By: Rob Scott / @robscott33

After years of underachievement, France finally put it together last summer, finishing second at EuroBasket and qualifying directly for London. The addition of Joakim Noah and emergence of Nicolas Batum finally gave them impact players to go with Tony Parker and although the final against Juan Carlos Navarro and Spain was one sided, the French team swept aside everyone else including fellow Olympic medal contenders Russia.

G – Fabien Causeur (Cholet)
G – Tony Parker (San Antonio Spurs)
G – Nando de Colo (San Antonio Spurs)
G – Yannick Bokolo (Gravelines-Dunkerque)
F – Boris Diaw (San Antonio Spurs)
F – Florent Pietrus (Valencia)
F – Ali Traore (Lokomotiv Kuban)
F – Mickael Gelabale (BC Khimki)
F – Nicolas Batum (Portland TrailBlazers)
F – Yakhouba Diawara (Pallacanestro Varese)
F/C – Kevin Seraphin (Washington Wizards)
C – Ronny Turiaf (Miami Heat) 

Coach: Vincent Collet (Strasbourg)

This time, things don’t look quite as promising. Noah’s absence through injury robs the French of an imposing defensive presence in the middle, not to mention a clever interior passer. Without the Bulls centre whirling across the paint, disrupting shots and pulling down rebounds, a lot rests on Kevin Seraphin to do the dirty work, given that Boris Diaw and Ronny Turiaf aren’t capable of playing the lockdown defender role. France could have thought themselves lucky in a sense to be facing the USA and Argentina in group play, two sides that are also vertically challenged inside, but against the Americans, that didn’t matter. Batum may be able to dominate the latter’s slower, less athletic wings. But the fight for third place, avoiding a quarterfinal with Spain, will be fierce and Lithuania look like the stronger team right now, even if it didn’t show in Lietuva’s opening match against the Argentines.

While they have Parker running endless pick and rolls and Batum loitering on the wing ready to drive on the move off clever, incisive cuts, they stand a chance against anyone. Nando de Colo can be offensively creative but prone to letting the game drift by him. Mickael Gelabale is a dead-eye shooter, but there isn’t much of a post threat to open up space for penetration by Parker or de Colo, and that might be this team’s undoing against the very cream of world basketball.

The Swing Man

Seraphin had a mixed lockout experience with Baskonia last season, and one of his main problems in Vitoria was staying out of foul trouble. He has to stay on the floor long enough to make up for Noah’s absence.

Prediction

Fourth place in Group A and a rematch of the Eurobasket 2011 final with Spain. Difficult to see them faring any better against Los Rojos one year later.

Best English Accent

Tony Parker could ditch the eye-goggles and rock a monocle. The accent would come with the eye-glass.

Rob Scott writes ‘Switching Screens’ every week for ELA. He also writes for Euro-step.net and The Basketball Post. Follow him on Twitter @robscott33.