"We're not going home!" Helena Ciak screams in the bowels of Saitama's Super Arena. Relief. Rabies. Happiness to be still alive after a tough Olympic quarter-final against Spain (67-64), contested to the end. Long ahead of the score, the Blue saw La Roja return in the fourth quarter. As if this final walk before the last four could not be easily afforded to this team. It took a tough last minute, attacked with only one small point in advance (63-62) against the Iberians.
And inevitably, lots of memories came to the surface on the ground.
And especially the bad ones, linked to this bête noire, who beat them in three Euro finals for ten years (2013, 2017, 2019).
“Oh no, not yet.
Not tonight, not this time, sums up Sandrine Gruda, the 34-year-old experienced player.
We were determined not to let this game slip through our fingers.
The incredible shooting of Marine Johannès
So, she and her fighting sisters tore themselves apart, attempting to disrupt rivals despite the two offensive rebounds they suffered. "We took out all our guts," sums up the leader Alix Duchet. And also a touch of class. A player whose talent exploded five years ago on these Olympic floors with incredible actions. Like the. 63-62, the Blue are struggling to extricate themselves from the pressure of the opposing defense. Hurry up. The back goes straight ahead and looks about to lose the ball. France will offer a ball to Spain. No. A stroke of magic. An unbalanced shot that enters improbably to give air (65-62).
"She's amazing," greets her partner Gabby Williams. I told her: you're boring (laughs). She's like that, she's a scorer, she's a clutch (Editor's note: decisive). I was happy, we were able to breathe a bit after that. Everything is in the "a little". Because Spain goes back to the attack, and comes back to a point (65-64). And try the classic option in this configuration: make mistakes on the opponent to send him to the free throw and watch for his error. Alix Duchet only puts one in two (66-64).
“You have to stay focused, and focused on your match there,” slips the player.
It (Editor's note: the last minute) lasted a very long time.
Basketball is 40 minutes, but anything can be played in the last ten or three seconds.
There are sixteen left to play.
Ball for Spain, which loses it almost in stride.
Another foul on a Frenchwoman, this time Gaby Williams, who still puts one out of two, and we come back to the same point (67-64).
"It has a pretty sweet flavor"
“This summer, we lost a match that we could win (Editor's note: the Euro final against Serbia), and I didn't want to feel like that again tonight.
But Maite Cazorla misses her final three-point shot.
The rebound is for the Blue.
A last time out three seconds from the end.
An ultimate possession.
And it's over, France joined the semi-finals, leaving the Spaniards to their regret for losing their match against their former victims.
"It has a pretty sweet flavor, because we have lost matches against her," smiles Sandrine Gruda.
There, we beat them on the international scene.
But now we don't want to stop there.
Next step Friday against Japan, who had dominated the French for their opening in Saitama.
We promise, we're ready to prepare our hearts for a minute like this if the outcome is the same.