France Stay Grounded After Beating Defending Champions

22.09.2005

By Simon Wilkinson

France whipped defending champions Lithuania to reach the EuroBasket semi-finals on Thursday but star point guard Tony Parker is keeping his feet on the ground with a tough fight against Greece now on the cards.

Parker came off the bench and was exquisite for much of the game as Les Bleus won 63-47. He finished with 11 points and five assists, but pulled the strings in a key first-half run which saw the French grab a stranglehold on the game.

"l feel we have a lot of work to do and are by no means the default favourites to win the EuroBasket," he said.

"I don't think that we are favourites going against Greece.

Our team has more belief now than we did two games ago
Boris Diaw

"We lost to them by 14 points in the group stages and we know it's going to be a tough game, but one we all look forward to so we can get revenge for that loss."

And revenge was the name of the game against the Lithuanians as well, as Parker & Co wanted to beat a Lithuanian side that kept them out of the finals at the EuroBasket in Sweden two years ago.

That setback was followed by a loss to Italy, which prevented France from qualifying for the Olympics.

"They (Lithuania) weren't the same team in terms of players," Parker said.

"But still, it's good enough for us to know that we were able to avenge a loss that has been in the back of our minds for the past two years."

Parker, especially had some unfinished business from that semi-final defeat in Sweden as he committed two costly turnovers late to help the Baltic country claim victory.

"For me this is definitely a good moment. I feel I've made up for those errors."

Boris Diaw was sensational for France against, pouring in 18 points and grabbing 11 rebounds while also dishing out three assists.

"Our team has more belief now than we did two games ago," he said. "Greece will obviously be a tough game, but like this game, we'll have revenge on our mind."

"I'm very disappointed," said Vidas Ginevicius, the Lithuanian point guard who cried after the defeat.

"We played the worst game of our preparation or the tournament and worst of all is the fact we left our worst performance for the most important game.

"It's easy to see where we went wrong if you look at the statistics."

Lithuania are usually one of the best shooting sides in the world. Tonight, they could have been the worst, making just two of 20 from three-point range.

They were also inferior on the boards, with France grabbing 47 rebounds to just 35 for the Lithuanians.

Antanas Sireika, the losing coach, said: "We played our worst game for a long time. I think maybe the pressure was too much for our young guys to handle, but all the same, congratulations to France. They played a great game."


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