The French team is playing in the final of the basketball tournament, with the French coach and his players certain of winning at least a silver medal. When you consider that Les Bleus beat the Americans at the beginning of the competition, another exploit is still within the realm of possibility!
Coach Collet has come a long way…
A last-second counter move by Nicolas Batum on a Slovenian player enabled Vincent Collet to keep his rendezvous with destiny. Thanks to this wafer-thin victory (90-89) – which, in itself, heightened the epic quality of the encounter – it will be the French who meet the Americans on Saturday (4:30 am, French time) for an incredible final. Undoubtedly this is the final that Vincent Collet may have dreamt of… if he indulged in daydreams, which isn’t really his style! But as the players themselves have already admitted: this final also belongs to him, the man who’s been coaching the national team since 2009.
With Vincent Collet, the team can boast an impressive track record: a silver medal in the 2011 European Championships, European champions two years later, and bronze-medal winners in 2015, without forgetting the two bronze medals in the 2014 and 2019 World Cups. But the ultimate accolade still escaped them, a medal in the world’s most prestigious competition! The French men’s team had fallen short in the 2012 quarterfinals in London against Spain, their old rivals, and once again in Rio at the same stage in the competition against the same opponents. This time, the Spanish were eliminated by the Americans… a difficult task that the French were pleased to escape thanks to their victory over the US in their first match.
The ultimate American challenge
The advantage of this sporting exploit was that it simplified (somewhat!) the subsequent steps in the proceedings… even if it can hardly be said that any of the matches in these Japanese games are easy, as we saw at first hand in the semi-final against Slovenia. But Vincent Collet, that hardworking, rigorous coach, had once again prepared his team to perfection, enabling the French players to tame – as far as humanly possible! – the terrors of the Slovenian team.
Now it’s time to pull off another exploit, i.e. to beat the Americans once again. After the first match, their legendary coach Gregg Popovich spoke admiringly of the prowess of the French team, a way of acknowledging Collet’s hard work. The Americans have been forewarned but Vincent Collet will still have to draw on all the wealth of his basketball lore to find that narrow path to victory against the preeminent basketball nation that, since 1936, has won gold at every Olympic Games but four!
The task ahead of them is immense... But Collet and his players have already risen to this challenge, and triumphed!
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Copyright photo : KMSP