Qualified Team Focus - France: Wemby and Embiid to reach the Final?
MIES (Switzerland) - The Draw of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 will be held in Manila, The Philippines, on April 29. It is now time to meet the 32 teams that try to become World Champions in a few months.
After Spain and Australia, next up is the number five team in the FIBA World Ranking Men, presented by Nike, 2020 Olympics Semi-Finalists and FIBA EuroBasket 2022 finalists France, who will be hosting the Olympics in 2024.
Les Bleus are going to the World Cup! 👋— FIBA Basketball World Cup (@FIBAWC) November 14, 2022
France 🇫🇷 have booked their ticket to #FIBAWC 2023 with another win! 🎟 pic.twitter.com/Ji3jji2zzh
How did they qualify
France head coach Vincent Collet did an excellent job keeping the team at an elite level and qualifying with one window to spare. He tried to maintain a core for the European Qualifers with eight players appearing in at least six of the 10 games - two of them in eight contests. And the French depth of talent showed with nine different players at least sharing top scorer honors.
Evan Fournier against Bosnia and Herzegovina in August 2022
The road to the 2023 World Cup nearly opened with an upset as France needed a late 13-1 run to knock off Montenegro at home 73-67. Montenegro did, however, hand the French their only loss in the First Round 70-69 in Podgorica on July 1, 2022. France fell for a second time in the Balkans less than two months later, losing a double-overtime thriller to Bosnia and Herzegovina 96-90 on August 27, 2022.
Three days earlier, 14,578 fans flocked to the Accor Arena in Paris to witness France's blowout win over Czech Republic and set a World Cup European Qualifiers attendance record - which would be broken a day later.
Collet and his troops charged to the Final of the FIBA EuroBasket 2022 in September and then finished the qualifying task in the November 2022 window which was highlighted by the debut of Victor Wembanyama. The superstar youngster collected 20 points and 9 rebounds in Lithuania and then picked up 19 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks against Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Other strong performances during the Qualifiers included Louis Labeyrie leading the team in scoring in the first three Qualifiers, Vincent Poirier picking up 18 points and 12 rebounds in the loss to Montenegro, Evan Fournier pouring in 24 points with 6 three-pointers in the thriller against Bosnia and Herzegovina and Sylvain Francisco going 5-of-5 on three-pointers for a team-high 21 points in Lithuania.
Best result at the World Cup
France had played at just one World Cup between 1963 and 2006 - that coming in 1986 - but Les Bleus have been regulars on the global stage since 2006. France reached the Semi-Finals for the first time in 2014 and took home the bronze medal and the team repeated that showing in 2019 with the third spot on the podium once again.
Last World Cup appearances
France were defeated by Greece in the Quarter-Finals in 2006 and hosts Turkey knocked them out in the Round of 16 in 2010. France ousted the hosts four years later, surprising Spain in Madrid in the Quarter-Finals to reach the top four in the world for the first time. With the United States waiting in the Final, France were tripped up in the Semis by Serbia 90-85. The French did bounce back and fended off Lithuania to at least take home a medal in the Third Place Game.
In 2019, France got through their First Round group undefeated but dropped a thriller to Australia to finish second in the second group stage. That meant a matchup with United States in the Quarter-Finals, but France dethroned the 2014 world champions 89-79. The French once again could not rise to the occasion of being one win from the Final as they were knocked off by Argentina 80-66. France did rebound once again however and made sure they left China with a medal in their luggage by defeating Australia 67-59 in the Third Place Game.
Players to watch
Coach Collet has a true embarrassment of riches to choose from and will try to find a 12-man group that can challenge to finally win the World Cup. Regardless of what the team looks like, France will have depth at every position.
The leaders will be Evan Fournier, Nando de Colo, Nicolas Batum and Rudy Gobert. Forming an imposing frontcourt with Gobert will be superstar youngster Victor Wembanyama. And let's not forget that Guerschon Yabusele had a great EuroBasket last summer. Vincent Poirier, Moustapha Fall and Petr Cornelie are ready to fill in if anyone is injured.
Terry Tarpey was one of the revelations of the EuroBasket team after being a Window hero with his perfect role player mentality while there are also youngsters like Theo Maledon and Juhann Begarin who will be fighting to make the team.
Now, let's address the elephant in the room. Will naturalized Joel Embiid join this team?
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"Joel got the US citizenship but I doubt he will play with the US", Evan Fournier told Mundo Deportivo today. "If he chooses France, he will be welcomed, we will receive him with opens arms, and we will be very competitive with another big man coming with us. We are building something very special."