Paris (AFP)

Compelled to the feat: the French volleyball players go to Gdansk for a first Olympic qualification tournament for Tokyo-2020, where they will have to overthrow the two-time Polish world champion on his land to validate the ticket for Japan.

Of the six TQOs organized this weekend, it is probably the most salivating volleyball planet, between one side Poland, gold at the Worlds in 2014 and 2018, and the other France, 2015 European Champion and World League winner in 2015 and 2017.

To these two sizes, we must add Slovenia, vice-champion of Europe in 2015, and Tunisia, recent champion of Africa. And one place at the end to see Tokyo.

"It's really a competition that we have three days, three games of very, very high level," said the coach Laurent Tillie, "reassured" after the very serious preparation match against the United States there has a week won 3 sets to 1.

"It's still a good chance to qualify, you have to win three games, while in January, it will take more than three," said Libero Jena Grebennikov, the best in the world at his post.

The Blues will indeed have a second, and last chance at a continental tournament in January, if the place for Tokyo is not assured at the end of the weekend.

"We could go now, we would like to make a big hit to the Poles," said Tillie, who does not forget the schedule after the tournament, with the Euro at home in September, then the eventual TQO in January.

- Leon in Polish reinforcement -

To get on the Paris-Tokyo plane from July 2020, Laurent Tillie's men will face the best in volleyball. While the Poles are deprived of the pointy Bartosz Kurek, MVP of the last World Cup, but their inexhaustible pool, including David Konarski and Maciej Muzaj in this post, leaves them the margin.

"We would prefer there to be Kurek, because he has two or three flashes, but then he can make two or three stupid mistakes.The others are less impressive but more continuous," added the coach.

And especially, Poland has recovered this summer the Cuban naturalized Wilfredo Leon, considered one of the best players in the world.

"This is the equivalent of a super sharp, which attacks many balloons and above all has a devastating service," Tillie analysis, pointing to the service of the Poles as one of the keys to the meeting.

Faced with the red and white armada, the Blues however have very beautiful weapons. "We only have players who play leading roles in their championships and in their teams," notes Grebennikov.

French volleyball star Earvin Ngapeth reached the Champions League final with the Kazan Russians, Grebennikov won the World Club Championship and the CEV Cup (2nd Continental Level) with the Italian formation of Trentino, and Benjamin Toniutti has achieved the double Championship / Cup with the Polish club Kedzierzyn-Kozle, to name a few.

Proof that the French threat is taken extremely seriously, the Poles, organizers of the TQO, have reserved a rather special schedule for the Blues, not the most advantageous: a first match at 20:30 on Friday against Slovenia, then the shock against the hosts on next day at 15:00.

A recovery before the summit against Poland amputated three and a half hours, not to mention the training in the evening at improbable schedules.

"Friendly, fair play," smiles the French star Earvin Ngapeth, persuaded that the Blues will find a surplus motivation.

© 2019 AFP