It wasn’t the FIBA World Cup semi-final that many expected, but unless you’re Brazilian or Spanish, it doesn’t matter.
Because if Serbia and France’s semi-final clash will be anything like their Group A encounter was 10 days ago, then we’ll be in for a classic in the Spanish capital.
European champions France fought back 11 points down late in the second quarter and 73-71 behind with 18 seconds left to record a 74-73 win over the Serbians, as a free throw from Joffrey Lauvergne with was enough to seal the win.
Both teams competed on match day two in Grenada, where all four qualified teams from Group A made the quarter-finals, a first for the FIBA World Cup/world championships. So even at that stage, it was important to have a stranglehold on a Round of 16 spot at that time with Les Bleus losing on the opening day to Brazil and Serbia having no problems against Egypt.
Both teams have had today to rest and prepare for their semi-final encounter tomorrow night. Something that they couldn’t do when they faced off in group play. Serbia’s Vladimir Stimac has admitted that the extra time off has helped Serbia get this far, and not only will that help them on Friday but also playing a French team on a high from beating the joint favourites could come into effect as well.
It is common for teams to stutter after a major win, and let’s face it; France beating Spain has to be classed as an upset. Not a major upset, by any means. The French are the European champions and a top 10 international side but this is a weakened France outfit. No Tony Parker, no Alexis Ajinca, no Nando De Colo and no Joakim Noah playing against a full-strength host nation that can boast to having a solid all-NBA starting five. It was an upset, and the jubilation shown by the French players in the post-game mixed zone was evident.
“We knew if we played a big game, be big in defence like we did then we had a chance to win this game,” said France’s Nicolas Batum. “But because we beat Spain, the huge team of Spain in Madrid. So that’s a big, big win for us.”
Batum’s quotes were said with a lot of enthusiasm. This win meant a lot to the French. They will also go into Friday’s meeting as favourites, but with France’s big semi-final win now in the books, Serbia could be facing a ‘hungover’ French team, which could work to their advantage.
So Serbia starting as underdogs won’t faze them, and if they start strong against France, we could have a bigger underdog contesting the World Cup Final on Sunday night.