Even though it lost to the reigning Olympic champion Brazil in the last round of the group stage at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the France Men’s National Team went down the history of the country’s volleyball by qualifying for the quarterfinals for the first time ever.
France earned its place in the quarterfinals of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games by prolonging the match against Brazil (already qualified for the quarterfinals) to the tie-break on Day 5 (the last day of the group stage) in Pool B. Thus, the players of ‘Les Bleus’ wrote one of the most beautiful pages in the history of French volleyball by continuing the competition in the Olympics after the preliminary stage for the first time ever.
Having its back against the wall after setbacks against the United States and Argentina, France was immense in its next two meetings, beating the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) and now playing the tie-break against the titleholder Brazil: 2-3 (22-25, 39-37, 17-25, 25-21, 18-20). One point from this match was exactly what Laurent Tillie’s wards needed to secure promotion to the Top 8. But, the way they achieved it was quite nerve-racking, and by that we mean the second set in which France tied the match at 1-1 by converting the 11th set ball for 39-37 after 51 minutes! Who knows in which way the match would go if Brazil took the lead of 2-0 in sets. Earvin Ngapeth smashed 29 points for France (13 in the first two sets). Nicolas Le Goff set up 5 blocks. Wallace de Souza tallied 23 points for ‘Seleção’, while Lucas Saatkamp ‘Lucão’ made 7 blocks and Thales Hoss 75.9 % reception (22/29).
Only one quarterfinal ticket from Pool B is yet to be verified – it will go into the hands of either the USA or Argentina who will face each other later today.
The ROC became the third quarterfinal participant from this pool. It beat Tunisia in straight sets and claimed first place in the pool, meaning it will play against the fourth-placed side from Pool A in the elimination phase. The most productive player in ‘Zbornaya’ was Maksim Mikhaylov, who scored 15 points. Egor Kliuka had 84.6 % reception (11/13). Wassim Ben Tara collected 14 points for the Tunisians.
At the end of the group stage, the world champion Poland played probably its best match so far in Tokyo, defeating the dangerous national team of Canada, very confidently, 3-0. Thus, Vital Heynen’s wards secured a top spot in Pool A, facing France in the quarterfinals. Bartosz Kurek put down 17 points for Poland (64.7 % attack, 11/17), including 5 blocks. Wilfredo León served 5 aces.
Despite a defeat, Canada’s quarterfinal berth is safe. Out of the two remaining matches in this pool, which will be played later on, one will be a fight for the place in the top 8 – Japan vs Iran.
2020 Tokyo Olympics men’s volleyball tournament, group stage – last round:
Poland – Canada 3-0 (25-15, 25-21, 25-16)
Brazil – France 3-2 (25-22, 37-39, 25-17, 21-25, 20-18)
ROC – Tunisia 3-0 (25-20, 25-22, 25-16)
Italy – Venezuela, 9:25 a.m. CET
Japan – Iran, 12:40 p.m. CET
USA – Argentina, 2:45 p.m. CET