Canada's women's basketball team has learned a lot about France in the handful of huge games in which the two countries have faced off.
The Canadians know France doesn't like to run, so they plan to do precisely that.
First place in their group is on the line when the two undefeated teams meet Tuesday at the FIBA women's World Cup in Tenerife, Spain, and coach Lisa Thomaidis believes Canada's women can turn the game into a track meet.
"You'll notice France really plays quite a disciplined style at the offensive end, it's going to be a battle of who can control the tempo," Thomaidis said. They want to slow things down, they want to get you into the quarter-court and out-execute you, and they have the pieces in place to do a good job of that.
"And for us, we want to get out and run, we want to make the game a bit faster, we want to get more possessions than they do, we're going to extend their defence and try and make the game a bit faster, and try to play at a pace that they're not super comfortable with, and we believe we have an advantage over them."
France is a familiar foe. The French dispatched the heartbroken Canadians in the 2016 Rio Olympic quarterfinals, while Canada defeated France at the 2014 world championships en route to a fifth-place finish. Several of Canada's players also play professionally in France.
France edged Canada 72-68 in an exhibition game ahead of the World Cup, but neither team showed its full hand.
The Canadians made quick work of Greece in an 81-50 win, and South Korea (81-63) in their opening two games, and the early leads allowed Thomaidis to give her starters plenty of rest.
"I looked at L.T. at halftime of the Korea game and I was like, 'This is so weird. What do we do?'" said Kim Gaucher, who led Canada with 16 points against Greece. "I've never been in this position before, normally we're the other team, it's been great."
Thomaidis said the early leads also allowed everyone to get "some playing time and experience and develop some confidence, so it worked out to our advantage that way."
The rest to her starters, she added, will pay off down the stretch.
"We had about a 16-hour turnaround between the first two games, so that first one we didn't want to stretch people too far because it was going to be such a short turnaround and amount of time for recovery, so that worked out well for us," Thomaidis said. "This tournament can get long pretty quickly here, so we want to be as fresh as we possibly can be going into these next few games, and potentially into the quarter-finals and afterwards."
On the heels of an outstanding rookie WNBA season with the New York Liberty, Kia Nurse poured in 29 points against South Korea.
"Kia's played great," Thomaidis said. "She's always such a difference-maker at the defensive end, but at the offensive end, I thought she showed some real growth and maturity in her game, she's distributed the ball, she's knocked down shots, she's gotten good shots, and she's been so influential and impactful for our team."
The quarterfinal qualifications are Wednesday, followed by the quarterfinals on Friday.
Canada set a pre-tournament goal of winning a quarterfinal game and be in the position to play for a medal.
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press