Follow the World Cup on Facebook
Can Argentina wield more magic against France in the Semi-Finals?
DONGGUAN (China) - After Argentina's convincing win over Serbia, it seems the Argentinians may be peaking at the right time, but that theory will be tested when they try to hurdle a determined France in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Semi-Finals.
Both teams are getting to Beijing on a high after pulling off upsets against Serbia and USA. They deserved the headlines, they celebrated their wins, and both are now one win away from the World Cup Final.
Argentina won the inaugural World Cup in 1950 and played the Final in 2002, while France have never taken part in the title game. Their third place finish from 2014 was France's only time on the podium.
Remember that the last time Argentina met France at the FIBA Basketball World Cup was in 2006, which Argentina won, 80-70. In fact, France have never beaten Argentina at the World Cup in three tries. The French have beaten Argentina just once at the world senior level, and that was seven years ago in London 2012. Defeating Argentina would be another milestone they can notch with a win in the Semi-Finals.
Team Overview - Argentina: Coach Sergio Hernandez has maybe the most fluid team in the entire tournament. They displayed amazing ball and player movement in their rousing Quarter-Finals win over Serbia, negating their opponents' size with outstanding playmaking and efficient shooting. At the forefront, of course, was the backcourt wizard Facundo Campazzo, who just took over that contest. Obviously, France will have to find a way to slow Campazzo down lest he runs rings around the French guards. It also goes without saying that France need to keep the timeless Luis Scola in check. The 39-year-old is Argentina's leading scorer, and if he puts up big numbers again, the South American side will be plenty tough to beat.
Team Overview - France: Coach Vincent Collet received a lot of praise from opposing head coach Gregg Popovich after the French's historic upset over USA. It was well deserved, of course, as Collet made smart adjustments throughout the game to leverage their team's size and guard depth. Speaking of the guards, much will be expected from the trio of Frank Ntilikina, Evan Fournier and Nando De Colo here as they are set to fight Campazzo, Laprovittola and Vildoza all game long. In the paint, Rudy Gobert needs to continue asserting himself, especially with Argentina not really having anyone who should be able to match up with him in terms of size. If Gobert records another big double-double in the Semi-Finals, it'll may be lights out for Argentina.
Key Matchup: For much of France's win over USA, Frank Ntilikina hounded All-NBA Third Team guard Kemba Walker from one end of the floor to the other. His length and aggressiveness took Walker out of his rhythm, and that's exactly what Ntilikina needs to do again here against Campazzo. It'll be easier said than done, of course, as Campazzo is crafty and shifty, and unlike Walker, Campazzo can do a better job seeing the floor and finding his teammates.
X-Factor: France are the deeper team here, but that was the same story with Serbia. Argentina overcame that by showing that their supporting cast can step up on the big stage, and they'll need to reprise that here. In particular, guys like Gabriel Deck, Luca Vildoza and Nicolas Laprovittola need to hold their own against France's second unit, which will likely be carried by De Colo. If coach Hernandez's bench shows up again, Argentina should be in a great position to win.
Stats Don't Lie: Coach Hernandez mentioned the importance of efficient offense after they beat Serbia, but he will find that the French may be more potent than their previous foes. Coach Collet's unit are making good on 52 percent of their field goals as opposed to 46 percent for Argentina, so trying to outgun the French may not be the best idea for the Argentinians. One other key statistic will be rebounding. On average, France are far from being the best rebounding team with just 33.0 per game [Argentina have 39.0 rebounds per game], but against Team USA they were +16 in that department. If Gobert & Co. rule the boards once more, they have a great shot at knocking Argentina off.
They Said: "We have to get ready for Argentina, and we know it's going to be a huge challenge for us too. [Beating USA] doesn't mean much if you don't win the gold." - France center Rudy Gobert
"We are really focused on the next game because we know how good Argentina is. Argentina is very experienced. They fight so much. They are proud. We know them. They are used to being in this round. Remember in 2002, they beat Team USA before losing in the Final. And 2004 they won the Olympics in Athens in the same way. We know they will be very dangerous. And I hope we will be ready for Friday." - France head coach Vincent Collet
"France is one of the best teams in the world. They have good shooters, good big men, they run the floor. We know we are not big or athletic, so we need to play really smart - spacing, timing, passing the ball all the time. We respect tactics and strategy. We are so competitive that we love to win, and we can only we win by playing really smart." - Argentina head coach Sergio Hernandez
“I don't know what to say, I'm very excited. This team deserves to be where it is because of our character; the group is phenomenal. Our team is doing very well since the beginning of the tournament and before as well. We have been talking about the fruits of all the work that we have been doing together." - Argentina forward Gabriel Deck