Paris (AFP)

Drafts in attack for a good twenty minutes, the French basketball players snatched the victory against Montenegro 73 to 71 on Saturday night in Podgorica, a success synonymous with a ticket for the next European Championship, postponed to autumn 2022.

With this fourth victory in five qualifying matches for Euro-2022 (September 1-18), the French are guaranteed to finish one of the first two places in their group, qualifying for the competition postponed for a year in due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

They will face Great Britain, also qualified, Monday late afternoon (5:00 p.m.) for first place in the pool.

The victory of Great Britain late Saturday afternoon against Germany (83-81) in Podgorica put pressure and a big stake on the match of the France team against Montenegro in the evening, the hosts being forced to win to avoid elimination, and the Blues can find themselves in a complicated situation in case of defeat.

And this pressure was seen.

The Blues stammered their attacking game for 20 minutes, with 12 stray balls (8 in the first quarter), and only 31 points scored against a Montenegrin defense well in place.

It was the Dijonnais Alexandre Chassang (11 pts) and Axel Julien (6 pts), on two award-winning shots in the heart of the 3rd quarter, who put the Blues back in the game, while the gap had risen to eleven points in favor of the Montenegrins (46-35, 26th).

- Heurtel puts the French ahead -

A swing which then continued under the impetus of captain Andrew Albicy (5 pts), who went to cause an unsportsmanlike foul, scored the two free throws and a two-point basket in stride to recover almost completely to the score (46-45, 27e).

The Blues, however, continued to race behind, and were still behind by five points at the entrance of the last five minutes of the meeting (64-59, 35th).

As a sign of fate, it was Thomas Heurtel, 16 points and top scorer for his return to the France team 18 months after his last game in the blue jersey in August 2019, who scored the three-point basket allowing the French to finally take control of the meeting (65-64, 36th).

The end of the match turned into a crossover between the two teams.

The two-point basket followed by the free throw scored by Isaïa Cordinier (9 pts) in the last minute gave the Blues a decisive three-point advantage (71-68).

In the fall of 2022, the Blues will want to erase the underperformance of Euro-2017 and the elimination in the round of 16 against Germany.

Before that, they will try to go for the Olympic podium in Tokyo this summer (July 23-August 8), their qualification for the Games being already assured thanks to their bronze medal at the 2019 World Cup.

© 2021 AFP