(Photo: Badminton Europe)
France stun Russia and enter into the final
Date: 2/20/2021 8:28 AM
Published by : Alan Raftery
In the first semifinal of the 2021 European Mixed Team Championships, France booked their spot in the final after a nail-biting match against Russia.
When playing in the group, Russia came out on top as a 4-1 winner. The one French point came from Qi Xuefei over Evgeniya Kosetskaya, which was the opening match in the semifinal. 

Hoping to get France off to a good start, Qi found herself 18-13 down. Fighting hard, she managed to pull it back to 18-18, however, Kosetskaya was determined not to lose the opening game this time, winning 21-19. The tall Russian then ran away with the second game. 

In direct contrast, Toma Junior Popov came into his match against Vladimir Malkov having had two long three-game matches in the group stages. One of which was a loss to Malkov. 

The experienced Russian efficiently took control of the opening game, but Popov, who before admitted feeling a little tired, managed to find more and more gears. He somehow mustered up the energy to win the second and third games in an all-action match. 

-I was really exhausted from the two groups games against Mark [Caljouw] and Malkov. We were 1-0 down against Russia, so I told myself that you just have to move it and get that point back because we are here to fight. 

94 minutes of pain
Then came the women’s doubles, which was between two scratch pairings. Russia opted to place Evgeniya Kosetskaya, a singles player, with Alina Davletova. France’s Anne Tran was paired with Lea Palermo. The more natural French doubles pair took a tight opening game and then developed a good lead in the second. However, the gritty Russians stuck at it and the French became too passive, resulting in 25-23 to Kosetskaya/ Davletova and a decider. 

Recomposing themselves and fighting hard in many long rallies. One of which reaching 110 shots, the French pair surged to victory. It took 94 minutes and the players felt it. 

-We feel tired. For me, it is a year since I played women’s doubles, but I am very happy that we managed to fight together, Lea Palermo said with relief. 

Vladimir Ivanov/ Ivan Sozonov, emotionally invested and watching the women’s doubles match unfold in the wings, knew they had business to attend to. Having played Julien Maio/ Ronan Labar in the group stages and the French pair causing them problems, they had to step it up. 

-This match is very comfortable for us. Today we had good tactics, found opportunities in every rally and maintained good concentration. After this good first game, we gave no chance to our opponents, Ivanov stated confidently.

Getting the job done in just 30 minutes, the score became 2-2. In order to settle it, we were treated to a repeat of the entertaining mixed doubles clash between two of the most promising pairs in Europe. Rising up together from the juniors, Rodion Alimov/ Alina Davletova and Thom Gicquel/ Delphine Delrue know each other well, however, the Russians held a 5-0 head-to-head advantage. 

Alimov/ Davletova started strongly, but the French machine started to purr in the second game. Forcing a decider, perhaps Davletova’s significant time on court earlier became an issue. Gicquel/ Delrue ran away to a 21-9 game, causing their teammates to storm the court to celebrate what they have just done! 

-It means a lot to us. We are very proud of the team. There is a very good spirit and they are our friends, so it is crazy to win with this team, Gicquel and Delphine stated before shortly once again being swamped in the interview area by their team. 

The promising young French team came to Finland in search of their first-ever medal at a European Mixed Team Championships. Tomorrow they will fight for the gold. 

The final begins at 15:00 (EET) Sat 20 February 2021

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