Salem Radio Network News Sunday, September 26, 2021

Sports

Olympics-Basketball-French men’s team coast to quarter-finals with win over Iran

By Rocky Swift

TOKYO (Reuters) – France secured a comfortable win over Iran in Olympic men’s basketball on Saturday to qualify for the quarter-finals and remain undefeated in the preliminary round.

Real Madrid’s Thomas Heurtel led with 16 points in France’s 79-62 victory at the Saitama Super Arena, north of Tokyo. They swept their opponents in Group A, including a shock defeat of Team USA on Sunday, the first Olympic loss for the Americans since 2004.

“The focus really was more about us and trying things out,” Evan Fournier, who plays for the NBA’s Boston Celtics, said about France’s decisive win. Despite his team’s dominant showing so far, he wouldn’t speculate on medal odds.

“Quarter-final first. Focus on that,” he said. “Too many times we’ve beaten very, very good teams and we lost in the semi-final, so no more of that.”

The men’s quarter-finals are on Tuesday.

Iran finished 0-3 in the group stage. Arsalan Kazemi lamented that the travel restrictions imposed on Iran affected their performance.

“We cannot really get out of Iran for any good friendly game,” he said at a press conference. “For Olympic preparation, we could have gone to a lot of different countries like other teams and played like 10, 11, 12 good games, and would have come here and would have competed differently.”

The United States bounced back with a win over Iran earlier this week and will face the Czech Republic later on Saturday.

Team USA has historically been the team to beat at basketball, with a 139-6 record and 15 gold medals since 1936. But as the sport has grown in popularity around the globe, many national teams can field teams with NBA experience, and the U.S.’s talent advantage has shrunk.

Before losing to France at these Games, the United States dropped two straight exhibition games this month, including a defeat to world 22nd-ranked Nigeria.

(Reporting by Rocky Swift; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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