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Collet stresses need for France to keep winning momentum
PARIS (France) - France have already clinched a spot at this summer's FIBA Basketball World Cup in China but coach Vincent Collet doesn't want his players taking their foot off the pedal in their sixth and final window of the European Qualifiers.
In Group K, France are two victories clear of the Czech Republic with a 9-1 record. They play at fourth-placed Finland (5-5) on February 21 and then conclude their campaign with a February 24 home game against the Czechs.
"THE TWO GAMES ARE IMPORTANT BECAUSE OF THE GLOBAL RANKING AND THE WORLD CUP DRAW SO WE WANT TO PLAY TO WIN. WE'RE GOING TO PREPARE FOR THESE GAMES THE SAME WAY WE DID IN THE LAST WINDOWS, WITH WINNING AS THE ONLY GOAL."
Collet spoke to FIBA.basketball ahead of the team's last two games on the Road to China 2019.
What is France's mindset heading into the last couple of European Qualifiers?
Despite having already qualified, we have to remain focused. We want to play these games with the same motivation and teamwork that we've had up to now. The two games are important because of the global ranking and the World Cup draw (the top eight sides in the FIBA World Ranking Presented by Nike will be first seeds at the draw) so we want to play to win in order to also show our competitiveness no matter what. We're going to prepare for these games the same way we did in the last windows, with winning as the only goal.
What's been the biggest lesson learned by France in the Qualifiers?
I think we did pretty well to adjust our roster during each window as the same players weren't available throughout the entire campaign. The main lesson learned is that we've had a perfect state of mind, despite having used more players than during the previous qualifying campaigns. All the guys that came to play were driven by the goal of doing great and playing for the team, which is very important for a group of players and for a coaching staff. Every player wanted to help the team in one way or another and they've done very well so far. Now, the guys that are coming to play for the last window have to finish the job the best way possible and I'm sure they'll have this competitive mindset.
What's been the high point of the Qualifiers for France?
I think our biggest performance so far was the one in Russia (84-78 win). We had a very good game, and the Russians are always a very tough team to beat. We were able to play at our highest level and we were all happy to have won this game in Russia. It's always hard to win there. They always have a very good team and at home, it's their fortress. This game showed what we could do and that we wanted to keep going forward in this campaign with another win. In a different context, maybe we wouldn't have won in Russia but we did very well in that game and we won this one.
What can France achieve at the FIBA Basketball World Cup?
We're ambitious and we have to give everything to make this ambition something that can allow us to make a very good run in China. For example, we last played at FIBA EuroBasket 2017 in Finland and Turkey, where we played with less fighting spirit and less spirit of unity compared to previous tournaments. We have to have a winning mentality and we have the obligation to do better in terms of unity, teamwork and being focused. If we're able to do so, and I'm sure that we can do so, we have the right to be ambitious. With the team that's going to compete in the tournament, we have the potential to do something very good.
You said not that long ago that the pool of players of France is one of the deepest ever.
Yes, the pool of players that can play in the national team is very deep and it's great for French basketball. I'm very happy to see this but our goal for the next tournament is the same as always: to build the most competitive roster in order to reach our goals. It's very good to hear that a lot of players want to play this summer and, knowing this, we're going to build the most competitive roster we can.
"WE'RE AMBITIOUS AND WE HAVE TO GIVE EVERYTHING TO MAKE THIS AMBITION SOMETHING THAT CAN ALLOW US TO MAKE A VERY GOOD RUN IN CHINA. IT'S GOING TO BE AN AMAZING TOURNAMENT WITH SO MANY COMPETITIVE TEAMS. THE FIGHT FOR THE MEDALS AND FOR THE TITLE IS GOING TO BE TOUGHER AND TOUGHER."
With teams like Australia, Canada and many others around the world that have played well in the Qualifiers, what can we expect from the tournament in China?
It's going to be an amazing tournament with so many competitive teams. The fight for the medals and for the title is going to be tougher and tougher. Despite this, we know we have the potential to achieve great things in China. We see this as amazing for the world of basketball, as many more countries have competitive national teams now, but we're also focused on our talent and potential. Other countries have been doing a very good job over the last couple of years, but we believe our competitiveness is very good and that with our roster, and if we have a great winning mentality, we have the weapons to have a great run this summer.