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FRA - Les Bleues look at path to London
PARIS (FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Women) - The path to the London Games isn't going to be easy for any of the 12 teams at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Women in Ankara, and that includes European heavyweights France.
Drawn in Group D with Canada and Mali, the French must finish among the top two to progress to the Quarter-Finals and if they do, a clash with South Korea, Croatia or Mozambique will await them.
The winners of the four Quarter-Finals will clinch places in the Olympic field while the four losing sides will face the difficult task of having to win two games in order to claim the fifth and last place on offer for London.
"During the OQT, we will only face good teams," France coach Pierre Vincent said.
"We will begin against Canada (on 26 June), and this is not necessarily good news because this is a team that is always difficult to beat.
"We've beaten them the last couple of times, in friendly or official games but always by small margins at the end of regulation or in overtime.”
France faced Canada at the 2010 FIBA World Championship in the Czech Republic.
The Canadians had the ball with a chance to win but turned it over with four seconds left and France’s Celine Dumerc, following a timeout, scored at the buzzer for a 49-47 win.
"Canada is a team that presents many problems, but the fact that the game is in the first round is good news since we do not then cross paths (in the Quarter-Finals).
"That means no disrespect to Mali as all African teams have difficulties at the international level.
"African teams are traditionally more modest, but that does not mean that we should not pay attention."
The Quarter-Final nevertheless promises to be tricky.
"Canada is very dangerous for us although facing a crossover with Croatia or South Korea is not easy," Vincent said.
"South Korea do not leave us with good memories, and it is an Asian team that plays hard.”
France had to grind out a 61-46 victory against the Koreans at the 2010 World Championship in a Classification Round game.
"Croatia, while we easily beat them (86-40) in the European Championship, they had a beautiful tournament and finished fifth,” Vincent said.
"It's true that by avoiding Turkey in a decisive game at home, and also avoiding the Czech Republic, it's not that bad."
The Turks were drawn in Group A with Japan and Puerto Rico while the Czechs came out in Group B against Argentina and New Zealand.
"We will have to play the games one after the other until qualifying," Vincent said.
The important thing in a competition like the one coming up in Ankara is that national teams must be able to recover from disappointment results.
"Last year at the European Championship, we were able to react (after a Semi-Final defeat to Turkey) to get our third place," Vincent said.
"If we had simply prepared and aspired to play in the title game, we would have collapsed and we would have lost against the Czech Republic for the bronze medal but we had the resources to go as far as possible.
"I think that's the lesson I took from this EuroBasket.
"For us, the goal is to qualify for this Olympics in three or five games.
"Everyone would prefer to qualify in three but maybe we will not succeed and will therefore need to have the skills and resources to get the qualification in five games."
18. February 94
Photography: Getty Images