Without its NBA and Euroleague players, with Andrew Albicy to guide a relatively inexperienced group, the French basketball team must take two decisive steps towards Euro-2022 by beating Great Britain in Pau on Friday (6 p.m.) then Germany on Sunday (3 p.m.).
"In terms of experience, it's detrimental. On the other hand, in terms of level, it's a good omen": Deputy general manager Boris Diaw, tutelary figure of the Blues, thus summarizes the dilemma of a private team of his best elements from America (Nicolas Batum, Evan Fournier, Frank Ntilikina, Vincent Poirier, Rudy Gobert) and from Europe (Nando De Colo, Thomas Heurtel, Paul Lacombe, Moustapha Fall).
At least, those who compete in the prestigious Euroleague.
The Minor European Cups are not such tough competitors, coach Vincent Collet can still count on four survivors of the 2019 World Cup: Amath M'Baye (Karsiyaka / TUR), Mathias Lessort (Monaco), Axel Toupane (Strasbourg) and Andrew Albicy (Gran Canaria / ESP).
The latter, oldest of the group at the top of his 62 selections, will be the captain of a team made up three-quarters (9 out of 13) of Pro A players, minus the Asvel players mobilized by the Euroleague and who could only have been present for the second match.
"In 2018, it had not been a great success, we had decided not to do it again", recounted Collet.
"We decided to go with the same group from the first to the last day."
Even if he recognizes that the absence of Fall, Lacombe and Guerschon Yabusele represents "a difficulty" for the Blues.
Difficulties, the neo-captain Albicy also knows in Las Palmas, within a club which points to a sad penultimate place in La Liga.
"This week of cut will do me good to clear my mind, change me from the negative dynamic in Gran Canaria", recognized the leader.
His experience in this position will be invaluable in showing the way to Axel Julien (Dijon, 13 caps) and David Micheneau (Boulogne-Levallois, 2 caps).
"We will give him the role of leading his teammates in the direction we want," confirmed Collet.
He insisted all week on "the defensive aspects" in order to obtain a "stronger aggressiveness than that shown in our first matches".
- The English at the turn -
At the end of February, the French had been dominated in Germany (83-69) before dominating Montenegro (85-66) in Vendée.
In a group of 4 where two places are to be taken in addition to Germany, automatically qualified as host country, it is therefore "to take two steps towards qualification", claimed Collet.
And since the Germans "don't really care about this race, the game against Great Britain is really the more crucial of the two."
The Blues are wary of the British in "atypical" basketball, according to Collet who sees them as the "most athletic" opposing team in the pool.
"His players have been there for several years, they are so used to playing together in the selection, it does not vary" and "relaunch at all costs", he analyzes.
Winners of the Germans (81-73), the subjects of His Majesty in particular "caused a lot of problems for the Germans by defensive switches, with not large interiors but who like duels", details Collet.
He is also wary of a "British state of mind that does not back down easily".
It is up to the French graduates to show that they are more than liners.
Group G program in Pau:
(6:00 p.m.) France - Great Britain
(9 p.m.) Germany - Montenegro
(3:00 p.m.) France - Germany
(6 p.m.) Great Britain - Montenegro
Montenegro - Great Britain 81-74
Germany - France 81-69
France - Montenegro 85-66
Great Britain - Germany 81-73
1. Germany 50% (+6)
2. France 50% (+5)
3. Great Britain 50% (+1)
4. Montenegro 50% (-12)
© 2020 AFP