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France survive Iran scare
GRANADA (FIBA Basketball World Cup) - Evan Fournier on Thursday played the best game of his 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup campaign thus far to help France overcome an aggressive Iranian team 81-76 and seal a place in the Round of 16.
Backed by local fans, who nearly sold-out the Palacio Municipal de Deportes in Granada, Iran - a team that Boris Diaw describes as "group with a lot of pride" - almost caused one of the biggest upsets in this year's edition of FIBA's flagship event.
France and Iran contended for the final spot in Group A to advance to the Final Phase in Madrid.
Fournier, who averaged 12 minutes per game in the first four games, came off the bench to stop an Iranian team that led by as many as 10 points in the first quarter and cut the deficit to just five points with under two minutes left to play.
The 21-year-old improved France's offensive game with his lethal shootings from behind the arc - he hit 3 for 5 attempts from three-point territory - on his way to 13 points and grabbed a ticket to Madrid, where they will play the Final Round of the competition.
Despite a considerable number of France fans at the venue, the Denver Nuggets shooting guard said it was "fun to get booed a little bit by Spanish fans. It was a good atmosphere."
Now, he says, it is time to get ready for the tougher part of the competition.
With their Round of 16 opponents unknown when they finished their game - it could be any of Greece, Argentina or Croatia - Fournier said: "We have one more day to get ready. We are going to play very hard with a lot of confidence and make shots.
As for the remainder of the tournament, which could see them come up against Spain Fournier insists the European champions "won't be intimidated."
France head coach Vincent Collet paid tribute to Fournier.
"Evan has probably played his best game since the beginning of the competition, which is good for us because he has potential.
"But up until now, it was a little bit difficult for him. He is a young player, and this is his first time playing at this level (senior national team competition).
"Today he played well. At the end we tried to give him two minutes as a point guard. We have two point guards who have been doing a good job, and Evan will remain as shooting guard."
In order for France to succeed in their ambitions of going as far as they planned in the competition, Mickael Gelabale says they will need to be adopt a tougher attitude.
It does not matter who we play because fans will support the opposing team. - Gelabale
"If we play aggressive we can compete with a lot of teams," he said.
"If we play Spain it is going to be hard for us in Madrid. We'll need to stay focused on our game and not listen to what opposing fans say."