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France to Play USA for the Gold

France used tight defense right from the opening tip-off to steadily (aside from a modest 2nd quarter Russian run) build a lead that got as high as 22, before clock-killing let the Russians come back a bit.

Captain and playmaker Céline Dumerc gave another stellar performance, although this time American/Russian/whatever point guard Becky Hammon also had an excellent game.

Emmeline Ndongue was the centerpiece of the defense, taking her own adversary completely out of the game, helping against any intrusion into the paint, and ripping down defensive boards.

Isabelle Yacouba was steady, literally and figuratively, in the battle inside. Endy Myem came off the bench, scoring a high percentage by just being in the right spot at the right time to catch assists for short jumpers and lay-ups.

Nobody will be betting on Les Bleues to beat Team USA... but then three months ago, the ladies didn't even have a ticket to London. Of the four semi-finalists, they are the only team to have come through the qualifying tournament in Turkey earlier this summer.

Oh... and also... the men's team lost to Spain... Yes, I intentionally waited for the women's result so I could use an upbeat title for this article... and put the sad news on page two...

Emmeline-ndongue--france-_london2012_fiba_com_jpg_medium Defensive cornerstone Emmeline Ndongue

Thirty-six minutes...

... don't make a full game. Les Bleus opened strong, with Captain Boris leading the way. Superb defense and adequate contributions from the others kept Team France ahead of the pursuing Spanish... and then Boris was called for a couple dubious fouls and had to sit... and the attack stalled... never to get started again.

I'm not going to say that Nico's act at the end of the game can be justified... but I can and do say that Spain is reffed in Fiba like superstars are reffed in the NBA. I've seen some Internet comments saying Nico deserves a suspension. Here's Rudy Fernandez clotheslining Tony Parker during last year's Euro: no suspension there! Or maybe its just sour grapes.Frustration at seeing Spain's tanking being successful, while France, after beating all opponents except the USA, exits in the quarters.

Spain is good, no doubt about that, completely shutting down Tony, who was unable to find any solution. No doubt, either, that I really, really REALLY want Team USA to crush them.

French reporters were quick to wonder what the future would be. Would the key players pack it in? Captain Baback says no. He says that he and Tony and Ronny --the "old" guys -- have talked it over... and they want another shot at a medal.

Edit: In a lengthy national-TV interview today (Friday), Tony confirmed that he and all the others had put their heads together right after the loss to Spain, to agree that they all want another shot.

Rendez-vous à Rio de Janiero!