France coach wary rabid home crowd can make Gilas 'play at an unbelievable level'
Crowd starting to form outside the MOA Arena ahead of the OQT games. Jaime Campos

COACH Vincent Collet admitted France must brace for a 'special atmosphere' when Les Bleus open their campaign in the Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament against host team Gilas Pilipinas and the boisterous home crowd. 

“I think the atmosphere will be something special,” said Collet.

The French coach has seen in person how the crowd could change the tide for Gilas Pilipinas, being at ringside when the Philippine team faced Turkey in a tune-up contest at the Mall of Asia Arena a few days before the Fiba OQT.

“I have a fear for sublimation for this team that could make them play at an unbelievable level," he said. "We must wait for it and not be surprised. You could see against Turkey. They were being dominated by Turkey and then, they could come back… You could see the gym, maybe 4,000 people, as soon as the Philippines plays better, the crowd became crazy."

“It would probably be 20,000 (on Tuesday),” added Collet, who will look to take the crowd away from the game in any way possible. “We have to slow them down. As soon as they get momentum, we have to try to control the pace of the game as best as we could.”

[See Gilas spends final practices sharpening its shooting, both from line and from afar]

The French cagers open their bid for a second straight Olympic appearance through the Manila OQT against the home side Philippine squad at 9 p.m. in what is expected to be a capacity crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena that could include Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte.

Collet understands the magnitude of the contest to Filipino fans, the ‘sixth man’ of Gilas.

“We know the expectations of the fans and what it means (for them) to play against France. We know the interest from Philippine fans for NBA and we have several NBA players in the roster. This game is something special,” said Collet, who parades a roster with NBA players well known to Filipinos in Tony Parker, Boris Diaw, and Nicolas Batum. 

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