World volleyball: the Blues send off, with pain, Japan for reaching the quarterfinals

World volleyball: the Blues send off, with pain, Japan for reaching the quarterfinals

Suspense, tie-break and many nerfs. The French volleyball team, Olympic champion, qualified for the quarterfinals of the World Cup, beating Japan with difficulty, on Monday, September 5, in Ljubljana.

The Blues will face the Italians, among their best enemies, on Wednesday in this same Stozice Arena (at 5:30 p.m.), before some stands that could be fuller, since Slovenia will play calmly.

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On Monday, only about 1,000 spectators attended this crazy round of 16, won by the Blues by a mousetrap after a Homeric brawl, on their second match point after saving one! The final score reveals all the intensity of the fight imposed by an attractive Japanese team: 25-17, 21-25, 26-24, 22-25, 18-16.

Salvation, after more than two hours of play, came as a symbol of the Blues’ star player, Earvin Ngapeth (17 points), who found himself with a small diagonal from a furious smash. Relief test: The Blues, bidding for a maiden world championship title on Sunday in Katowice a year after Olympic gold in Tokyo, congratulated themselves after victory point as if they had won more than just a round of 16.

“It was a crazy match, very difficult for the nervesadmitted the central Barthélémy Chinenyeze, aware of having been very close to returning home early. Japan played an amazing game. We knew it was going to be difficult, but now it feels good. »

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bench depth

As in the group stage against Slovenia (3-2), where he erased several match points, he showed his mental solidity against the imposing and jumping Japanese led by former French and international coach Philippe Blain (2001-2012). They were very close to a first win against France since 2016.

But if against the Slovenians the French had quickly advanced in the tie-break (the fifth decisive day), on Monday they had to resort to their resources to catch up, ahead 4 to 1. They took a first advantage (7-6 ) on a counterattack from Trévor Clévenot.

Clévenot, decisive at the end of the match, had been quickly replaced, because in check, against the Slovenians, by Kévin Tillie. But Tillie injured her foot during the game against Japan when he landed wrong, and the roles were reversed.

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Therefore, the Blues were able to count on the depth of their bench. This is attested to by the performances of Clévenot and Jouffroy, but also that of the usual substitute for the leading position, Stephen Boyer. Entering the game during the match in place of Jean Patry, he was also decisive in the tie-break, with a winning attack that allowed France to recover a one-point lead (10-9), just before a victorious against Barthélémy Chinenyeze ( 11-9).

“We don’t mind being beautiful”

Frenchman Earvin Ngapeth tries to return the ball to the Japanese field from behind, on September 5, 2022.

Boyer’s contribution (17 points) was also significant in the third set: he hit two attacks at the end of the round, offering a two-point lead (22-20). A few minutes later, the Blues were leading two sets to one. They seemed to have the game under control.

It was not counting on Japan and its fiery duo composed of Yuji Nishida (31 points), pocket sharp (1.87 m), and receiver-hitter Yuki Ichikawa (22 points), who won the fourth set before pushing the Blues to its limits. But this French team is aware of its strength and its effectiveness in difficult times.

“We are relieved, but also frustrated, because we have the impression that they dominated us in the match”Recognized Earvin Ngapeth on the L’Equipe channel. “But we don’t mind looking good, playing a good game, now the important thing is to win, even if it’s not our best game. The adventure continues”rejoiced the star player of the France national team who expects another strong opposition from the Italians, whom the Blues know “from memory”. “The mistakes we made tonight [lundi] will not forgive against them”warns Ngapeth.

The world with AFP

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