Team USA, the runaway favourites to win the Fiba World Cup for a third time in succession, have been bundled out of the tournament in the quarter-finals by France.
Although the US were far from full-strength – with the NBA’s biggest American stars opting out of the tournament – they still fielded a team that included talented players such as Jaylen Brown, Donovan Mitchell and three-time All Star Kemba Walker. The team was also coached by Gregg Popovich, a five-time NBA champion. The result ended a 58-game win streak for the US at the Olympics and World Cups.
“Just got to take it like a man at this point,” Walker said after the game. “We lost. There’s nothing we can do. We competed. We’ve been competing since day one that we got to training camp. But we gave it everything we’ve got. I know we’re Team USA and things of that nature and they’ve been winning for a lot of years, but you know, we didn’t get a chance to pull it off.”
France pulled off their 89-79 victory after overhauling a seven-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Their own NBA stars helped fuel the victory: Evan Fournier scored 22 points, while Rudy Gobert added 21 points and 16 rebounds. France had never beaten the US in nine previous meetings in major international competition.
There had been signs that the Americans’ reign as champions could end. They scraped past Turkey 93-92 in overtime earlier in the tournament, with the Turks missing four free-throws late in the game.
The US now face Serbia in a mini-tournament to decide who will finish in fifth to eighth place. The Americans had been attempting to become the first team to win three consecutive World Cups and three consecutive Olympics.