Paris (AFP)

Already guaranteed to play in the 2022 European Championship, the French basketball players lost heavily against Great Britain 94 to 73, Monday early evening in Podgorica, for their last match of the qualifying phase.

Despite this setback, the first against the British since 1988 and the largest against this country, the Blues finished in first place in their group, with four wins and two losses, a record identical to their opponents of the day, but a better record in direct encounters (152-150).

The French, bronze medalists at the 2019 World Cup in China, had already secured their place at the next Euro thanks to their victory on Saturday against Montenegro 73 to 71. The British had also won their ticket for the continental competition thanks to their success against the Germans (83-81) and the victory of the French.

Saturday against Montenegro, the Blues had missed their first two quarters in attack (31 points scored), but had held in defense.

The same offensive scenario occurred on Monday against Great Britain (36 points in 20 minutes), but the defense cracked with 52 points conceded, the worst first period since the Euro-2017 game against Slovenia, while in the first leg, Great Britain had scored 56 points throughout the game.

- 51 points for Hesson and Soko -

"We played very badly. We started the match without energy, without intensity against a good team. After the first leg (victory 79-56), they wanted a revenge and to prove that they deserve their qualification for the Euro. It was by far our worst match since the start of qualifying, "said French coach Vincent Collet at a press conference.

Led by 23 points, the Blues returned to 11 points from the British at the start of the last quarter (73-62, 31st), but had to struggle late in the game to keep the points difference over Great Britain and keep first place in the group.

Vincent Collet gave all his players playing time, including Maxime Roos, who celebrated his debut in the blue jersey with 12 minutes of play, and nine points in the first two quarters.

Ovie Soko and Myles Hesson, both residents of the French Championship with Le Mans and Chalon-sur-Saône, ended the meeting top scorers with 27 and 23 points for Great Britain.

The Euro has been postponed by one year to fall 2022 (September 1-18) due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics to summer 2021 (July 23-August 8) .

The European Championship will take place in four countries: Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic and Georgia, with a final phase in Berlin.

© 2021 AFP