France team are optimistic as they meet the tough challenge from three-time defending champions Brazil
Katowice, Poland, September 20, 2014 – There is always a first time for everything while desire is the most important factor for success.
Clinging to these two cardinal principles, France team arrive into the semifinals of the FIVB Men’s World Championship as the lowest ranked side in the world classification among the four medal contenders, and the one who never tasted the flavor of victory in the history of the competition.
Brazil won the title in 2002, 2006 and 2010, Poland claimed their shot to fame in 1974 in Mexico and Germany triumphed as East Germany in 1970.
The team of Coach Laurent Tillie -currently No 13 in the world- is in front of the tough task of playing the three-time defending champions and top world-ranked Brazil in the first semifinal at Spodek Arena on Saturday. Poland are placed 4th and Germany are in 10th position.
“To qualify to the semifinals is fantastic for us,” a proud Tillie said about the team with a combined 9-2 win-loss record for the whole competition with the two defeats in five sets to the hands of Italy and Poland.
France and Brazil will be playing each other for the eighth time at the world championship with the South American giant prevailing in six of the seven previous clashes. France, however, had the top hand the last time in 2006. The two sides also met twice at the 2013 World League with split results.
“We are in the semis against Brazil and we will fight like we have done during the whole competition,” Captain Benjamin Toniutti said.
The third best ranked setter in the world championship, Toniutti said the atmosphere reigning among team members is excellent. “It is an amazing feeling to be among the four best teams in the world, and we want to be in a medal position, that’s our goal.”
France claimed their only medal at the world championship in the 2002 edition when they beat Yugoslavia after losing to Russia in the semifinals. The nine victories attained in 2014 are a team-best improving their eight wins in 2006.
What they have achieved thus far is in part the result of the lethal offensive combination from Antonin Rouzier and Earvin Ngapeth, the second and fourth best scorers for the event with 187 and 156 points, respectively. Jenia Grebennikov is also the best digger and second best libero.
“We are the less gifted physically among the teams in the semifinals,” Ngapeth admitted. “So we need to put an extra effort in our blocking and overall defence.”
Visiting the semifinals is like a day at the office for the Brazilian team with their eighth time at the Final Four as they continue their quest for an unprecedented fourth consecutive crown. In 2002 they dethroned Italy, the only other team with three consecutive gold medals.
En route to this year's semifinals, the squad coached by Bernardo Rezende has compiled a 10-1 win-loss record with a 32-7 mark in sets . They twice beat Olympic champions Russia, including a straight-set victory in the third round where they suffered their only loss to host Poland in five frames with the tie-breaker concluding 17-15.
Ricardo Lucarelli Santos (133), Lucas Saatkamp (108) and Wallace De Souza (94) have been the most prominent offensive contributors to the Brazilian success with Murillo Endres topping the list of the best receivers.
Lucarelli Santos is the fourth best spiker of the competition with a 52.08 % of success and he is also third in total aces with 20, behind Russia's Dmitriy Museskiy (25) and Germany's Gyorgy Grozer (24).