Of the four 2012 Olympic basketball quarterfinal matchups, Spain vs. France is bound to be the most tightly-contested and exciting.
France comes into the game with just one loss, that coming at the hands of Team USA in a 28-point beating. Of France’s other four games, they all have been within eight points. Spain lost two games during pool play, but only be a combined 11 points. Two of their wins were by double digits and the other was just by one point.
France has been outscored by the slimmest of margins, averaging 75.2 points per game while giving up an average of 75.6. Spain does score more per game (82.8 points), but they also give up more on defense (77.2 points). The chances of this game finishing with a margin of less than 10 points are extremely likely.
Both teams have the star power to win this game, but their stars nearly negate each other.
France has the better starting point guard—that being Tony Parker—but Spain is far deeper. Spain can rotate Jose Calderon, Sergio Rodriguez and Rudy Fernandez, whereas France doesn’t have many good backup options behind Parker.
If France plays Nicholas Batum at shooting guard, they’ll have the overall guard advantage over Spain. It’s possible for Spain to keep up with Parker and Batum, but I think it will be too much in the end. Batum is coming off a great performance against Nigeria where he scored 23 points.
Spain takes the advantage on the low block, though. Stopping Pau and Marc Gasol as well as Serge Ibaka is a very tough task. Can Boris Diaw and Ronny Turiaf stop that three-headed monster? I think it’s unlikely, but they can limit their opportunities.
Turiaf and Diaw need to force them to pass the ball outside and let the guards take the shots. Pau is the top scorer in the Olympic Games and tightly guarding him is essential if France is going to win this game and advance to the semifinals.
As I’ve noted, these teams are very evenly matched.
The quarterfinal matchup between Team USA and Australia will be exciting until the Americans completely blow the Aussies out of the arena. Russia should take care of Lithuania with ease and although Brazil and Argentina could be a close one, it doesn’t have the star power that France-Spain offers.
Spain and France offers what no other quarterfinal matchup can.
Prediction: France 77, Spain 72