By Paul Nilsen
|This is exactly how everybody in France expects Céline Dumerc to look like after the final buzzer of the final|
An entire nation awaits with baited breath as EuroBasket Women 2013 hosts and tournament favourites France, try to land gold against Spain, the only other unbeaten team in the competition and one who would so dearly love to spoil the party.
Last Time Out: Les Bleues got off to a flying start in their semi-final against Turkey, but the wheels almost came off in disastrous style due to a final quarter offensive famine. However, France showed some serious mental toughness in crunch time to eventually prevail 57-49. Spain buried Serbia 88-69 underneath a relentless offensive onslaught in the first half, built around impenetrable defence, which their opponents couldn't breach with any kind of regularity.
Key Match Up: Who is going to guard Alba Torrens? That could be the big question and the match-up which has the most significant bearing on this game. Diandra Tchatchouang has been starting in the three spot and whilst powerful and athletic, it will be interesting to see if she has the quickness to effectively guard Torrens. In a game of this magnitude, winning personal battles is so hugely important and the one-on-one moments between these two will be real fun as well as decisive. If Tchatchouang isn't on the floor and Torrens still is, then this will be even more intriguing.
Key Stat: You would be hard pressed to find two teams more closely matched in almost every statistical category. The one worrying statistic for the home team could be their free-throw shooting, which is an underwhelming 63.3%. With a gold medal on the line, France may have to secure an instant upgrade to finish top of the podium and especially if the game is close as many expect. That could mean free-throws making the difference down the stretch.
|Amaya Valdemoro could sign off an incredible career with a EuroBasket Women title, something Spain have been waiting for since 1993|
X-Factors: There is a real contrast of styles and there will be a titanic struggle to dictate the tempo. France will undoubtedly want to utilise their superior frontcourt size and experience in order to batter Spain into submission, preferring a half-court game. Cautiously controlling the ball and limiting turnovers at all cost, France will probably try to wear down Spain in the paint. In contrast, Spain have more panache and are happy to play a more expansive and liberal brand of basketball, which relies more on getting fast-break scores. But, the struggle comes in how they are able to get out and run. Turkey wanted to do this, but France did a wonderful job controlling the glass. And, if Spain want to pressure the ball to try and get some precious steals on the perimeter and middle of the court, they might not get a lot of change from the irrepressible Celine Dumerc. It's a potentially wonderful game in every way. The big issue for France is how they stop the numerous scoring sources of Spain, who have circa 9-10 players who could all potentially come up with an MVP performance. This really could be a classic.
From The Camps: "I expect to win. I tried to explain to the players that played really well last summer. This is another year - we want to win for sure. I expect we will be at our maximum, passionate, strong and that we will stay together. Then we will see what happens." French head coach Pierre Vincent.
"My philosophy is to only be worried about my own team and to do the right things. If you don't do your own things well, then it doesn't matter who is in front of you - you will lose the game. In our Federation, the most important thing is taking care of our players to make sure they feel confident and have the confidence of the coaches coming into games." Spanish play-caller Lucas Mondelo.