France Cruise To First Olympic Final

10 August 2012

France celebrate their Semi-Final victory over Russia at the London Olympics
France celebrate their Semi-Final victory over Russia at the London Olympics

France scaled new heights on Thursday night by defeating Russia to reach the Olympic women's final in London.

Pierre Vincent's side continued their magical, unbeaten summer with an 81-64 triumph over Russia, last year's European champions and winners of the last two Olympic bronze medals.

France, who were led by Edwige Lawson-Wade's 18 points, will now take on the United States in the gold-medal game.

The only time they have beaten the Americans was in 1971, at the World Championship in Sao Paulo, Brazil, when the legendary Jacqueline Chazalon played for Les Bleues.

The French, who earned a trip to the London Games by claiming one of five spots on offer at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Women (OQTW) in Ankara, led from start to finish against Russia.

They went in front by as many as 14 points in the first half before taking a 38-31 lead to half-time.

Russia kept the pressure on in the third quarter and closed the gap to 42-40 after two free-throws by Natalya Vodopyanova, but France played well and with confidence in the lead.

Emilie Gomis responded immediately for France, connecting from the arc for a five-point cushion.

Vodopyanova answered for Russia with a shot in the lane, but Celine Dumerc, in a rich vein of form for France, buried a three-ball to push the lead to six.

Every time Russia threatened, France held them at bay.

Marina Kuzina made a three-pointer to close the gap to 48-45, only for Isabelle Yacoubou and Lawson-Wade to each make two free-throws.

Dumerc nailed a three-pointer at the end of the third quarter for a 59-51 French lead and they remained in control the rest of the way.

France have now beaten Russia in two hugely important games the past three years.

They beat Russia in the gold-medal game of the EuroBasket Women 2009 and now again in the Olympic Semi-Finals.

"We are so happy, it's amazing," Dumerc said.

"They played really hard, really tough. But we were successful. There is so much joy. We're so happy."

Dumerc said this was a great moment for her country.

8. Edwige LAWSON-WADE (France)
Edwige Lawson-Wade was the top scorer for France, who will play reigning champions USA in the title game

"It's huge," she said.

"It's the first time the women are in the final. I hope we will talk about women's basketball now."

Emmeline N'Dongue, the veteran French center, said: "The guys, they lost their game (Quarter-Final to Spain) so we did this for them, too. It means so many things."

The road has been long and hard for France.

They played at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 but didn't qualify for the 2004 or 2008 Games.

They rebounded with the EuroBasket Women title in 2009, finished sixth at the World Championship in 2010 and captured bronze at last year's EuroBasket Women.

"When we started the preparation, we knew we had to pass through the qualification (OQTW)," Dumerc said.

"We said, ‘We have a great team, but who knows?' There are 12 great teams here but it's a matter for the court."

In the post-game press conference after the victory over Russia, Vincent was asked how he was going to prepare for the game against the Americans.

"I'm going to party," he said. "It's an exceptional moment in time for us and we're going to make the most of it."

Russia will now meet Australia in the battle for bronze.


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