France prevail over Serbia to reach first U19 World Cup Final
RIGA (Latvia) - France made history in the Latvian capital as they knocked off Serbia 75-69 to reach the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2021 Final - the first time they will play for the global title.
After finishing third in the competition in 2007 and 2019, France came back from a 14-point first-half deficit and will climb at least one step higher than their previous all-time best after battling past their fellow Europeans.
Turning point: France had been playing tough all game despite star Victor Wembanyama being saddled to the bench with foul trouble. The French were up 70-65 with 2:04 minutes left in the game when the big man returned - having played just 7:04 minutes to that point. On offense Wembanyama created space for a big three-pointer by Armel Traore and then drew an offensive foul on Nikola Jovic. On Serbia's next offense, Wembanyama blocked a layup attempt by Mihailo Petrovic with 49 seconds remaining and France up 75-67, giving them enough to get the historic win.
Game heroes: With Wembanyama unable to help for most of the game, Jayson Tchicamboud stepped up for France with 19 points and Matthew Strazel picked up 8 points and 10 assists.
Stats don't lie: Serbia were held to just 26.3% on three-pointers and France showed their depth with a 34-10 advantage in points off the bench.
They said: "It’s an amazing feeling. We made history. But we don’t want to stop here. We have to finish the job tomorrow." (About playing most of the game without Victor Wembanyama:) "It says a lot about this team. We played with hearts and guts. That’s what we showed and we have a great team." (About the Final against United States:) "We are excited. We know it’s a very tough, athletic team. We are ready to play against them and to show that France have game. We will be ready." - France forward Clement Frisch
"The spirit of the team was wonderful, even though Victor was on the bench with fouls. But Victor was the first player supporting the team from the bench. All of the good spirit of the team built this success. I have been building this team and it’s a wonderful feeling for me." - France head coach Federic Crapez