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‘A nightmare': Olympic silver medalist France eliminated early at FIBA World Cup

France v Australia

TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 20: Rudy Gobert #27 of France looks on during the international basketball game between France and Australia at Ariake Arena on August 20, 2023 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images)

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France’s men’s basketball team was eliminated from FIBA World Cup contention after opening with two losses, one year before it’s expected to be a top challenger to the U.S. at the Paris Olympics.

France lost to Canada (95-65) and Latvia (88-86, squandering a 12-point lead to start the fourth quarter) over the first three days of the World Cup, which is co-hosted by Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines.

“For us, for sure it’s a nightmare,” France coach Vincent Collet said.

France was eliminated from the 32-team group stage, from which 16 teams advance to another group stage. There is a consolation group stage to classify the 17th-through-32nd-place teams.

FIBA WORLD CUP: Schedule, Results

Three-time Olympian Nicolas Batum said it was the biggest disappointment of his national team career.

“I’m ashamed,” he said. “I’m scared to go home because we have let a lot of people down. A lot of people in the country believed in us to really do something special. They believed in it, and we didn’t do it.

“We have a big, big thing coming up in 12 months, so we have to now look back what happened. Everybody, from players to coach to staff to federation. ... Today was a big reality check for us.”

At the Tokyo Games, France handed the U.S. its first loss in Olympic play since 2004. That was in group play. The U.S. rebounded to beat France in the final.

For the Paris Games, France could have a triple towers lineup of seven-footers Joel Embiid (if he chooses to play for France over the U.S.), Rudy Gobert and No. 1 NBA Draft pick Victor Wembanyama.

Gobert was the only player from that group on France’s roster at the World Cup. Many NBA players skip the World Cup for rest but play the Olympics so as not to have consecutive summers of play before NBA seasons.