JAKARTA (Indonesia) – Latvia sent shock waves around the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 after eliminating France in a thrilling contest, 88-86.
The World Cup debutants rallied from 13 points down to book their place in the Second Round – alongside Canada – as pre-tournament contenders France lost consecutive games in the preliminary round for the first time since 2010.
The turning point: France’s Nando De Colo was whistled for his second unsportsmanlike foul of the game and sent out at the 6:46 mark of the fourth quarter. The momentum changed and Latvia went on a 10-3 run to trim the deficit, 77-76, with 4:42 to go.
Latvia leaned on strong plays from Arturs Zagars and Rolands Smits to take the lead again at 87-86, with 37.7 seconds to go. France failed to score after their last timeout, while Latvia then split their last two free throws and Silvain Francisco missed a potential game-winning three in the end.
TCL Player of the Game: Arturs Zagars was all over the place — in the best way possible. With talisman Dairis Bertans nursing foul trouble, Zagars stepped up big time. He scored a team-high 22 points on 8-of-11 field goal shooting on top of 5 assists and 2 steals.
Roland Smits added 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting with Davis Bertans contributing 15 points from the bench as Latvia celebrated a historic triumph.
Stats don’t lie: Latvia outscored France 26-12, in the fourth quarter in a huge fightback. Les Bleus held a lead of as many as 13 points, and they were still ahead up until the last 37.7 seconds. Latvia forced France to six costly turnovers in the final period, where Latvia also hit 8-of-12 free throws – holding their nerve for a famous win.
Bottom line: What a stunning result for Latvia. Not content with just being at the World Cup for the first time, they’ve made some serious noise – quite literally with their thousands of fans in attendance – and will be heading onto the Second Round with a shootout for top spot with Canada first on Tuesday.
As for France, they were candidates to potentially lift the trophy in Manilla – now they won’t even be getting on the plane after two remarkable, yet contrasting defeats. Evan Fournier fired in 27 points, but the French offense stumbled in the fourth in similar fashion to their second half effort against Canada.
They said: “We let a lot of people down. Everybody — from players, to coaches, to staff, to the federation. We have to ask ourselves, ‘Why? Why we are France? Why we are so successful and have been a top team for the last 10 years?’ Today was a big reality check for us. When we wear that blue and white with the name in front — that’s the biggest part of this, the name on the front of the jersey. And… we didn’t do it the last couple of weeks. It’s a big disappointment for us. We’re gonna get crushed, but that’s sports. We have to, me as a leader, we have to understand what we have to do better for this team.” – France forward Nicolas Batum
“Congratulations to Latvia. They were fighting for 40 minutes, and they got the reward of their efforts and determination. First, for sure, it’s a nightmare (for us) after the defeat last Friday. We were expecting a reaction. I think we got it. In the first three quarters, we played much better, but it was not enough because we have suffered from… we sensed that our spirit was not at the Latvian level. I think that made the difference in the last couple of minutes. For sure, there was also the unsportsmanlike foul on De Colo, which changed the game when it happened.” – France coach Vincent Collet
“It is the biggest win in Latvian basketball history since 1935. It’s an incredible feeling having this many fans in the building coming from Latvia making a long trip and getting a win like this against one of the top teams in the world. We felt like we were playing at home. It’s an incredible feeling. Honestly, I have not many words to say about that.” – Latvia forward Davis Bertans
“It’s tough to comment on a game like this. It’s just, wow. That’s the first feeling I had in my mind, at the end of the game, on the last shot when I realized what we did. It was an amazing effort for the entire 40 minutes, trying to continue to follow our plan no matter the numbers. We did an amazing job. I believe it’s time of course for our fans to celebrate, but first of all, now our players need to take some time to appreciate the taste of such a task.” – Latvia coach Luca Banchi