Spain vs France rivalry: classic games and a punch in the guts

Jonas Miklovas
2022-09-18 08:57

This will be the 8th time since 2009 when Spain and France meet in the knockout stage of an international competition. Spain hold a 5-2 record.

Credit: FIBA
Credit FIBA

You cannot get a bigger rivalry in the European basketball scene than Spain vs. France. Between 2009 and 2016, these two met 10 times and 7 of those games were in the playoffs.

There were classic games, heartbreaking losses at home, a gold medal game, and even a punch in the guts.

Spain and France will meet again tonight for the crown of EuroBasket 2022, and before that, let's revisit the seven games that these teams battled on the brightest basketball stage.

2009: EuroBasket in Poland, Spain beat France in the quarterfinal

We could start in 2005 when France beat Spain 98-68 to capture bronze medals in EuroBasket hosted by Serbia. But if we are really looking for the birth of this great rivalry, 2009 is a more appropriate starting point.

It was then, 13 years ago, when both Sergio Scariolo and Vincent Collet debuted as head coaches of Spain and France.

France achieved a perfect 5-0 result in the Group stage and finished first in Group E.

On the contrary, Spain lost twice (against Serbia and Turkey) and finished only fourth in Group F.

These results had no meaning when these teams met in the quarterfinals. Pau Gasol scored 28 points, Spain beat France 86-66 and marched to win its first-ever EuroBasket gold.

2011: EuroBasket in Lithuania, Spain beat France in the final

Before this year, it was the only time Spain and France met each other in the final. They played each other in the group stage, and controversy marked that game.

Spain was 3-1, while France had a 4-0 record, and they met each other in the last game of Group E.

Nonetheless, Collet decided to rest Tony Parker, and Joakim Noah, allowing Spain to capture an easy 96-69 win.

"In a way, it was a strange game," Scariolo commented in the press conference.

One week later, these two met again, this time in the final game of EuroBasket 2011, and Spain won again, 98-85. Juan Carlos Navarro scored 27 points and was named the MVP.

Andrew Albicy and Rudy Fernandez are the only ones in the current teams from this game.

2012: Olympic games, Spain beat France in the quarterfinal

It was yet another tough blow for France. They finished 4-1 in the group stage, behind only Team USA, while beating Argentina, Lithuania, Nigeria, and Tunisia.

But it was Spain, 3-2, as an opponent in the quarterfinals, and the EuroBasket champs beat France 66-59.

This game marks the lowest point in the rivalry. With the game clock ticking down and Spain in control, Nicolas Batum hit Juan Carlos Navarro in the groin, and players from both teams got into a scuffle.

After the game, asked why he hit Navarro, Batum replied: "I wanted to give him a good reason to flop."

A couple of hours later, Batum apologized to Navarro on Twitter.

Spain went on to win Silver in London Olympics.

2013: EuroBasket, France beat Spain in the semifinal

Finally, it was time for the French victory. Both teams struggled in the group stage, with France finishing third in Group E and Spain fourth in Group F.

But both countries advanced through the quarterfinals and met each other in another classic. Tony Parker scored 32 points, and France erased 15 point deficit and prevailed in a 45-minute battle, 75-72.

"Wow, we finally beat a team that won against us so many times before. We waited for this game, and we wanted the victory a lot," Batum said.

Two days later, France beat Lithuania to win EuroBasket for the first time ever.

2014: World Cup, France beat Spain in the quarterfinal

This one must be the toughest one for Spain. They hosted the World Cup, and both teams met in the Group stage, with Spain getting a comfortable 88-64 win.

One week later, in the quarterfinal, it was a different story. France locked down Spain 65-52 and advanced to the semifinal, while the hosts were booed by its own crowd in Barcelona.

France won the bronze medals, and Spain parted ways with coach Juan Antonio Orenga. He coached the team in 2013 and 2014, and both times they lost against France.

2015: EuroBasket, Spain beat France in the semifinal

Sergio Scariolo was back at the helm for Spain, but it was France that hosted the knockout stage of EuroBasket 2015.

France won all five Group stage games, then did not have too much trouble in the Round of 16 and quarterfinals.

Spain, on the other hand, went 3-2 in the Group stage and had to sweat in a tight quarterfinal win against Greece, 73-71.

What happened next is probably the greatest game in Spain vs France rivalry.

In front of almost 27 thousand people in Lille Pierre Mauroy stadium, Pau Gasol scored 40, half of his team's points, and Spain beat France 80-75 after overtime.

After the game, Collet and Rudy Gobert took it to the referees, complaining about the double standards of fouls.

Spain went on to win Gold, while France finished third.

2016: Olympic games, Spain beat France in the quarterfinal

It was the 6th year in a row when Spain and France met in the playoffs of international competition. And it was Spain, yet again, who came out on top.

Nikola Mirotic had 23 points as Spain ousted France 92-67 in the quarterfinals of the Rio Olympics. Spain went on to win the Bronze.

Only two players from each team are in this year's squads: Rudy Fernandez, Willy Hernangomez, Rudy Gobert, and Thomas Heurtel.

Out of 7 times, these teams met in the playoffs between 2009 and 2016, Spain won 5 times and lost both times when Scariolo was not present.

Will Collet and Les Bleus finally register a win tonight? Or will it be Scariolo and La Roja again? We'll have an answer soon.

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