The reintroduction of Sandrine Gruda late in the game steadied France and assured they remained unbeaten
By Joe Hewison
Turning Point: The Czech Republic made a run at the French in the final quarter and cut the lead to seven. But the re-introduction of Sandrine Gruda, six minutes from the end, saw the hosts wrestle back control.
Stats Don't Lie: France pulled down 17 offensive rebounds, dwarfing the Czech Republic's total of five. Not only did this give the hosts a huge advantage in terms of second - and in some cases third or fourth - chance points, but it was mentally draining for their opponents having to defend for long stretches.
Game Hero: France made the paint their own again and much of that was down to Sandrine Gruda. The 25-year-old had 21 points and 10 rebounds, holding off the challenge of the Czech Republic's powerful frontcourt.
France Head Coach Pierre Vincent is still searching for more balance from his offence after they held off the challenge of the Czech Republic behind Sandrine Gruda's 21 points.
Both teams had already qualified for the quarter-finals before this game but the Czech Republic gave the French possibly their stiffest test yet.
But once again France's domination of the paint and offensive boards brought them victory, although Vincent would prefer not to rely on his frontcourt so heavily.
The hosts made a good start but were unable to shrug off the Czech Republic as they had done with other teams earlier in the competition, leading by just five (17-12) at the end of the first quarter.
However, the second period saw France widen the gap. The lead was stretched to 15 when Gruda completed a strong three-point play.
This momentum was carried through the third quarter until a 7-0 Czech run early in the final frame helped to reduce the deficit to seven (52-45).
This forced Vincent to re-introduce his starters to finish the job, which they did with an 8-0 run.
Vincent said: "The girls are under pressure because they have a lot of expectations so they don't shoot threes.
"They want to make everybody happy and they feel the pressure. We are so strong inside that we give so many balls inside but I told them, we don't need to do that more.
"They never come to me and say ‘hey coach, I'm not getting the ball'. They have the ball they need so we just need balance."
Katerina Elhotova hit a couple of big shots on her way to nine points as the Czechs came back in the fourth.
Despite his disappointment at the result, Czech Republic Head Coach Lubor Blazek was proud of the way his players pushed the hosts where others had folded.
Blazek said: "We forced the French team to run their starting five again so they couldn't just let go until the end.
"Some teams have just given up against France before the start but we didn't do that."