By Cindy Garcia-Bennett
France will be looking to stamp their authority on Group D when they take on Poland in Alicante on the first day of play.
Tony Parker, forced to miss last year's FIBA World Championship with a broken finger, is in Claude Bergeaud's team this year along with Boris Diaw but there are some notable absentees from 2006 with Mickael Gelabale, Mickael Pietrus and Johan Petro all left out.
However, les Bleus' play this summer in the build-up to the EuroBasket indicates by no means are they a weakened team.
France lost just two games - against world champions Spain and defending European champions Greece - while clinching nine victories in the lead-up to this tournament.
|Koszarek faces a tough|
test going up against Parker
Key Match-up: The 'Tony Parker of Poland', Lukasz Koszarek, will have to come up strong for his team if they are to have any chance of upsetting France. Koszarek is fast, athletic and a good shooter but lacks consistency and going up against the real Parker - the MVP of this year's NBA Finals - will be a most challenging task.
Statistics: France have struggled at the free-throw line and will be looking to polish that aspect of their game against Poland. Bergeaud's men converted only 11 of 21 (52%) attempts from the charity stripe in their 82-71 defeat against Spain, their last warm-up before the EuroBasket. Accuracy from three-point territory was also a problem for the 2005 European bronze medalists, who connected on just seven of 24 (29%) attempts from beyond the arc against the World Champions. Meanwhile, Poland look overmatched entering the EuroBasket with just two wins in their build-up. Keeping their turnovers down to a minimum and doing all the little things like hitting free-throws and limiting second chance points for France will be crucial.
X-factor: Parker will be the No 1 enemy for Poland. Having missed last year's competition in Japan through injury, he'll be desperate to lead his team into the Olympics as European champions. Their opponents have nothing to lose as they return to the EuroBasket for the first time since 1997. Andrej Urlep's young team have as their main priority to gain experience in order to be more competitive by the time they host the tournament in 2009.
Speaking out: "I really feel that this France team has progressed. We have improved as a team but also have more experience about the game. For two consecutive European tournaments we are the third team in Europe and now it is necessary that we pass the last hurdle. It is the most difficult one because the teams that are ahead of us are really strong." - France forward Florent Pietrus.