Mateusz Ponitka predicted it. “A week ago, I announced that every tournament has its Cinderella. And here we are: we are Cinderella now”, smiled the captain of the Polish basketball team. In French, we focus more on another story, but it seems difficult to talk about Petit Poucet about a player who measures 1.98 meters.
Still, Poland is the fairy tale of Euro basketball, since an omnipresent Ponitka (26 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists) and his teammates fell from their throne, Wednesday September 14, the Slovenians, holding of the trophy (90-87). the “bialo-czerwoni” (“white and red”, in Polish) will face the French men’s basketball team on Friday September 16 (5:15 pm, on W9 and Canal+ 360) for a place in the final.
Poland’s victory in the quarter-finals had the effect of an earthquake, especially because the Slovenian Luka Doncic was prematurely sent to the cemetery of “giants”, where he joined two other headliners of the competition, Serbian Nikola Jokic and Greek Giannis Antetokounmpo. If the three superstars of the NBA (the North American basketball league) have given extraordinary performances in the continental tournament, their teams have broken their teeth against opponents who are more experienced in European games.
The Poles are convinced they can do it. “No team qualified for the semi-finals by accident. Before the tournament, they were all podium contenders, including us, insisted coach Igor Milicic. Few people believed in us, but we believed in it, and the four best teams in Europe qualified for the semi-finals. » Or Poland, France, Germany and Spain.
A “raised” Euro
Since the inception of the continental competition, the level of competing teams has been highlighted by many players and coaches, and Poland covers this very tight competition. “It will be a very strong Euro, because the eliminated remain very strong teams”, said Vincent Collet. The coach of the French team made Serbia the number one favorite, among “the six or seven teams that can go all the way”. He added the Poles to the list, praising them “unique defense network” against Slovenia.
“Give credit to Poland. Most see us as favourites, but Poland have a good team, just like Belgium in the last round.for his part hammered Luka Doncic after eliminating his family, rather than talking about the poor performance of his team. “It’s not enough to be the favorite on paper, Vincent Collet continued. From the quarters, the sublimation aspect is very important. » In contrast to the Italians, winners of the previous round in Serbia, his Blues were almost eliminated in the quarter-finals.
The four teams still in contention in the competition have one thing in common: they rely on a collective, often polished by time. “This is the first of all the teams that still exist. Fortunately, basketball remains a collective game, and [c’est] more [vrai] in international basketball, said Vincent Collet. Following the example of the Spaniards multi-medal winning technician Sergio Scariolo, “the best in fifteen years of all collective articulation”, according to French technicians.
“A team with a capital E”
“We don’t have an NBA player, not a Euroleague player [compétition privée et semi-fermée rassemblant 18 clubs européens], but a team with a capital Einsisted, euphoric, the Franco-Polish Aaron Cel, after the victory in Poland on Wednesday. We know that each player helps the other. We have been building these automations since 2014 [avec l’ancien coach, Mike Taylor]which creates osmosis, a collective state of mind. We changed coach a year ago, and he added his tactical dimension. » The Slovenians were particularly stuck in the Polish defence.
While many observers predicted a “remake” of the semi-final of the Tokyo Olympics between France and Slovenia (victory for the French in an attack in the dying seconds), it was Poland that therefore stood out route des Bleus for a place. in the final. And they do not take the task lightly.
“To ask if the planets align for us is to disrespect our opponents, warned Captain Evan Fournier. These teams play games very well, they really dominate them. We have faced teams that have won, and it is not said that the games are easier for us because we avoid [la Serbie ou la Slovénie] ».
The French team knows it has a small margin. Against Turkey, then against Italy, he almost found out the hard way. “There is fierce competition, summarizes Vincent Collet. The way we went showed that our opponents could be in our area. »
Friday night, the Blues will do everything they can to force the Polish Cinderella home before the final strikes.
Poland-FranceFriday September 16 (5:15 pm, on W9 and Canal+ 360), and live commentary on Le Monde.fr.