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Okobo and France ready for another chapter in rivalry with Germany
PHOENIX (USA) - One of the unwritten rules of sports says it is always harder to retain the crown than it was to win it for the first time. France will know all about it, as they are set for another charge at the podium.
"The goal is to try to have the same kind of result this summer, too," Elie Okobo said, talking about a potential repeat of the bronze-medal winning performance at the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain five years ago.
"I THINK WE HAVE TO BE AMBITIOUS AND FIGHT FOR A MEDAL... WE HAVE TO BRING OUR A GAME AGAINST EVERY OPPONENT, STAY FOCUSED AND BE READY TO WIN EACH GAME."
The field is much closer this time around but Okobo is confident about France's chances at China 2019.
"I think we have to be ambitious and fight for a medal. But for this, the training camp and the whole preparation will have to go perfectly well for everyone and we have to be healthy from day one. A competition like a FIBA Basketball World Cup is very intense and, as many teams are going to be ambitious, we will have to be physically, mentally and collectively ready for this competition," the Phoenix Suns guard explained.
Okobo is coming off of his first NBA season, in which he played 53 games, started 16 of them and managed to average 5.7 points and 2.4 assists in 18.1 minutes per game. He mentioned other teams are "going to be ambitious" and pointed a finger at the one waiting for France in the 1st Round of the Group Phase.
"We know Germany a bit more than the others as they beat France at the last FIBA EuroBasket. So there may be a little taste of revenge to beat them this summer. We have to bring our A game against every opponent, stay focused and be ready to win each game," Okobo said about the bouts with Germany, the Dominican Republic and Jordan in Group G.
If France advance, they would face teams like Canada, Australia, Lithuania or Senegal.
"Canada, Australia, Lithuania can fight for medal spots and we all know they're going to be very dangerous to play against. They're opponents of ours in our quest to the top spots, but we have to focus on ourselves and win."
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Luckily for Elie and France, they can't face Greece, Spain or Serbia that early in the competition. But as the 21-year-old says himself, "if you want to have a great run, you have to win every game or most of them," even against the NBA's leading MVP candidate.
"I would say Greece (can have a great run in China 2019). They have a lot of talented players that compete in the best teams in Europe, and they have probably one of the best players in Giannis Antetokounmpo. If he decides to play this summer, Greece are going to be one of the toughest teams to beat, as he is such an impactful player on both ends of the floor. He can be one of the superstars of the World Cup."
"WE KNOW GERMANY A BIT MORE THAN THE OTHERS AS THEY BEAT FRANCE AT THE LAST EUROBASKET. SO THERE MAY BE A LITTLE TASTE OR REVENGE TO BEAT THEM THIS SUMMER."
Okobo is hoping he will make the final cut, and get to see China as a member of the French national team. His senior national team debut is out of the way after he played three games in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers.
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"I learned a lot, it was a super experience for me, to be 20 years old and play against the best teams in Europe. I can't wait to wear the 'bleu' jersey again! It would be a nice experience for every player, and for the young ones, to gain some more experience at the highest level by competing on the world stage," the man from Bordeaux offered.