Russia beat France and jinx to make semis

Updated: 2007-09-14 06:10

MADRID - Russia beat France 75-71 in a nerve-jangling quarter-final to make the final four at the European Championship on Thursday.

At the previous four championships Russia had crashed out in the quarter-finals, but they showed a greater coolness in the closing minutes to overhaul the 2005 bronze medallists, who had held a narrow lead through most of the game.

Victor Khryapa top scored for Russia with 16 points and seven rebounds, and was closely supported by Jon Robert Holden with 15, and Nikita Morgunov with 14.

France's Boris Diaw notched a game-high 17 points and added six rebounds, while Tony Parker ended with 15 points.

"The best thing about winning this game is that no one can ask me that damn question again. Why can't you get past the quarters?" said a delighted Russia coach David Blatt.

With a minute and 46 seconds remaining in the game the scores were tied at 69 apiece when Holden sank two free throws to nudge Russia ahead.

In an intense run-in to the buzzer Diaw missed a pair of free throws and Parker only managed two of four, while Sergey Monya sank two of two, and Zakhar Pashutin made two of four, to seal the victory.

"We played with great conviction and motivation. It was a tough game. But we have to score our easy shots, especially the free throws," France coach Claude Bergeaud said.

France still have a chance to earn a place at the Beijing Olympics in the play-offs to decide finishing positions.

There are two automatic slots available through the Euros and four places in an additional qualifying tournament. Spain have already qualified as world champions.

Later, hosts Spain take on the 2005 silver medallists Germany.

Unbeaten Lithuania play Croatia and holders Greece face Slovenia in the other two quarter-finals on Friday.

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