Evan Fournier explains how tough is for France to play classification games

2023-08-30T11:04:12+00:00 2023-09-11T15:55:02+00:00.

Antonis Stroggylakis

30/Aug/23 11:04


Evan Fournier explains how France will approach the classification games of the FIBA World Cup despite having already a spot in the Olympics as hosts. Plus he weighs in on the debate about banned players due to contracts in Russia

By Antonis Stroggylakis / astroggylakis@eurohoops.net

Jakarta, Indonesia – This wasn’t the kind of game in which French national team star Evan Fournier envisioned becoming the all-time leading scorer of Les Bleus in World Cup history.

By scoring 17 points in the win over Lebanon, Fournier reached 285 points in total, passing France captain Nicolas Batum (282 points). And this is just the second World Championship for the New York Knicks player.

Fournier probably knew that this would happen sooner or later during the 2023 edition of the World Cup. But not while medal-favorite France is eliminated after two straight losses in the first two games of the tournament and during a game that has absolutely no importance for his squad.

“It’s extremely hard,” Fournier said when asked by Eurohoops how tough is, mentally, to play this kind of game, following the win of France over Lebanon that concluded the First Round for both teams. “Especially when you play teams like Lebanon that have something to play for. It’s hard.”

“It’s my first time playing games without a real meaning,” Fournier added. “Our first time doing that.”

Most players of France have now entered some truly unfamiliar territory after the loss to Latvia that dropped them below the two top spots of Group H and directly into the classification games for positions 17 to 32.

“It’s the first time I lost so early,” Batum mentioned. He described the upcoming matches as “an experience.”

“For us, it doesn’t matter,” Fournier commented on the classification round. “Truthfully, it doesn’t matter. We’re already going to the Olympic Games anyway. There’s no real meaning for us to play. Iran, for example, has something to play for. They have to qualify. We don’t. We’re going to the Olympics regardless. It’s tough.”

Fournier is referring to the fact that, for example, the top African and Asian sides in the World Cup will punch a ticket to the 2024 Olympic Games and the best next representative of each of these continents will participate in the Olympic Games Qualifiers.

“It’s obvious why France should, and will, take this game very seriously. We have to respect the nature of the game and all the things regarding the qualification process”, Fournier said. “We have to play to our best otherwise it would mess up things.”

It’s also a matter of pride. “When you play for your country. You always want to win for sure.”

After the loss to Latvia, France captain Nicolas Batum talked about political decisions that also affected the player-selection process at the national team.

Many interpreted Batum’s words as a comment also for the decision of the French Basketball Federation to ban players who sign with Russian clubs in light of the war in Ukraine. Some of them include veteran guard Thomas Heurtel (Zenit St. Petersburg), big man Louis Labeyrie (Unics Kazan), and forward Livio Jean-Charles (CSKA Moscow).

“Nic is a veteran. He’s been with the national teams for 15 years and next year is his last campaign with the jersey. He’s obviously emotional about the loss. Rightfully so,” Fournier mentioned. He had previously expressed his disagreement with the exclusion of French players who are signed in Russian teams and stayed firm to his position.

“I believe that players that play in Russia should be playing for their national team,” Fournier mentioned. “I think it’s a decision that was above the French Federation and it was more about the French government. We all want the same thing, the best thing and we all want to have the best guys available. But when it comes from upstairs, sometimes you have to listen to what the government says”.

“That’s unfortunate, for me personally. War is war. There are a lot of countries that are doing a lot of things out there. It’s unfortunate.”