France shocks Spain, giving Team USA clearer path to gold


VIDEO: FIBA: Day 2, Quarterfinals Wrap

MADRID — The dream of a Spain-USA final at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup is dead.

France ended it Wednesday with a stunning, 65-52 defeat of the Spain in the quarterfinals, playing a near perfect game to keep the hosts from even playing for a medal.

The USA’s chances to win its fourth straight international gold increased dramatically with Spain’s ouster. The Americans still have to get through Lithuania in the semifinals on Thursday and the winner of Serbia-France in the gold medal game on Sunday.

After a 2-3 performance in Group A, Serbia has played fantastically in the knockout rounds, beating 5-0 Greece and 5-1 Brazil by a total of 46 points to reach the semis. And if France continues to play the defense that it played on Wednesday, it can beat anybody.

But Spain was obviously the biggest threat to the USA’s winning streak, now at 43 games after Tuesday quarterfinal win over Slovenia. In fact, Spain looked like the World Cup favorites, with a full roster and a raucous home crowd behind them. Group A was the toughest pool in the tournament, as evidenced by its 4-0 record against Group B in the round of 16, and the hosts rolled through it, beating Brazil, France and Serbia by an average of 19.7 points.

On the other half of the bracket, Australia made a clear effort to avoid the U.S. until the semifinals and better its chance for a medal with who and how they played in their final pool-play contest. France had the opportunity to do the same with Spain, but played its final Group A game to win.

“We know, being third, we could cross with Spain in the quarterfinals,” France coach Vincent Collet said after his team’s win over Iran last week. “That’s basketball.”

Australia played to lose and then lost to Turkey in the round of 16. France played to win and pulled off the biggest upset that we’ve seen in a long time in international basketball. They simply outplayed Spain on both ends of the floor.

“For Spain, it was not that easy to play against us a second time,” Collet said afterward. “I think the big spread (24 points) of the first game was something important for us, because it was more motivation. We used it. We showed the players how bad we looked during the first game sometimes.”

The French players said they came in with a nothing-to-lose attitude and felt that all the pressure would be on Spain if the game was close down the stretch.

“It’s tough sometimes for a team to play at home,” Boris Diaw, who led France with 15 points, said. “I think we had the motivation to win and they had the motivation to not lose.”

But the pressure wouldn’t have been on the hosts’ shoulders down the stretch had France not played terrific defense. It started in transition, with France holding Spain to two measly fast break points.

In the half court, the Spanish guards mostly got nowhere on pick-and-rolls, as the French bigs hedged and then recovered quickly to their man. France’s rotations were sharp, keeping Spain from getting clean looks at the basket. As a result the hosts shot a brutal 2-for-22 from 3-point range.

Inside, the Spanish frontline of Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka was neutralized by Diaw and France’s pair of young centers, Joffrey Lauvergne and Rudy Gobert, who both played the games of their lives.

Pau Gasol scored a game-high 17 points, but didn’t dominate like he had in earlier games. His brother and Ibaka both shot 1-for-7.

Lauvergne played the Gasols strong in the post, forcing them into tough shots away from the basket, and grabbed 10 rebounds in less than 17 minutes of action. Gobert outrebounded the Gasol brothers, 13-12, himself.

Gobert, the 22-year-old who played in just 45 games as a rookie for the Utah Jazz last season, has had a limited role on this team, backing up the smaller Lauvergne at center. But at 7-1 with a 9-foot-7 standing reach and a lot of bounce, he has a world of potential. He played a tourney-high 23 minutes on Wednesday and was, for the first time, on the floor down the stretch of a close game.

“He has a real desire to do good,” Collet said. “I think the dunk early in the game tonight gave him special energy and, for sure, he did an incredible job.”

Gobert had a strong Summer League. But this was a much bigger stage. He started to realize some of that potential on Wednesday, taking on the challenge of defending Pau Gasol and holding his own. He came up with one incredible block of an Ibaka tip-in and later swatted Gasol at the rim.

“He was incredible on defense,” France point guard Antoine Diot added. “When he plays like this, with his head, he’s fantastic.”

“For myself, I always knew I could help the team win,” Gobert said. “All my teammates played great offensively and I just had to guard Pau, because Pau is one of the best players in the world. If you stop him, they’re not the same team.”

Indeed, Spain played awful, and not just on offense. While France’s defense was near perfect, Spain’s guards got beat back-door countless times, leading to layups, open shots and offensive rebounds for France.

“We weren’t well prepared for this game,” Juan Carlos Navarro said.

Spain had looked determined to win this tournament on its home soil and to avenge gold-medal-game defeats to the U.S. in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. Both Gasols showed up in Granada for pool play in terrific shape, while Navarro looked sharper than he did for FC Barcelona last season. Spain was a juggernaut through its first six games, jumping out ahead early and bullying its opponents into submission.

But when it was forced to play from behind and feel the pressure of a nation of fans on its shoulders, the team crumbled under all that weight. After trailing by seven at the half, Spain forced turnovers on France’s first four possessions of the third quarter and took a one-point lead into the fourth. But France answered with a 7-0 run and put the building on high alert.

“We kind of knew if we stay close,” Nicolas Batum said,  “at the end of the game, they’re going to doubt, because they can’t lose that game.”

They did lose that game. There will be no USA-Spain final, because the hosts failed to do their part.

“It was a painful loss, disappointing,” Pau Gasol said. “This team had such high expectations. We had played an incredible tournament up to this point. It just wasn’t our night.”

63 Comments

  1. FRENCH says:

    You did not have any challenge since the beginning of the WC, and you have been on the easiest side of the bracket (good or bad thing actually?). No real contenders (come on… Brazil, Spain, Serbia, France were on the same group). But as an nba fan and to be realistic, the only danger for team USA is itself, everybody expects them to win, and they have not been put to the test yet, not always very good to be overconfident…

  2. John says:

    Greece forever #yolo

  3. Jn says:

    So much for Sir Charles and his prediction about Spain beating the US. Didn’t he also predict that his Suns would beat Jordan and the Bulls? I guess he would have felt a little dumb if US won against them but since they fell to France he must really feel stupid!

  4. Thomas says:

    Message to El Stone:

    Africa is not a country!

  5. spain just had a bad day…but clearer path to the gold? I don’t think so

    • 4 peat baby says:

      U lost cuz u were arrogant and overconfident and more worried bout usa than france.Hopefully usa wont make same mistake and itll be 63 straight and basically first country to pull off a 4 peat

  6. Tommy says:

    Shooting 2-22 from outside is bad but sometimes you have the game like that. The most disappointing was spanish frontcourt which was outplayed by undersized Diaw and 2 youngsters, 20 rebounds difference is brutal. Actually Pau played his standard-17 points(none of them easy) 8 reb. but Ibaka and especially Marc were absolutely terrible. Even worse than stats tell you. He couldn´t catch ball, set screen, move his feet…I also miss leadership from younger spanish players. Pau Gasol and Navarro were leaders and go-to guys for last decade but they are already past their prime and wont be there forever…

  7. El Stone says:

    Ibaka is Spanish?

    I could have sworn he’s African. Or Wookie.

  8. Spain coach has led the team horribly

    • Nick says:

      I agree! Spain was woefully out-coached. They had the size, but didn’t take advantage of it. On the contrary, they let France dictate the game. Spain had very little ball movement, especially movement inside/outside to take advantage of the bigs. No post play, either! Unbelievable! Pau could have scored 25 – 30pts easily, or he would at least have caused France’s defense to collapse on him leaving open shots for the perimeter players. Man, you would think a team the caliber of Spain would be able to attract a decent coach!

  9. Rangers says:

    Also, this has to be pointed out: Spain was over-hyped on purpose. Nobody would watch these games if usa didn’t have “a real threat”. Spain had average Rubio, past prime gasols and ibaka. That’s solid, but not very good.

    The 2008 Spain team was muc better

    • The Truth says:

      I agree…
      Breaking News Team USA always had “a clear path to Gold” this year. People fell for the hype that Spain was gonna knock USA of the top spot, or at least that’s what NBA writers wanted us to believe. There really is no threat for US right now, will there ever be? If USA does not wiin the championship round by at least 40 points I’ll be shocked.

      • kobefanjay says:

        by 2020 or team canada could feature 5 of the top 10 players in the nba plus more…likely not enough to overcome the USA but should be some solid competition…they should be involved in things within next couple of years…

  10. Mitsos says:

    I can tell you why Spain lost. I have lived in Spain’s hotel and the atmosphere for them was very relaxed. All day they were
    taking part in photo shoots for advertisments and they obvoiously thought the could reach the finals easily. Most of all, they underestimated their opponents. France played smart basketball with great coaching tactics that Spain didn’t have. No matter how good your players are individually you can’t win with a coach (Orenga) that never ”coached” Spain in the previous games and let the team in auto pilot. Spain was used to beat opponents by double digit points. When the game didn’t go as they expected they lost it
    Sorry for my english!

  11. #30 says:

    Charles Ebak, eat your words,,hahaha Ahole.

  12. vern says:

    France played hard and you could tell they wanted to beat Spain in the worst way. France did make lots of bad decisions that made anyone watching question why they kept reaching committing dumb fouls. They also took too long to get into their offense which on several occasions caused them to toss up bad shots with one second left on the clock.
    Spain was to over confident and in my opinion was looking past France. This started as a go through the motions game for Spain and once France got going ,Spain had to play catch up and unfortunately for Spain, France saw the light at the end of the tunnel and refused to take the foot off the pedal.

  13. vern says:

    So much for another failed Charles Barkley prediction!

  14. Really? says:

    The reason Spain lost, was because they were already thinking about the final. Judging from this article, the author is also putting a lot of emphasis on the final, although US is not even there (oh yes, one sentence about US getting past Lithuania…). This is the kind of false security that makes good teams lose. I sure hope this is going to be another case to prove the point.

  15. Franck says:

    What a game for the french team . What a defense ! Hope to see an USA / France in final But Serbie is in a good mood and form .. Big games to game tonight and tomorrow. Love It

  16. JJ says:

    this is another proof to bet on the opponent of whose team Charles Barkley will bet on..sorry Charles its another Epic fail for you..you really dont know how to pick teams,you just go by those teams who is a crowd favorite..just like the Miami-Spurs Charles..

    • TTKIN says:

      There were millions of other people (and several other broadcasters) who all picked Spain too. It wasn’t just one guy thinking that.

    • Julien says:

      I’m french and even me thought France won’t beat spain even if i wanted it, i wouldn’t have bet on it,
      We have a long story against spain with lots of loss in European championship of basketball. we were able to win it last time with TP but with him not here and after the first game really not sure we could win.
      Now we can celebrate and hope to go in Finals against USA

  17. BogOtac II Srbija says:

    Srbija jebe keve 😀 Poderacemo Francuze, Lauvergne je nas covek nece on protiv Srba igrati dobro, I u finalu cemo satrati vas Amere kao i 2001-ve… Steta samo sto nije finale 11-og septembra da vas po drugi put unistimo 😀

  18. Question says:

    France won FIBA Euro 2013 (beat Spain in semis). Spain is the ‘favourite’ to win FIBA WC 2014. Now that France beat Spain (again!) why are the USA all of a sudden the favourites to win? Surely France’s performance in this WC and last year’s Euros makes them the favourites??

    Please could someone explain why France is being dismissed as legit contender??

    I’m predicting a close final between France and USA!

    • Shaq says:

      I agree. Problem however is that TP is not part of team France.

    • Rangers says:

      USA has been the favorites for every single basketball tournament ever. USA has all nba players, mostly Allstars, while the other euro teams have a couple of good players and majority of non nba players. France has diaw…and that’s about it. They will get destroyed if they play usa.

      • Eddy Grifffff says:

        france has a solid team and sometimes euro league players arent stars in the nba because of the style of play. Rudy Gobert looked like a star yesterday playing with his style of team/game and was allowed to play his game. There are other players that havent been able to play a certain style but can “let loose” with the opportunity.

    • The Truth says:

      Question, you are kidding right?

    • birdie says:

      USA isn’t “all of the sudden” the favorites. They have been from the start. Did you just regain consciousness after sleeping all year?

  19. wheresthabeet? says:

    I’m glad Spain lost. Serge Ibaka needs to get focused on winning a title with OKC.

  20. Lithuania says:

    Hey!!!! Lithuania still has not lost! Beat us first then brag about no competition left! Two years ago we lost only by 5 with Lebron, Carmelo, Kobe and Co., so its not over until the fat lady sings!

  21. Jo says:

    sportsmanship, fair play, team-spirit, cojones,… prevailed against arrogance, flopping, play-acting, rigged draw – even refs who were btw under constant pressure of Spanish subprofessional coach and his arrogant and unsporting players could not prevent it…

  22. jumppong says:

    this is Epic!!! Epic Fail Sir Charles Barkley LOL!!!

  23. Chris says:

    I’m just hoping one of these remaining teams gives the US a real fight. These blowouts make the Spurs historical win margin over the heat look small. I root team US all the way, but I want to see the rest of the world put up a fight in the process. This isn’t even the best the US has to offer.

    Kudos to France though, I can only imagine how much more they’d have killed Spain with Parker.

  24. jumppong says:

    Hi Mr CHarles Barkley??

  25. Marco29 says:

    What a great win for our French national team: great defense and high intensity on both ends of the floor. Who would have though any team could outrebound the Gasols and Ibaka 50 to 28 or hold the Spanish team to only 52 points on a 2/22 shooting from the 3!!! Seeing the faces of the Spanish players in the final minute when they were down by 10 or 12 was priceless.
    US is a clear favorite against Lithuania who is quite inconsistant over 40 minutes but they should consider seriously whoever wins the Serbia-France semi if they don’t want to live the same desillusion than the Spaniars.Both teams have raised their intensity level since the group plays and will play their hearts out to upset the US.
    This French win against the tournament favorites has proven that anything is possible.

  26. hello says:

    this is definitely a charles barkley fail. lololollzlzlzz

  27. fibafan says:

    quarter semis should be at least best of 3. one lucky night doesn’t mean they are the better team.

  28. jake s. says:

    I realize a lot of people beside Charles favored Spain to win it, but it just doesn’t make sense if you think about it. Yes, Spain had some wiggle room with bigs, but where are the “smalls”? I do have to say though, that even if Spain was bigger, team USA would just outrun them and shoot a bunch of triples when Spain clogs the lane. USA has too many snipers. USA has the absolute advantage on fastbreak. Their bigs can run.

    • The Truth says:

      Well said,
      You know I really wish Spain had gone on to match up with USA because Spain is too slow it would be embarrasing to watch.

  29. oh well…serbia can still win and get that gold to lead the history of fiba in gold medals

  30. Vincent Herring says:

    To Spain….. ahhaaaaaaaaaa……

  31. calstud29 says:

    Now when we win people will still say we would have lost to Spain. I’m sure the USA team is pissed. They wanted to play Spain as much as we wanted them to play Spain. And now Demarcus Cousins doesn’t get his chance to be the secret weapon. It makes me sick. Good going Espana. Way to ruin the tournament.

  32. Eiffel says:

    It is a pitty that Tony Parker & Joachim Noah are not on the French squad.

  33. Ashame of Orenga, the Spanish coach. He’s previous CV was almost nothing. It is said that the second coach was training with his future team instead of preparing and scouting the game, such a arrogant behaviour. Pau was treating in Barcelona, there are no doctors in Madrid that he needs to leave the team. Marc had a baby and also was out and just arrive for the game. Look a friend team instead of a team that deserve the medal gold or at least be competitive against USA

    Thanks Orenga for spoiling the best generation of Spanish players. Great how you rotate the players, you give the specific role to everyone….

  34. Ophir says:

    Spain failed because of their poor coach…
    I never got to understand why a very capable team like spain has those horrible unknown spanish coaches.
    why not hire Blatt, Messina or Obradovic?!

    I promise you that David Blatt would have reached the finals with this Spanish team through the phone and with one hand tied behind his back…

    Spain might be the most talented team outside the US ever but this team is also one of the biggest losing teams in history,,,

    • sasha says:

      You know nothing about basketball. Serbian top coaches would never coach other country but Serbia.Second thing this Spanish team is overhyped.Only Gasol is pure quality.Other players are just not good enough.Winning 1 gold doesn’t make you best team ever after the US teams….Yugoslavia with Divac,Kukoc,Drazen Petrovic,Dino Radja,Aleksandar Djordjevic,Bodiroga,Danilovic,Paspalj…..thats the best team ever my friend.Wor in former Yugoslavia prevented us from winning the gold in Barcelona 92′. I will never , ever forget that…

  35. gin says:

    i only watched 10 or so minutes of the game. but i would totally blame the coach of spain for this loss. the amount of diff lineups and players this guy ran was insane. just because u have a buncha good players doesnt mean u have to play them all = minutes. constant subs and diff lineups in a team that isnt together often just promotes friction. rudy fernandez or whatever proves again why he cant get playing time at portland, i wonder if the dude ever practices shooting

  36. Tony Jaa-Jaa Binks says:

    This loss will teach Spain to be more humble, and learn how to deal with the pressure of being the favorites.

  37. Aleksandar California says:

    Spain is out of WC, Merci France! Well deserved win. As for clearer path – don’t bet on it…Serbia(then Yugoslavia)stunned USA in the middle of USA and that US team compared to this one is THE DREAM TEAM. Go Serbia!

  38. daryl says:

    charles barkley attention. Spain will win FIBA W2014..lolz 😛 😛

    • kobefanjay says:

      I think he self-projectionizes himself as Marc Gasol from what ive seen or heard lol…he is always ranting about how good and tough marc gasol and zach randolf are…it didnt surprise me at all when he picked spain…

      • The Truth says:

        In two years from now you’ll pick up a basketball card blow the dust off it and see Pau Gasol and say “Hey, I remember that guy”.

    • Vladimir Radmanovic says:

      second that