France's Mustapha Sonko believes there is a real chance that the in-form ‘Les Bleus’ can go on to win the European Championships.
The French reached the semi-finals for the first time after defeating Russia 76-60, on the back of great performances from Boris Diaw, Jerome Moiso and captain Tony Parker.
“We performed excellently in defence by stopping (Andrei) Kirilenko and by limiting their drives to the basket,” said Sonko.
||Now we want Gold !
“Some players, especially me, had heavy legs but we are now going to be able to recover and gather our forces for the semis.
“The most important thing was to win these quarter-finals and qualify for the semis. Now we want gold.”
Meanwhile, after Wednesday night’s victory, Parker insisted that qualifying for the 2004 Athens Olympics was his side's main objective.
“I was expecting a difficult match, and seeing France in the semis is one part of the contract completed,” said the San Antonio Spurs star.
“We want a medal of course but the most important thing is to go to the Olympics next year.”
France will face a strong Lithuania side on Saturday afternoon, and it promises to be a tough match.
The Lithuanians ousted defending champions Serbia with a 98-82 win on Wednesday.
France coach Alain Weisz expects the Lithuanians to provide stern opposition on Saturday.
“The Lithuanians performed impressively against Serbia,” said Weisz.
“They dominated the match fully.
“We know that to beat them we will have to be at our best level. It is no surprise to find them in the semis. They are very athletic and they can shoot.”
France’s qualification for next summer’s Olympics will be confirmed later on Thursday, should Greece beat Italy.
The Greeks are already assured of their place in the Olympics which they host, and France are desperate to join them in Athens.
Together with the Serbo-Montenegrin world champions and Greece, three European teams qualify for the Olympics from Eurobasket 2003. France would be confirmed as qualifiers if the Italians lost.
“I think Greece have a chance of defeating Italy, and I must admit that we do count on that,” Weisz added.