The road to the summits will be bumpy for Les Bleues. Beaten by Serbia (62-68), on Tuesday, September 27, in the last game of the World Cup group stage, the players of the French women’s basketball team complicate their task for the rest of the competition. Already qualified for the quarterfinals, Marine Fauthoux’s teammates (11 points and 4 assists), almost sure of not being seeded, will have to wait for the draw for the quarterfinals, that same day, to find out their rival. But it will be significant: unless the already eliminated Japanese beat the Australians at home, the Blues will find either the American scarecrow – who has won every international competition since 2008 – or China in their way.
The French knew that a win against Serbia would open up a more affordable table for them. To prevent the teams from being calculating in their game in the last matches of the group stage, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) has introduced a draw for the final stages, during which the first two of each group are guaranteed victory that they face the third or fourth of the other pool. But after their loss to Canada, Les Bleues suffered a second loss (in five games) to their main continental rival.
“It will be a fight, we will have to be calm. When we play against them, that’s what we lack.” warned the tricolor captain, Sarah Michel, before the match. Because Blues and Balkan players know each other very well. In 2021, the Serbs won in the European Championship final, before seeing the team-mates of Sandrine Gruda – absent from the World Cup due to injury – win in the bronze medal match at the Tokyo Olympics. Widely renewed, due to injuries and international withdrawals, the two teams intended, however, to continue their explanations in this crucial World Cup match in Australia. “When you know the France-Serbia rivalry, it will go very hard, stuck from the beginning, Marine Fouthoux warned. We want to win everything. »
China or the United States probably in quarters
But against the Serbia trained by Marina Maljkovic, daughter of the 1993 European champion on the Limoges bench Bozidar Maljkovic, the French could not reproduce their performance of the day before, against the Japanese Olympic runners-up (67-53). Carried by the leader of American origin Yvonne Anderson (18 points), the Serbians have calmed the ardor of the Blue. Leading throughout the game, but touching Serbia several times, Jean-Aimé Toupane’s players lost their footing at the end of the second and third quarters.
Once again, the Blues have sinned because of their chronic concern since the beginning of the competition: rebounding. “We play a sport of possession, so when a shot from two gives the opponent a chance to win the ball back, you spend it defending”, Jean-Aimé Toupane insisted on Monday. With 44 rebounds conceded to the Serbs (including 16 offensive) against only 25 Tricolor receptions, his troops were largely dominated on Tuesday. And if the game was played in the last seconds, in an unlikely shot by Sasa Cado -until then silent in 3 points- from 9 meters with the scoreboard, the Blues left too many opportunities on the road to wait any longer.
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Deprived of many executives (among them Sandrine Gruda, Endy Miyem, Marine Johannes…) for this competition, Gabby Williams’s teammates have nevertheless come out of an extremely tough group and will play in the quarterfinals of the World Cup in Australia. But they run the risk of crossing paths with the Americans, great favorites of the tournament, even in the absence of center Brittney Griner, still imprisoned in Russia; or China, who have impressed from the start of the competition.