Thanks to his star Earvin Ngapeth and his sharp Stéphen Boyer, the French volleyball team has reached the quarterfinals of "his" European Championship at home, beating Finland 3-0, Saturday in Nantes.
For a place in the final square at Paris-Bercy, their first goal in this Euro, the 2015 European champions are now waiting to know if they will have to challenge Italy, Olympic vice champion at Rio in 2016, or the most modest Turkey, who compete Sunday (17:00) in the last round of 16.
Since the beginning of the tournament, the Blues have yielded only one set against Italy for their last win in the group stage. With the same commitment and the same concentration, the French did not imagine for one moment see their way stop against Finland, only 11th European nation.
The lessons of the bitter defeat in the round of 16 two years ago at the European Championship against the Czech Republic were retained.
In a packed XXL Hall (7,293 spectators, the best crowd since the start of the competition in France), and in a crazy atmosphere, the Blues have made a clean copy again, three sets won and an hour and a quarter only spent on the ground.
"Since the beginning of the competition, we are very well in the game and they may have been surprised by the atmosphere and our aggressiveness," said the captain and passer of the Blues Benjamin Toniutti.
After a first set that they made quite easy (25-16), the French had to tap into their resources not to lose the win in the second run, poorly engaged with four points behind (15-11).
- Work reception for Ngapeth -
"We had to fight and it took extraordinary entries from Julien Lyneel and Antoine Brizard, it was the trap of this Finnish team, we have the impression of arch-dominating, but they are still hanging on to the opposing team. ", says coach Laurent Tillie.
The Floating Service put a lot of difficulties on the French reception and the tricolor service was not as stable as in the first round in Montpellier.
But the good news of the evening is that Ervin Ngapeth, slowed down by a muscle injury on the start of the European Championship, begins to regain its best level.
For the first time, Tillie was able to line up his classic start six, and for his first full match of the competition, Ngapeth greatly participated in the tricolor success with 16 points on the clock, just behind Stéphen Boyer's 19 points.
"We are relatively happy with the performance, plus we win 3-0," he breathed, all smiles at having finally been able to express himself fully in the Euro he has been waiting for so long.
"The rhythm of the match is not the same as in training, tonight I had good feelings, I'm happy, we'll have to make a little reception tomorrow, because I've sent one all over the place tonight, "he added, aware that there is still a small room for improvement in this sector.
Now the ball is in the Italian camp, which will have to get rid of Turkey, for a quarter final in the form of a Latin derby of European volleyball. Appointment is Tuesday, 20:45 in Nantes.
© 2019 AFP