MANILA, Philippines – “I’m still sleepy,” confessed French basketball player Nicolas Batum as he prepared for himself what was essentially both breakfast and lunch. “I slept late. We were all watching the Euros (the UEFA Euro 2016) and we were in a celebratory mood after the big win.”
Two French national teams are currently playing in two separate tournaments thousands of miles apart.
The football version, also nicknamed Les Bleus, defeated World Cup champion Germany, 2-nil, in the semi-finals that was played at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille, France. They now advance to the final against surprising Portugal. (READ: Griezmann double sends France into Euro 2016 final)
The basketball counterparts who also bear the same monicker, triumphed over tough New Zealand, 66-59, to enter the semi-finals of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for the 2016 Rio Olympics. In the next stage, they battle familiar European foe Turkey for the right to advance to the final and avail of one of the last 3 tickets to the Summer Games.
“It is a rare moment for our country that we are competing in two major tournaments,” shared France basketball head coach Vincent Collet. “Right now, one is for a championship while for us here in Filipinas, it’s to go to Rio.”
“We know that the people and press in France is focused on soccer,” threw in forward Boris Diaw. “We follow it too. Watching the tournament it’s big, it’s in France. It’s also big for Europe.”
The win, with the two goals scored by forward Antoine Griezmann, has put the national football team on the cusp of its second European championship. They last won it in 2000. “It’s a great result,” lauded Diaw. “[To beat the World Cup champions] that shows a lot of character to the team.”
Members of the team watched at the sports bar at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza while some of the coaches went out to a nearby bar in Makati City.
“Hopefully we can qualify so the French people will have more to cheer about,” added point guard Tony Parker.
The semi-finals of the FIBA OQT is on July 9 where Canada and New Zealand battle at 6:30 pm while France and Turkey lock horns at 9pm. The final, should France make it that far, will be played the following day at 9 pm. Both game days will be held at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City. – Rappler.com
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