Whoever said that size mattered in basketball did not see France stun Serbia & Montenegro 74-71 on Tuesday night in Belgrade.
With no player over 202 cm on the court in the final 2 minutes, the visitors were able to out-hustle the hosts, grabbing key rebounds at both ends of the floor.
Serbia & Montenegro had several chances to tie the game in the closing seconds, but Marco Jaric and Zeljko Rebraca each missed pairs of free-throws - some intentionally, some not.
But les Bleus could have put the game out of reach had they converted some of their free throws.
Boris Diaw continued his struggles at the line by missing two of his own which could have given his side a four-point lead at 75-71.
French captain Antoine Rigaudeau then missed the first of two before converting the second for a 74-71 advantage and final score.
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"We knew it would be a very tough game and we thought the only way we could stay close in the game was to take risks defensively," he said, making reference to his line-up late in the game.
"This was a different game for our team compared to the three previous ones. Tonight we were afraid and so we realised we needed to playu together at both ends of the floor and exert more patience.
"We came in with the objective of qualifying for the World Championships, but we never thought we'd beat a team as good as Serbia & Montenegro."
And the win was hard earned.
France couldn't stop the host nation early on, especially the backcourt of Igor Rakocevic and Marco Jaric which combined for 16 points as the home side took a 23-18 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Things went from bad to worse at the start of the second period for the visitors as they turned the ball over three times in a row and felt the strength and depth of Serbia & Montenegro's bench as captain Dejan Bodiroga and center Nenad Krstic gave a boost offensively as soon as they entered the game to create the first double digit lead, 29-18.
But France responded with contributions from its own bench. Center Frederic Weiss had two easy baskets inside before Tony Parker - who was omitted from the starting five - had a personal 6-1 run to close the gap to 39-33.
The two sides traded baskets and free-throws for the rest of the quarter with France getting within four, 39-34 before Krstic and Radmanovic scored on a layup and a three pointer respectively to give Serbia & Montenegro a nine-point lead at half-time.
The second half began with two scoring runs - one by each team.
Rigaudeau had five points in a 9-0 run that tied the game at 44 all before Jaric and Vladimir Radmanovic combined for a 7-0 run that gave Serbia & Montenegro a 51-44 lead.
Radmanovic followed with two three-pointers, but Boris Diaw and Parker made tough lay-ups to bring back to within three, 57-54 at the end of the third quarter.
But France had to fight with Rigaudeau sitting on the bench with four fouls.
Nonetheless, the visitors took their first lead since the start of the game on a layup by Parker and the two sides traded baskets to keep the lead within three. Serbia & Montenegro had their last lead at 66-65 after Milan Gurovic converted two free-throws. Les Bleus eventually went up by four, 70-66 on another move inside by Parker.
Rakocevic got the homeside within two the next trip down the floor, before Florent Pietrus made a tough tip-in off a Parker miss to make it a four point lead for the visitors again.
France played the closing minutes of the game with a small lineup because big men Weiss and Cyril Julian each had four fouls.
The move paid off as they were faster to loose balls, and seemed to jump higher than Serbia & Montenegro's tallest players.
After the game, Serbia & Montenegro head coach Zeljko Obradovic talked openly about his team's problem of coming together and developing team chemistry.
"We had a long talk in the locker room and I tried to tell my players that we lacked good relationships during our preparations and that they needed to fix them to be good human beings," he said.
"I still think we are the best team here but the relationship problems that have gone on over the past two months have never been fixed.
"I told my players to look at themselves in the mirror and I will do so myself. I made a mistake in not trying to fix these problems earlier."
Rigaudeau led a balanced offense with 14 points and Parker broke from his poor form to chip in with 13 points and 3 assists, while Michael Gelabale finished with 12 and Diaw with 10.
Jaric and Radmanovic each had 14 for Serbia & Montenegro, but Jaric missed 5 of 8 free-throws. Krstic and Rakocevic each finished with 11.
France now looks ahead to its quarter-finals game against Lithuania and Bergeaud already knows what it will take to win.
"We must have the same desire and ambition to win as we did tonight. It's our objective to find it before Thursday night."
Serbia & Montenegro play their most important game of this tournament on Tuesday night so far with the greatest variable factor - their fans.
Should the host nation get off to a good start against France, they will have their fans' support throughout the game. But should they stumble early, will the crowd turn on them as they did against Spain?
France too have some intangibles to worry about, most notably the poor play of San Antonio point guard Tony Parker so far in the tournament.
Parker is said to be playing with nagging injuries and has so far failed to have the expected impact for Les Bleus, highlighted by his lacklustre performance against Slovenia when he went 1-12 from the field for only two points and one assist.
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Also of interest for the visitors, is whether Phoenix Suns swingman Boris Diaw has the mental strength to get himself out of a terrible free-throw shooting slump that may well have cost his team the game against Slovenia - and as a result either an automatic place in the quarter-finals or an 'easier' elimination game.
Diaw went 0-11 from the foul line against the eventual Group C winners and is a combined 4-22 from the charity stripe over the course of the three group games.
While Parker and Diaw may seem like the main culprits, the entire French team has struggled, shooting barely 40% from the field, 48% from the free-throw line and 20.4% from three point range in the group games.
The host nation got to work immediately after their win over Latvia on Sunday night as Serbia & Montenegro coach Zeljko Obradovic proceeded to watch film of France's games.
"I have the greatest amount of respect for the French team. They have shown in recent years that they are one of the best and most improved sides in European basketball.
"We played them in the tournament in Istanbul so I think we know already quite a bit about their style," Obradovic said.
"They are a very athletic team who likes to play a transition game. What we really need to do against them is keep them off the boards. They are an excellent rebounding side and the priority is to keep them from getting offensive rebounds.
"They may not be the team with the tallest players, but they see rebounding as something all five players should do and that's why they're good at it."
Obradovic's French counterpart Claude Bergeaud says France failed to live up to expectations and now are paying a huge price for it.
"We thought we could finish second in our group and thereby avoid having to play Serbia & Montenegro but it didn't work out that way.
"Now we need a miracle to get past this team. But if we can produce for 40 minutes the best basketball we've played here and there over the first three games, I say to myself 'Why not?'"
France are without a doubt the heavy underdogs in the game, as they have failed to play with some consistency in their Group C games.
Serbia & Montenegro on the other hand, fell to Spain on opening night, but have since recovered and lived up to expectations with two solid wins.
French guard Antoine Rigaudeau expects them to be tough to handle all over the court.
"They are tall and strong inside and out. They have a lot of well-rounded players who are more than capable of doing their share for the team," said the captain.
But France's Cyril Julian believes the pressure is really on Serbia & Montenegro to deliver what their fans expect - a win and a match-up with Lithuania in the quarter finals.
"They are the ones playing in front of thousands of fans in the arena, so they are the ones with the pressure on their shoulders. We're going into this game a bit disappointed with ourselves, but with nothing to lose really," said the center.
"However, for us to be able to put together the best 40 minutes possible, we'll need a lot more energy than what we've shown so far."
But Obradovic gives a final warning of his own - that Serbia & Montenegro don't expect an easy game and won't take anything for granted.
"We're in the elimination game round despite a very bad first game. The players have worked very hard to get to this point and the stakes are too high to take any team lightly. So we will be ready on Tuesday night."