|Clémentine Morateur perimeter shooting was deadly in the quarter-finals, expect it to be a factor again in the final|
By Paul Nilsen
Sat with a perfect record and one game away from another gold medal showdown, there is much for reigning champions France to be satisfied with at the U18 European Championship Women and especially head coach Arnaud Guppillotte.
The play-caller was dancing for joy after his team breezed into the last four with a wonderful 73-42 win against Turkey, something which meant plenty for many of his players who have not necessarily been used to success.
"It was a great performance against Turkey because for most of this generation, they have never reached the last four of a tournament," explained Guppillotte.
"We are also very proud because we are without six main players who are injured, but we have a great team spirit.
"They are a very good group at knowing what they have to do together as a group both on and off the floor and also how to do it well.
He continued, "We have won every game because they believe and have the self-confidence and desire to take it day-by-day and give everything which is absolutely perfect in this kind of tournament situation."
One example of a newcomer to the situation is Marine Johannes who has put her outside shooting touch to great use, along with Clementine Morateur one of the few players to have been in this situation previously.
She and the impressive Mousdandy Djaldi-Tabdi both won a bronze at the U16 European Championship Women in Greece three years ago.
A last four match-up against Serbia is a perfect penultimate day of the competition for Guppillotte, since they are the one team he really wanted to meet at this late stage of the tournament.
|Aleksandra Crvendakic has grown game-by-game, driven by the support from the bleachers|
"I have many friends in Serbia and so to play them in a semi-final game is a very big story for me personally," said the coach with a smile.
"They will have a lot of fans and it will be a really tough game for both sets of players, but I think it will also be a good game and a good test for both sets of coaching staff."
Serbia certainly will be able to take to the floor with the benefit of strong backing in the stands, a feature of their participation in Vukovar so far.
There are few more experienced coaches in European basketball than Zoran Kovacic and the wily campaigner will know his team have benefitted from feeding off the energy from those supporters gathered courtside.
But, it will take a whole lot more if he wants to match the bronze medal he delivered in Bucharest last summer.
Serbia will be determined to continue playing the attractive and generally successful brand of basketball which has lit up the majority of their campaign so far.
Aleksandra Crvendakic, Dragana Stankovic and Sanja Mandic have all grabbed the attention so far, but it has also been the unsung heroes behind the headline acts which have also taken Serbia to the brink of more medal success.
Evidently it will not just be the leading trio who must perform against France, but also the likes of invaluable role players such as Danica Piper and Ines Corda, a duo who do so much of the dirty work off the ball and are the first to throw themselves onto the floor in a hustle play.
It promises to be a physical, intense and intriguing match-up.