed shows that our opponents could be in our place. »

Friday evening, the Blues will do everything to force the Polish Cinderella to return home before the hour of the final strikes.

Poland-FranceFriday September 16 (5:15 p.m., on W9 and Canal+ 360), and live commentary on Le Monde.fr.

Read also: Basketball: a Euro at a level rarely so high

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