|25 August 2013|
| Leticia Romero is just one piece that makes up the 12-strong Spanish armada, with any of the pieces holding the ability to cut down their opponents|
By Paul Nilsen
The elation of defending champions France was immeasurable after their intense semi-final success, but now Les Bleues have the unenviable task of trying to stop red-hot Spain in their tracks during the U18 European Championship Women title game.
France emerged victorious from a memorable and absorbing 62-60 last four win against Serbia, with the players eager to celebrate the team ethic which has taken them all the way to the final in Vukovar.
"What makes this team special is the solidarity," insisted forward Lysa Millavet.
Standing alongside her, Fleur Devillers was also quick to contribute her own take on the team spirit and rock solid contributions which have taken France to the brink of another gold medal.
"We are very proud of each other as individuals and also of what we achieve as a team," said the guard.
"It is an amazing feeling to have won against Serbia, because it was such a huge game.
"All 12 of us were shaking when we, the team, had to play strong defence at the end.
"It shows how close we all are and now we have to show that we can beat Spain.
"Sure, it will be difficult, but we have the passion and we can again believe in ourselves"
In a spontaneous hug, the pair embraced and simultaneously screamed: "We love France!"
There's little doubt such a patriotic statement is so very believable, even if at times, any overt sense of emotion and passion on the court is regularly superseded by an ice-cool calmness.
An outwardly level-headed approach is epitomised by the way Devillers drained a buzzer-beating three-pointer from the wing to keep France on the front foot with six minutes remaining in the semi-finals.
|"Sure, it will be difficult, but we have the passion and we can again believe in ourselves" - Fleur Devillers |
France are a team similar to their final opponents in the sense that they do not truly have any big stars, but have a roster where anybody and everybody can make a telling contribution.
But, can they really control the tempo? This is perhaps the most pertinent question ahead of this last mouth-watering game of the tournament.
France have strong defence, a frontcourt which can perhaps out-muscle Spain and they also have several shooters with the temperament to make clutch shots.
More of a half-court game will suit France. Certainly more than the upbeat pace preferred by the Spanish, who will push at every opportunity the kind of whirlwind play which blew out Sweden and the Netherlands during the quarter and semi-finals.
To even begin to think about dictating tempo, the French backcourt must firstly handle the defensive squeeze which they know will be applied early.
Both teams are yet to lose a game and there will be only one certainty by late Sunday evening.
Only one set of players will still be able to still make that particular boast - and it will be accompanied by a gold medal hanging around their respective necks.