The road for French volleyball players is long until the Paris Games. After eight games in the League of Nations, a prestigious competition that takes place every year in different countries and brings together the 16 best teams in the world, France already has five defeats (Poland, Slovenia, Japan, Argentina, Brazil) for three victories (China , Cuba, Canada).
On Sunday 25 June, in the last match of the French phase of the championship, in Orleans, the Azzurri were beaten in four sets (20-25, 24-26, 25-19, 23-25) by Brazil, which is one of the favorites for the Games. The League of Nations record is unflattering for the Olympic champions in Tokyo in 2021, but the situation doesn’t seem to worry the staff too much.
“The League of Nations is not a priority target this year, explains the Italian Andrea Giani, coach of the Blues. By the end of their league, the players had their heads full of volleyball. They needed to breathe. This is why we invited young people to inject new blood during the first stage of this competition, in Nagoya. » With the exception of Kévin Tillie, the team directors were therefore excused from the trip to Japan and France suffered three defeats in four matches.
The return of the leaders
The executives made their comeback during the second phase of the League, which was played in Orleans from 20 to 25 June. Only Earvin N’Gapeth is still missing, who should be back in the selection during the third stage, in Anaheim, in the suburbs of Los Angeles, from 4 to 10 July. Closed the season exhausted with his Modenese club, the Blues star, who has just signed with Halkbank Ankara (Turkey), obtained a free pass to extend his vacation.
If the Olympic champions were visibly happy to see each other again, they still need to find rhythm and automatisms. To access the Final 8 of the League of Nations, in Gdansk (Poland), from 19 to 23 July, they will have to win the last four games.
Suffice it to say that qualifying embarked poorly. Bad for good? In view of the Euro (from 28 August to 16 September in Italy, Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Israel) and, above all, the Olympic Games in Paris (from 26 July to 11 August 2024), granting players additional rest would not be be a luxury.
The lessons of summer 2022 have been learned. Last year, France won the championship, before getting stuck in the world championships, which had however set themselves an important goal, having never won France in this competition. The physical and mental wear and tear of the tricolor volleyball players had not escaped their staff.
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