He closed the lid of the boiling pressure cooker. Both hands more than three meters high, Rudy Gobert recovered a missed shot from his captain Evan Fournier to crush it in the circle and give France a decisive lead. Then, one second from time, the French pivot scored two free throws, silencing the more than two thousand Lithuanian fans facing him. At the end of a very committed match, the French men’s basketball team took the best of Lithuania on Saturday September 3 in Cologne (77-73), two days after missed his debut in the competition against Germany.
“When you start with a defeat, the second game, you want to react. Especially when you aim to go far in the competitionexplains coach Vincent Collet, interviewed after the meeting. This was our case, but also that of the Lithuanians. » And for the first five minutes of the game, France looked like the uninspired team that lost to the Germans on Thursday (63-76). “We got off to a very bad start. recognizes the French technician. But we didn’t give up. We raised our defensive level, and we were more patient in attack. »
Renewed, due to the absence of several executives – including the innkeepers Nicolas Batum and Nando De Colo –, his French team lacked a clear hierarchy since the start of preparation. And over the course of the match, like Terry Tarpey, surprise of the team and holder on Saturday, several players seemed to find their place. “After our failed start, from the second part of the first quarter, we felt that collectively, we were mounting pressure, that we were no longer the same team”greets Vincent Collet, highlighting the entries of pivot Moustapha Fall and leader Andrew Albicy, two team executives since 2019 who have missed most of the preparation due to injuries.
“A monstrous team defensively”
Offering a point of attachment inside, facing the pair of NBA players Jonas Valanciunas – Domantas Sabonis, Fall allows the French not to see the gap widen too much while the Balts seem overexcited – and carried by their fans in merging, “the best audience in Europe”, greeted Evan Fournier. “I tried to bring back energy and hardnessrelates the pivot. Because that’s what we were missing, especially with interiors like that trying to wear us down. »
For his part, reviving his role as watchdog, Andrew Albicy harassed the opposing leaders, and behind him, the entire French team raised their voices in defence. If the Blues have conceded 21 points in the first seven minutes, they will only concede 52 in the remaining 33 minutes. “The French were very physical, and forced them to make many mistakes”recognizes the Baltic coach, Kazys Maksvytis. “This is the team we want to be.asserts Rudy Gobert. A monstrous team defensively, because it is with this level of intensity that we can achieve our goals. »
On the other side of the field, the Blues took care of the ball, in the intense hand-to-hand battle between the two teams. “Even when we were in trouble, we continued to play basketball. We were much more serene in adversity.savors coach Vincent Collet. “And then, Evan dotted the i’s right from the start in terms of taking responsibility. »
Captain of the Blues, Evan Fournier had been singled out after the match against Germany because of a poor offensive score. “We want to play better, to find each other, because we are looking for each other a little bit for the moment”had assumed the New York Knicks player on Friday, saying the Blues “disappointed” with their inaugural performance. His answer on Saturday was incisive: twenty-seven points and relentless aggression from both sides of the field. “He’s relaxed, he’s aggressive and that’s what we need”summed up Moustapha Fall at the break.
Confirmation expected on Sunday against Hungary
“He did Evan Fourniersummarizes his great friend Rudy Gobert. He took his shots, he was aggressive and knew how to keep us in the game when it was a little tougher. He played fair, let the game come to him. » Designated man of the match, the person concerned claims to have wanted “Helping the team play better, and that’s what happened”emphasizing the help of a team again in the direction of travel. “When a team is looking for itself, we don’t know in which direction it is going. » He hopes that his Blues have found their compass.
“Even more than the victory, the manner counts a lot tonight”, insists Evan Fournier. On the bench at the end of the third quarter, to breathe a little before the end of the match, the French captain savored the score of his partners: “I said to myself ‘We’re there’, like in the last competitions”. The French team with which he won a bronze medal at the 2019 World Cup and silver at the Tokyo Olympics; one whose defensive energy – “we have to be dogs from start to finish”, imagined Gobert – seems able to erode mountains.
“What day is it, September 3? We can say that it works, as a date for a birth certificate », smiles Rudy Gobert. It’s probably not the first day of the rest of their lives, but Saturday’s victory has something of a foundation for French basketball players. “For us, the real start of the European championship is now”, concludes Vincent Collet, recalling that the road is still long and perilous. “We don’t forget where we were on Thursday evening”.
Before looking further, his troops must confirm on Sunday against Hungary (8:30 p.m., on Canal + 360) – presumed the weakest opponent in the group. “We must install this intensity not just one evening, but throughout the Euro”, insists Fournier. Afloat again, the Blues submerged the green tide; but they are still far from touching the ground.