Three reasons Serbia can get bronze again, three reasons France can deny them
TOKYO (Japan) - The penultimate day of the Women's Olympic Basketball Tournament in Tokyo will see Serbia try to secure successive bronze medals while archrival France try to deny them the honor in what is a repeat of the FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2021 Final.
France won silver at London 2012 and so are also chasing their second podium finish in the competition. Here are three different reasons why each nation can get the job done.
Been there seen it, done it
While five years of water has passed under the bridge, a large chunk of the roster already knows what collecting an Olympic bronze medal tastes like. Serbia finished third at Rio 2016 on their debut at the Games and that experience of having been there, seen it and done it, should help calm the collective nerves for this huge game.
The one standout team feature of Serbia winning that glorious FIBA Women's EuroBasket title earlier this year (against France!) was their defense and we have seen glimpses of it here in Tokyo, too. During the Quarter-Finals, when trailing by nine points, they pushed the button, turned up the heat and China melted down completely as Serbia relentlessly pressed and disrupted. If they have enough energy left in the tank for one last mammoth effort, then they can make life seriously tough for their opponents.
Destiny - a special goodbye for a special player?
Will we get the two-part goodbye fairytale for Serbian legend Sona Vasic? Of course part one is already in the book after the forward was crowned MVP as Serbia won the European title earlier this summer. Yet here we are, on the verge of a possible sequel and what really could be the cherry on the cake. Is it destiny that this special player will get a special goodbye with an Olympic medal in her farewell game?
Revenge is a dish best served cold
If France needed any additional motivation to take the bronze medal then surely the opportunity to deny Serbia the fairytale finish to a potentially legendary year is a huge driver. When Serbia beat France (the favorites) in Valencia only a couple of months ago, it dealt a mighty blow and was hard to stomach. France had seemed destined to take the title; instead they were left with a staggering five consecutive second-place finishes. But facing Serbia again means they can lay a big ghost to rest.
No matter what has happened so far in this tournament, France really do have an ultimate 'X-Factor' player who can be the difference between leaving Tokyo with yet another 'near but so far' chapter - or the satisfaction of a bronze medal. Despite the Japan debacle and the fact that Johannes is coming off the bench, you get the powerful sense that she could take over if she is given the scope to do so. While that is a different question and issue, the more Johannes is on the court with the license to thrill, the higher France's chance of success is going to be - surely?
The comfort of returning to a traditional style
Perhaps the biggest reason France can win this game will be that sheer sense of relief to get back to the basketball they know and understand - one that they feel comfortable with. They were running in circles defensively with Japan's fast-breaks, spacing and ability to kick it so easily to the shooters. Getting into a raw battle with familiar opponents who are not a million miles away in style is going to feel great after that humbling by Japan. The stats bear this out as well. There is almost nothing to separate them. France will probably relish the tempo dial being turned down, rolling their sleeves up and getting back to grinding it out if they can.