France, Turkey Meet On The Rebound

19.09.2009

By Simon Wilkinson

France will look to bounce back from their lopsided Quarter-Final defeat against Spain and take a step towards securing a place in next year's World Championship when they face Turkey in the first of Saturday's 5th-8th place games.

After winning their first six games, Les Bleus lost to Spain 86-66 on Thursday, but are well aware there is still something to play for in their remaining two games, having learned that the hard way over the past two years.

At EuroBasket 2007, Russia edged out France 75-71 in their quarter-final clash and the latter then lost their games against Croatia and Slovenia to finish eighth, thereby missing out on a berth for last year's pre-Olympic tournament.

As a result of those two defeats, the French had to go through a long and gruelling qualifying process in order to earn a place for this tournament.

They failed to win their berth at the first time of asking, finishing second in Group B of last year's Qualifying Round with a 3-3 record - including home and away defeats against Turkey - before eventually punching their ticket to Poland following their win in last month's Additional Qualifying round.

Therefore, Vincent Collet's men will not take Saturday's game lightly, and now know all too well that it holds more meaning than just the final standings of this tournament.

As hosts of the World Championship, Turkey have their place assured for next summer, but they will want to finish their campaign in Poland on a positive note in order to let their fans know they will be a side to be reckoned in 2010.

Bogdan Tanjevic's side suffered their second overtime defeat in a row on Friday, falling 76-74 against Greece in a thrilling game.

Hidayet Turkoglu led a fourth quarter charge that saw Turkey go up by six, 63-57, on the captain's three-pointer with 2:23 left to play, but Greece used a 7-0 run to edge back in front 65-63 on Nikolaos Zisis' made free-throw with 18 seconds remaining in regulation. The Turks sent the game to overtime on Ender Arslan's lay-up that beat the buzzer.

The Greeks scored 10 of the first 14 points for a 75-69 advantage on Vasileios' three-pointer and they just about held. Turkoglu missed his chance to tie and, after Zisis hit another foul shot, Arslan missed a three-pointer that could have won it.

Turkey will have a tough time getting over the fact that they were agonisingly close to reaching their first EuroBasket semi-final since 2001, but must put that aside in order to focus on the task at hand.

Head-to-head: France lead the series 11-4, but Turkey have beaten them the last two times, both in last September's Qualifying Round for this tournament. The Turks won at home 77-65 and, with their own place in this tournament booked, then proceeded to beat Les Bleus 80-78 in Limoges, forcing them to go through the Additional Qualifying Round.

Last time out: France went down 86-66 against Spain, suffering their first defeat of the tournament and crashing out in the last eight. Turkey came up short against Greece, losing 76-74 after overtime and failing to reach the semi-finals for the fourth time in a row.

Key match-up: Boris Diaw v Hidayet Turkoglu. These two versatile and athletic players are actually point forwards and the offense often runs through them. Whichever one does the best job of involving his team-mates early on might just hold the key to victory.

X-factor: Can Tony Parker bounce back from his worst performance of the tournament? The San Antonio Spurs star guard was held to just six points against Spain and made just one field goal.

Stats: 11 - The number of turnovers France committed in the first half alone of their loss against Spain (they finished with 17 in all). Eleven is also the number of times Turkey gave the ball away against Greece - in a game that went to overtime.

Sounding-off: "We have to learn from what happened two years ago (at EuroBasket 2007) and the mistakes we made back then. We can't win a medal but we can qualify for the World Championship." - France forward Boris Diaw.


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