Bronze Medal Game: France vs Russia

24.07.2011

U20 European Championship

9. Léo Westermann (France)
Italy managed in the semi-final to contain both Evan Fournier and Léo Westermann and force them to a bad shooting day, which costed France as they don't have so many alternatives on offense

Russia and France were knocked out from the race to gold yesterday in the Semi-Finals but they have one more battle to run before they take a rest.

The three medals concept works great and in the right order in athletics, swimming and such spots where the three best athletes step on the podium and the second is clearly happier and prouder than the third.

In team sports it's a bit different.

At the end of the last day there are two teams with a big grin on their face - the big grand winners and the bronze medal winners.

Even if winning the silver medal has more prestige and obviously a greater achievement than the bronze, being extremely happy minutes after you lost in the final is a challenge that only clear underdogs who are "just happy to be on the podium" handle easily, yet the team that won the bronze medal ride the wave of a win on the closing day.

Being third is a great thing.

France are chasing the bronze also for historical reasons.

After taking silver in 2009 and gold in 2010 they can become the first team in the U20 European Championship to win all three medals in three years.

Russia on the other end won gold in 2005 as hosts, but that's also their only medal so far.

They have lost the bronze medal game twice - in 2007 to Italy and in 2002 to none other than France.

That was also the only appearance of the French in the third place game.

France failed to execute their defense yesterday and allowed Italy to reach 77 points, more than 10 points of the highest points they allowed before.

Russia chased after Spain for almost 40 minutes and despite the final gap is cheating a bit, still didn't find the tools to make an upset and lost by 27 points.

That was the first loss of France in the competition, and how they can bounce back in less than 24 hours will be the great question of today's game.

Russia wasn't projected to bring a medal from this trip, but made a great finish and with a huge second half comeback against Turkey made it here.

Evan Fournier reached 19 points yesterday but would rather put aside his shot selection by making only 31.8% of his field goal shots.

After sliding down a bit on the last two crucial games, France would like to see their top scorer regain his shooting accuracy, just like he did on Wednesday night.

Then, when France and Russia fought for the top spot in Group E, the French prospect was on fire and delivered his best game with 24 points on 81.8% from the floor.

In most games Russia had some very good minutes and some very bad minutes, and that was also the case a few days ago against France, who took a double-digit lead already in the first half and forced Russia to chase.

France eventually won 70-57, but both sides know the Russian side can be one of the most dangerous in the championship.

Which face of Russia will show up today and for how long will decide if it's another double-digit for France or Russia might have a great chance to win their first bronze and be the second happiest team on the podium tonight.


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