|Céline Dumerc came out firing when France needed her most, draining three triples in the last minutes|
By Paul Nilsen
Turning Point: France were definitely on the rack and looking for a hero when trailing 77-74 with just over two minutes to play. That was when FIBA Europe Player of the Year Celine Dumerc stepped up to hit three huge triples to swing the game the way of the hosts and inflict heartbreak on Sweden.
Stats Don't Lie: Sweden were sensational all night. They shot 61.5% from downtown and even out-rebounded their opponents. But, the control and caution of the French was important. Their 20 assists stood out.
Game Heroes: Dumerc wrote the headlines and deservedly so, for showing her class and taking over the game with her late show. She finished with 16 points but Edwige Lawson had 14 points and six assists, alongside a nice cameo by Gaelle Skrela with an efficient 13 points from five of seven floor shooting.
Celine Dumerc rescued France to the delight and relief of packed house in Orchies, as the EuroBasket Women hosts won a breathtaking and dramatic quarter-final clash 87-83 against a superb but crestfallen Sweden.
In one the most gripping and entertaining women's games in recent memory, Les Bleues were taken to the wire by a Swedish team that could barely have played better.
Showing great stomach for the fight and also making an array of tough jump-shots from all over the floor, Sweden had France seriously sweating.
But, France had a bona-fide game winner in Dumerc - something Swedish head coach Lars Johansson readily admitted.
"Yes, I think Dumerc was eventually the decisive factor," he confirmed.
"She is a world class player and they have so many - I take my hat off to her."
Meanwhile Gaelle Skrela admitted Sweden had given the stiffest test so far for the favourites.
"It was a tough game for us, the most complicated game since the beginning of Eurobasket Women," said the French guard.
"We showed we had heart and that we also have a team-spirit."
France had enjoyed a terrific opening, racing into an early 14-4 lead, but Sweden set the tone of things to come when they returned from a timeout to post a 13-2 burst of their own to move ahead.
The aggression and tight zone defence of the Swedes frustrated France as they fell 37-31 behind but an important triple from the corner by Anael Lardy helped France cut the gap to a point at the interval.
Soon after play resumed there was real concern for France when Dumerc got her fourth foul and sat down with 16 minutes still left on the game clock.
Whilst Lawson took the playmaker reins to help her team move 60-54 clear, Sweden kept making shots from all angles.
France led by one heading into the last ten minutes but as Sweden edged back ahead, France seemed nervous as they missed successive lay-ups.
Dumerc returned with five minutes remaining and the game locked up, but both Frida Eldebrink who played alongside Dumerc at Bourges last year and her twin sister Elin made a flurry of tough jumpers.
Frida Eldebrink then made an 'And-1' play to put Sweden 77-74 ahead, but her former teammate had the last word, with a spectacular late show in what was a memorable, absorbing game.
Sweden Player Katarina Andersson:
"We are now very dissappointed but we know we played against one of the best teams in the world. It was a tough game but we have to forget it and be focused on tomorrow's game, because we have a great opportunity to qualify for the World Championship for the first time."
Sweden Head Coach Lars Johansson:
"Congratulations to France and also to my players because we showed such a good display... They have so many world class players that it is very difficult to stop them, and today [Celine] Dumerc was an important factor, I take my hat off, but we were still very close to get the win."
France Player Gaelle Skrela:
"It was a really tough game, the most complicated game of this championship up to this moment. We showed that we are a team with a lot of heart, and our experience was very important to win."
France Head Coach Pierre Vincent:
"Today both teams showed that we must respect women's basketball, it was a big promotion of our sport. They played really good basketball, because they are a very good team, talented and young. Now we have to continue, and against Turkey it will be also very close game. They are stronger inside than two years ago, but both teams are on the same 'wave', we started having success at the same time and we know each other very well."