France Overwhelm Still Tired Spain In Bronze Medal Game

By Simon Wilkinson, PA Sport

France and Spain both wanted to put last night's semi-final heartbreaks behind them to at least salvage a bronze medal.

But it seemed only France was able to get over the defeat of the previous night as they thrashed Spain 98-68 to earn their first medal in the European Championships since 1959.

"We said last night in the locker room that obviously we were disappointed to have lost to Greece in that way but that it was best if we played without that weighing on our minds today," said Boris Diaw. "We actually managed to use the loss in

I'm really proud to be a part of this team and to see how they supported me when I was having trouble early on
Tony Parker
the semi-final as a source of motivation for the third place game.

"Winning the bronze medal shows that all the hard work and preparations we did over the course of the summer weren't in vain."

And team-mate Mickael Gelabale believes France is on the right track for the next big tournament - next year's FIBA World Championships in Japan.

"As a team we were able to learn from the losses we had early in the competition and become a better team. The way we have been playing since the game against Serbia & Montenegro is how we should keep playing for as long as we can."

San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker saved his best performance for this game, pouring in 25 points and dishing out 5 assists and was aware of what the win meant not only for the team, but for the nation as well.

"This is a great moment for France. Two years ago in Sweden, when we lost to Lithuania in the semi-final, we didn't really know how to approach and play a bronze medal game against Italy," he said.

"But this time around we had the experience and we showed that we could play with the best in Europe."

For French head coach Claude Bergeaud, this game was a success for more reasons than just the bronze medal.

"I am proud to see how our players stuck together through the highs and the lows. They could have given up in the group games, but they didn't. Instead they realised their best chances of accomplishing anything in this tournament would be if they played even more as a team and helped each other out."

Parker sees a great difference between the team as it was for the game against Spain and the side that lined up against Greece ten days ago.

"I think we were able to grow a lot over the course of the tournament. There's no question that we are much improved since our first game. I'm really proud to be a part of this team and to see how they supported me when I was having trouble early on."

As for Spain, there was little head coach Mario Pasquera could point to in order to explain the final score other than his players' fatigue.

"We just looked tired really. As much as we wanted to be ready in time for this important game, I'm not completely satisfied with the way we came into it," he said.

"We can't take anything away from France though. They came out and played 40 minutes of good even great basketball. They were too strong for us tonight."

Nevertheless, the fourth place was not all bad for the Spanish head coach.

"Getting to the semi-finals was very tough. I don't know how it looked from the outside, but it took all our best games to get to that stage of the competition.

"I'm proud of the way our guys played from the first game to the last. Today we lost, but they did all they could despite the fatigue. And that's all you can ask for - to see your players play their best."

Juan Carlos Navarro, who finished with 17 points, believes his team-mates and he did all they could to put the loss to Germany in the semi-final behind them in order to focus on today's game.

"Last night was tough and as you can imagine we all got down afterwards. But we picked ourselves up and came out to play today. We just didn't have nearly as much energy as France had."


25.09.2005 - By Kevin Anselmo
25.09.2005 - By Simon Wilkinson, PA Sport

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