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France's tower of power Gobert yearns for more World Cup success
PARIS (France) - France star Rudy Gobert doesn't need to live in the past because his present, and future are so bright. But he does enjoy looking back at one of the greatest summers of his life, when he played at the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain five years ago.
A main cog in the France national team setup, Gobert will play this summer at the World Cup in China where the giant center hopes he experiences more moments like the ones in 2014, when Les Bleus finished third.
"I have so many good memories about this tournament," Gobert, 26, said to FIBA.basketball. "The win against Spain, the training camp to get ready for the competition, the Third-Place Game and the joy we all shared by winning this bronze medal, that was an amazing experience. Nobody expected us to have such a good run, and we did very well. Never underestimate any team in any competition!"
“IT'S ALREADY BEEN FIVE YEARS (SINCE 2014 WORLD CUP), AND WE WANT TO DO SOMETHING GREAT AGAIN THIS SUMMER IN CHINA. WHEN YOU WIN A MEDAL OR A TITLE WITH THE NATIONAL TEAM, THAT'S SUCH A SPECIAL AND AMAZING FEELING.”
France upset hosts Spain in the Quarter-Finals, 65-52. Gobert had 13 rebounds to go with his five points and also the most famous block of the tournament, a swat of Pau Gasol.
After a narrow defeat to Serbia in the Semi-Finals, France won 95-93 over Lithuania in the Third-Place Game.
"We had some very good games and we reached a medal," Gobert said. "It's already been five years, and we want to do something great again this summer in China. When you win a medal or a title with the national team, that's such a special and amazing feeling. I want more of those."
France will be thinking big in China, but doing so in the knowledge that every game is crucial. They must perform extremely well in the first couple of rounds just to reach the knockout stage.
Les Bleus will take on the Dominican Republic, Germany and Jordan in First Round Group G. Those games will be played in Shenzhen. A top-two finish would see them advance to the Second Round in Nanjing and take on the sides that finish first and second in a Group H that consists of Canada, Lithuania, Australia and Senegal.
"Australia, Canada, Lithuania and many more teams are also very ambitious," Gobert said, "so we will have to bring our A game to get to the top spots."
The teams that finish in the first two of that Second Round group will advance to the Quarter-Finals. The opening round should be anything but easy. Germany beat France in the Round of 16 at FIBA EuroBasket 2017 while the Dominicans advanced to the Round of 16 at the World Cup in Spain.
“WE KNOW GERMANY AND A BIT ABOUT THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, BUT I DON’T KNOW THAT MUCH ABOUT JORDAN. AT THAT LEVEL, EVERY TEAM CAN PLAY VERY WELL AND IS A DANGEROUS OPPONENT, SO WE WILL TAKE EVERY GAME WITH THE SAME FOCUS AND DETERMINATION.”
Jordan are more of an unknown entity for Gobert.
"We know Germany and a bit about the Dominican Republic, but I don’t know that much about Jordan," Gobert said. "At that level, every team can play very well and is a dangerous opponent, so we will take every game with the same focus and determination."
If Jordan, who came out of the Asia Qualifiers, are the underdogs going into Group H, they are indeed dangerous just as another team from Asia, Lebanon, were 13 years ago when they upset France at the World Cup in Japan.
Gobert and France could face Australia in the Second Round at the World Cup
Gobert does believe France can go far in China.
"We want to have a great run, and try to fight for the tops spots (at the World Cup)," he said. "Nothing is impossible, we want to fight for the best and we would like to write another great page in France’s basketball history. The level of the competition is going to be very high, so a lot of teams can reach the top three spots."
If there were any lingering doubts about Gobert's participation, he laid those to rest. He will be at the tournament in the Far East.
"Yes, absolutely," he said. "It’s one of my goals for this year and I'm looking forward to competing in China this summer. There are still plenty of months before the beginning of the tournament, but I want to wear the “bleu” jersey this summer and represent my country."