Nicholas Batum is not looking forward to the trip back to France, and it’s hard to blame him.
The Los Angeles Clippers forward and veteran of the French national team was left shocked Sunday after Latvia beat France 88-86 in their Group H match at the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Jakarta, Indonesia. The loss officially sent France, who have finished third in the last two World Cups, home ahead of the knockout stage of the tournament.
“I’ve never felt ashamed in this shirt, but this is the first time I’ve felt ashamed,” Batum said. Via CBS Sports. “I’m afraid to go home because we let so many people down. A lot of people believed we could do something special. We didn’t.”
France struggled throughout this summer’s World Cup, something few could have expected. The team was the favorite for the tournament, and entered the event ranked fifth in the world by the FIBA.
On Friday, however, Canada completely dominated France in the first game of the tournament. France lost by 30 points, the biggest loss to the country’s first team in a major event since 1987.
Then on Sunday, despite leading by 13 points in the second half, France faltered again. Latvia rallied in the final minutes, and didn’t take the lead for the first time in the entire game until they had just 37.7 points left on the clock. Rolands Smits dropped 20 points to lead Latvia to victory and Davis Bertans added 15 points.
France was led by Yvan Fournier with 27 points. Gershon Yabusile finished with 18 points and Rudy Gobert added nine points and seven rebounds.
The win sent Latvia, who beat Lebanon in their opening match, and Canada into the knockout stage. France and Lebanon will play each other on Tuesday, although France could not have finished better than 17th.
“When you lose in the semi-finals or the quarter-finals, it’s different. I mean, at least you’re competitive,” Batum said. Via Associated Press. “We’re not even past the first round. We have high expectations. I’m ashamed.”
Despite the poor showing in Asia, France is still widely expected to be in contention for a medal at next summer’s Olympic Games in Paris. Batum, Fournier and Joubert are expected to return to the squad. San Antonio Spurs rookie and No. 1 overall pick Victor Wimpanyama is also expected to join the team. He missed the World Cup this summer to prepare for his rookie season. France is also trying to lure 76ers star Joel Embiid into its national team for the Olympics as well.
While they have a year to find out before the competition heads to Paris, this latest outing for the French has undoubtedly been a tough one.
“It’s very difficult,” Fournier said. Via Associated Press. “It was very difficult. I don’t have much to say. We didn’t think we were going to leave the tournament like this. We have to learn from it and come back next year. There’s nothing else to do.”