Van Den Dries was vital in the fourth set to bring hopes to their side
Krakow, Poland, September 7, 2014 - In urgent need of a win to keep alive their second round chances, Belgium struggled through five sets against France, but in the end Les Bleus prevailed 3-2 (25-14, 21-25, 25-20, 22-25, 15-12) to secure Pool D top spot and rule the Red Dragons out of the tournament.
• France still control the head-to-head record over Belgium by 6-2.
• Nearly two months ago, France had defeated Belgium at 2014 World League Group 2 semifinals - 3-0 in Sydney.
• With the win, France has now even numbers of 66-66 at FIVB World Championship.
• The point earned wasn’t enough for Belgium, as they are out of contest and having lost 8 of their last 10 World Champs matches.
Bram Van Den Dries sparked the Belgian hopes with a match-high of 23 points, but it wasn’t enough to make it through. France was led by Kevin Tillie’s 18 points, while Antonin Rouzier and Earvin Ngapeth contributed with 16 and 15 respectively.
Regardless being already qualified, France played some world-class volleyball in the first chapter. Kevin Le Roux created the first lead with two aces (7-3) and Les Bleus kept improving as the set went on. It was a delightful display as Ngapeth showed his many technical options and Benjamin Toniutti amazingly distributed the play. Belgium could only watch how the score grew from 16-9 to the final 25-14.
Belgium answered with several blocks and escaped to 6-3, but Rouzier served well and the distance vanished. However, Sam Deroo took the floor and restored the lead for the Red Dragons to 13-9. France kept applying pressure and managed to place only one point behind (20-19), but that was it as the Belgian block reappeared, with three kills in a row for the 25-21.
Franck Lafitte replaced Le Roux in France and he did his job for an 8-5 score. The match went on with Belgium giving away many points by failed serves, and therefore unable to get closer. Ngapeth chipped in from the service line (20-14) and, after a final effort from the Red Dragons, Lafitte smashed the 25-20.
However, another low start from France (5-2) allowed Belgium to handle the strings all along the fourth act. Van Den Dries became a serious headache for the French defence as he uncorked 11 points in the set, to push his side towards the tie-break. Les Bleus narrowed the gap in the final track, but a net fault sealed a 25-22 score.
The final set had a thrilling twist, as French libero Jenia Grebennikov had to leave court due to a broken finger, replaced by Ngapeth. That delay slowed down Belgium, France moved on to 12-8 with Nicolas Marechal and that was it. A failed Belgium spike wrapped the game by 15-12.