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France vs Argentina
France vs Argentina, 2006 FIBA World Championship, Sendai, Japan
19/08/2006Game Report, Argentina v France 80-70, GROUP A

SENDAI (FIBA World Championship) - Argentina needed the best out of Manu Ginobili and Andres Nocioni to get by a French side missing its best player, Tony Parker.

The Olympic champions prevailed on a score 80-70 but followed a very good first half display with a barely average performance after the break.

Ginobili scored 25 points - most of them coming in the first three quarters - and Nocioni took the scoring load upon himself in the second half to chip in with 18.

The game started well, with both teams looking sharp and seemingly well matched up.

Fabricio Oberto provided a spark early on for the South American side while France spread their scoring evenly enough and looked to be doing well in Parker's absence.

But Nocioni and Ginobili took over midway through the first quarter, combining for an 8-0 burst that swung the game in Argentina's favour, 18-9.

France came back at the start of the second quarter, behind the strong play of the Pietrus brothers - especially Florent - and captain Boris Diaw to take a 25-24 lead.

Once again though, Ginobili and Nocioni responded with clutch baskets to push their team's lead in double digits by half-time, 44-33.

Les Bleus were more aggressive in the second half and benefited from replacing Aymerick Jeanneau - Parker's replacement in the starting five - with Yannick Bokolo who proved efficient at both ends of the court.

In fact France was the better side in the last 24 minutes but having to make up for an 11-point deficit against a team of Argentina's calibre was never going to be an easy task.

Reuben Wolkowwyski and Nocioni kept Claude Bergeaud's side at bay, despite the best efforts of Bokolo, Diaw and Pietrus and it seemed Argentina always had an answer for every clutch run or basket their opponents made.

The final blow to France's morale was Ginobili's step back three pointer over the extended arm of Turiaf in the last minute of the game to restore an eight-point lead, 76-68 to all but end France's hopes of a come from behind victory.

Florent Pietrus led the way for France with 15 points.

Les Bleus looked like they could compensate for Parker's absence by using Yannick Bokolo and Joseph Gomis who both did well during his time on the court.

Jeanneau, looked out of his depth most times, playing very hesitantly and even passing up open shots and did not feature much in the second half.

"This was a very tough game against one of the most athletic teams in the competition but we were able to hold them off by making some timely stops defensively and some tough shots," Argentina point guard Pepe Sanchez said afterwards.

"You have to give France credit for playing so well without one of their best players. I would have liked for Tony to be in the game so that we could see how we would measure up against a full strenght France side."

Argentina head coach Sergio Hernandez explained that in a game like this one, his players' familiarity with one another was crucial to avoid a late collapse.

"These players have been together since 2002 and played successfully in two major tournaments together. So they have learned when they really need to step up their games and concentrate at the right times. They did that tonight."

Simon Wilkinson
FIBA