We could hardly hope for such an ideal start to the Euro! If the France team is the favorite of the competition it co-organizes with Spain, entering a continental competition is never obvious. This blue group was also able to realize it in their hotel serving as a health bubble before the first match, observing Belgium losing to Bosnia (55-70), a country that had no longer won the least match in the competition since 1999! So, the French assumed their role of favorite against Croatia, winning by more than 42 points a game easy enough to negotiate offensively. So simple warmth, or new constant of a team from France that could not be more formidable? We expected an element of response on Friday evening to the Czech Republic.
This time, however, the task was to be a little more difficult against a nation which has more depth in terms of talent, and which was rather well entered in its competition the day before. By losing against Russia by only 4 points (73-69), the Czechs proved that they would be eye-catching girls, especially not underestimating for our French, despite the level difference assumed on paper at the stroke of sending the match. For this second exit from the Euro, our team from France advanced on the private floor of Olivia Epoupa, the titular leader of the team. Victim of an ankle injury after only 2 minutes of play against Croatia, she is unavailable for the moment, without knowing more about the exact nature or the extent of her injury. Wishing him a good recovery, we dive into the second game of our blue!
- END OF THE MATCH: CZECH REPUBLIC 51 – 71 France
For this second match of the competition, Valrie Garnier first chose to go out Valriane Vukosavljevic from the 5 starting, by integrating the Franco-American Gabby Williams his place on the wing post. A choice undoubtedly caused by the absence of Olivia Epoupa, to compensate for the lack of creativity with a Williams much more comfortable with the ball in hand, author of a very successful first match. However, we felt an obvious lack of offensive fluidity in the first half. The alternation set up between Williams, Alix Duchet and Marine Johannes operates on alternating current, but only provides a temporarily viable solution to the mastery of Epoupa. The finding was even more difficult for Sarah michel off the bench, absent from these first 20 minutes before regaining color in the second half.
We must also recognize that France was facing a team from the Czech Republic much more solid than Croatia! The Czech coach in particular understood very well that the French would be in more difficulty, by offering on many sequences a defense of a successful zone, which greatly disturbed our blues. As a result, the start of the match, still too little engaged for the France team, allowed the opponent to settle into the match, and it was almost a miracle not to see the Czechs veer widely in the lead at half-time. Katerina Elhotova about Sandrine Gruda a very nice duel, scoring 12 of the 29 Czech points in the first half. Fortunately for the blues, his teammates will never have shone behind the 3-point line (8/29) which allowed us to always keep control of this match.
Without developing a brilliant basketball, the France team was able to count once again on its individualities, among the best players in Europe. The interior duo composed of Sandrine Gruda and Endi Miyem scored 27 French points, in a match focused on racquet play. Their success was well helped by the good French game on pick and roll, rare element among successful French fundamentals. The three-point shot will not have been as brilliant as against Croatia with a sad 6/20 from a distance. We did not count any points on the French side counterattack after 20 minutes, proof that these starts to meet will be an improvement.
Thus, it was not until the second half to see the France team finally get their hands on the match. Our defense was seriously active as soon as the locker room returned in the third quarter, which made the difference on the Czechs scoring only 7 points in 9 minutes in this period. We have found a solid foundation to prevent the ball from reaching the interior, by cutting the passing lines well, to facilitate the evening of Gruda and Miyem. The bench will also have been of interest at this key moment of the match, with the comments of Helena Ciak and Diandra Tchatchouang, always as well engaged with aggressiveness in the internal battle. To compensate, the Czechs then began to make many more mistakes, the only solution to cut the wings to the French transitions found, in vain.
It is therefore a team from serious France which has succeeded in defeating the Czech Republic, in two stages, in particular thanks to an ever more oppressive intensity among these blues. The passing game was well unlocked when their opponents exploded in the second half, but it will be necessary to wait for future clashes to know if our French can really get by without Olivia Epoupa, with a distribution of the ball inevitably more difficult implement. In the meantime, the essentials have been acquired with these two victories in two days in the Rhnus de Strasbourg. We are now going to wish our French people a good, well-deserved rest for the day tomorrow, before returning to the Alsatian blaze on Sunday evening (if someone can repair the air conditioning by then). It will be a decisive match between the two unbeaten nations of the group, to secure a place in the quarter-finals! The loser will have to go through an additional roadblock. With a decisive first match on the horizon, we can’t wait to see our French team again!