The French volleyball team has its “Mister Freeze”, a player whose mind is drenched in liquid nitrogen, capable of cooling boiling rooms with his clinical gestures. Antoine Brizard is the passer for the Habs, who will face Japan in Ljubljana on Monday, September 5, for a place in the World Cup quarterfinals, a competition they have never won. Since the Blues Olympic title at the Tokyo Games in 2021, Poitevin has established himself, match after match, as the world reference of this strategic position.
One action sums up Antoine Brizard: this tense back pass to Barthélémy Chinenyeze in the quarterfinals of the Games, as France, coming from nowhere, win 10-6 in a tie-break against Poland. A daring gesture, risking the most, which fulfilled the last Polish hopes.
“Mentally he is very strong. He is an intelligent player, who is always two or three steps ahead of what the opponent is going to do. Above all, he impresses me with his consistency. He is able to put constant pressure on the opponent on serve and block.testifies Guillermo Hernán, the former smuggler of the Spanish team, who rubbed shoulders with him for three years at Paris Volleyball, his first professional club.
Named “best player in the world”
The World Cup, organized until September 11 in Slovenia and Poland, is the first major international match that Antoine Brizard plays as a starter, he who had started the Games on the bench, before winning, at the age of 27, as head of the equipment. In January, he was named “best player in the world” by the International Federation. A consecration that he welcomed without exuberance, almost timidly.
“It’s a bit of the base of the aerial game to be in the shadows, I never wanted to be in the lighthe said. Through this nomination, the smuggler duo of the France national team is also awarded. Benjamin Toniutti was super important in my progress. When I came to the national team, in 2017, I was far from having his level. »
At 32 years old, Benjamin Toniutti is a senior player for the French national team (300 games) and for the Polish club Jastrzebski Wegiel, one of the best in Europe. But Andrea Giani, the Italian coach in charge of the France team since March, has decided to trust Antoine Brizard.
It is true that the Poitevin, with his 196 cm and his powerful serve, corresponds more to the profile of the modern volleyball player than the “little” Toniutti and his 183 cm. Today, the two men form an essential duo for the France team.
” It’s important for a team to have two quarterbacks who get along because the one not playing is in a better position to read the opposing game and can provide an outside perspective.explains former international Stéphane Faure, who saw Antoine Brizard arrive at the age of 15 at the Center for Resources, Expertise and Sports Performance (Creps) in Bordeaux, where he directed the men’s section.
“He made himself”
It’s hard to escape volleyball when you were born in Poitiers, the bastion of the discipline in France. As a child, Antoine Brizard regularly attended matches at the Stade Poitevin with his mother, a former volleyball player, and his father, a track and field soccer player. “at a good level”. After having tried soccer and tennis, he followed his brother Benjamin when the latter signed up for volleyball. Surclassé en poussins au club de Saint-Benoît, il y côtoie Earvin Ngapeth, plus âgé et déjà un monstre physique, et se dit que sa place sur le terrain n’est peut-être pas parmi les gros frappeurs, mais plutôt dans celle du orchestra director.
A few years later, he finds himself in a boarding school at Creps de Bordeaux. For a time, he plans to study medicine, like his mother and his brother, but the passion for volleyball prevails. If he does not yet have the physical strength of the best, the technique and the mind are already there. “Antoine is calm strengthsays Stephane Faure. When he came to us, he was a good student, with his head on his shoulders. He felt the game well, but he lacked explosiveness. Since he is a hard worker, he worked hard to acquire this physical dimension. He made himself. »
At 18, Antoine Brizard arrives at Paris Volleyball, one of the best French clubs. For three years he progressed alongside Guillermo Hernán. But the Parisian club, which plays in the Champions League, does not risk giving responsibilities to an inexperienced player. “He didn’t play much, but he didn’t complainrecalls Mr. Hernán. He was a mature, respectful boy who listened to others. He enjoyed discussing tactics for hours. He was technically talented without being gifted, but his determination was impressive. »
Lacking playing time, Antoine Brizard left Paris Volley in 2015 for Spacer’s Toulouse Volley, with whom he reached the French championship final in 2017, earning him his first selections. Then the call of the open sea: three seasons in Poland, one in Russia and, since last year, Italy, “the best championship in the world”. In Piacenza, a small wealthy town on the border between Emilia-Romagna and Lombardy, the “quiet man” quickly found his bearings, but remains linked to Paris Volleyball, to the point of becoming a minority shareholder of the club in 2021.
” Paris is my first professional club, it’s a city that means a lot to me, because I met my wife and my best friends there. This is my second family here”He told the Parisian in January. In two years, the City of Light will be back on your roadmap. “The Games, I think about them every day”he said.
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