Ahead Of Final France, Serbia Praise Team Effort

02.08.2009

As they prepare ahead of Sunday's final of the U18 European Championship Men 2009 in Metz, France, head coaches Vladimir Jovanovic and Philippe Ory are likely to stress one common thought to their respective teams: "one player doesn't make a team, all 12 players make a team."

And both of them should know, having seen their teams overcome perhaps the two best individual performances of this tournament in Saturday's semi-finals.

Enes Kanter had 32 points and 25 rebounds for Turkey who came up short as they lost 66-61 to Serbia, whose high-scorers were Dejan Musli and Nemanja Jaramaz with "just" 14 points each.

6. Mael Lebrun (France), 12. Kévin A. Mondésir (France)
Coach Philippe Ory wasn't sure how much the inexperience of his young players would affect the team's effort
Jonas Valanciunas then went for 37 points and 19 rebounds in Lithuania's first defeat of this tournament, falling 68-63 against hosts France who had only two players score in double-figures (Mael Lebrun with 18 and Evan Fournier with 12).

Ory recalled seeing Serbia beat Turkey in a preparation tournament in Slovenia last month when Kanter had another monster game.

"Kanter must have had 35 points in that game but Serbia won and that's what matters. One player doesn't make a team," he said. "Serbia are a real team - as are we."

Discipline and sticking to a strict routine - those are what the last two teams standing practice and preach.

Take Serbia for example. They were scheduled to train on Saturday morning ahead of their semi-final against Turkey but they cancelled - not for the first time - late the night before. Were they going to take it easy? Certainly not.

"I brought a very good delegation here and I trust the conditioning coach and assistant coaches," said Jovanovic.

"They all have experience. We have played a lot of games late in the afternoon or evening in this tournament. We have a plan on how to function when the game is at 4pm or 6pm and we stick to it.

"I think it's very important that the team is fresh for the game even if it means skipping practice because in this type of long tournament it's very important to conserve energy."

As for France, what has worked for them is keeping the players accountable at all times as well as going into isolation to some degree.

"I have a group of coaches who are very strict and I know that I'm very strict myself," said Ory. "For us to be successful, we felt we had to cut ourselves off from the outside world a bit. That made us a close-knit group and better enabled us to stay focused on the goal which is to win."

Many expected Serbia to make it this far in the tournament, but the same cannot be said about France - even if they are playing at home.

Earlier this week, Ory conceded his players lacked in experience and because of that he couldn't realistically predict what a good overall result in the tournament would be.

The French Federation though had some expectations they were hoping the team would meet

"They [the French Federation] told us they would be happy if we made it to the semi-finals," Ory said on Thursday.

Did the head coach find that target to be too ambitious?

"I think it is. We don't have enough players with the right kind of experience of these international competitions."

Now that Les Bleus find themselves in the final, has his team surpassed even his own expectations?

"We haven't surpassed our expectations because we never did say out loud what we thought we could do," Ory argued after beating Lithuania on Saturday.

One thing he is delighted by is the obvious growth of his team over the course of their time together, from the start of their preparations up until now.

"As part of our preparations for the tournament we played 17 games. We needed that to get the players familiarised and improve the team's play.

"At the start of the tournament, we were a bit overwhelmed. But now when I look back on it, all of our experiences to this point have made us stronger and this is why we are in the final."

So as Serbia and France prepare to battle it out in the final, one word of caution: don't expect the unexpected - it's jut not their style.


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