Many believed that France would be one of the few challengers to the United States’ path to an expected third straight Olympic gold medal in Rio.
But, in-front of roughly 11,000 inside the Carioca Arena, plus thousands more watching around the world, Australia turned the screws, executed their offences perfectly and most importantly, were aggressive, yet smart on defence as they came away with a comfortable 87-66 win over France in the Group A opener at the Rio Games.
But despite the defeat, bear in mind that it is just the first game of the tournament and both teams can still easily qualify. But when you look at the teams competing in the group, this was a game that you would have wanted to win in respect of final positioning in the pool.
France are still expected to beat Venezuela and China in Group A, but with this showing, those two sides will be raring to go and when you add Serbia and the USA as well to follow, the French will have to work hard to make it out of their group.
And they will certainly have to work harder than what they showed the world in their Rio opener as the French, who had a brief spurt towards the end of the second, simply fell apart in their quarter as Australia went on a 12-2 run and went on to enjoy a double digit lead without being troubled. The Boomers also forced 17 turnovers out of France and they dished out 29 assists on their 35 made field goals, led by Patty Mills’ 21 points.
For Mills, who ran the show for Australia, it was a satisfying result against his San Antonio Spurs team-mate Tony Parker, who is appearing in his last Olympic Games for France. he led Les Bleus with 18 points but it was certainly a disappointing day for EuroLeague MVP Nando De Colo, who was held to just 33 percent from the field and was unable to shoot a three-pointer in the entire game due to quick Aussie defence.
Speaking of quick – Andrew Bogut – a risky selection by Australia coach Andrej Lemanis after the big man injured his knee during the NBA Finals, while playing for Golden State Warriors showed no signs of pain or fatigue as he played in his first Olympic contest since the 2008 Beijing Olympics and put on an 18-point showing, going 9/10 from the floor.
For France though, they will need to bounce back quickly as they prepare to face China on Monday. Perhaps playing one of the supposed “weaker” teams in the pool will help them ease into their stride in Rio. As for Australia, they face Serbia as they bid to go 2-0 and stand a great chance of qualification if they beat another of the Group A “power” teams.