Aix-en-Provence, France, June 9, 2018 - A solid 17-point return from Stephen Boyer led France past Argentina 3-1 (25-18, 25-16, 23-25, 25-20) in Saturday's third-round action at the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Nations League.
The hosts made many changes throughout the game and somewhat struggled against a solid South American side but a scintillating performance from Stephen Boyer (2 blocks) lifted Les Bleus ahead of their opponents.
The outside hitter was the star of the match but Kevin Tillie (11 points) and Earvin Ngapeth (10 points) also made contributions.
There hasn't been too much for the visiting fans to cheer for as Argentina but Martin Ramos was again the hero and his 16 points at least had the blue and white flags flying.
France, who as hosts of the finals in Lille next month are assured of qualifying, were seeking their sixth win in the 2018 Nations League. Argentina, who lost eight of their last ten encounters with Les Bleus, have only one victory to their name and can already forget a berth in the final round.
The South Americans, however, have already proved they were no pushovers and caused a lot of problems to the host in the opening of the game. Coach Laurent Tillie had decided to leave some of his usual stars on the bench, as Nicolas Le Goff and Barthélémy Chinenyeze started, but it didn't explain everything as Argentina claimed the first three points of the game. But the French were in no mood to play the gracious hosts and quickly clawed back into the game off the back of the highflying Stephen Boyer (15-12). With the wind in their sails, Les Bleus were unstoppable as they rushed to a seven-point advantage at 20-13. And even Facundo Conte's thunderous spikes were not enough to prevent the home side to claim the first set (25-18).
And, just as they did against Korea the day before, the French remained in control, making things easy for them as they raced to an early 6-1 lead. The momentum was with the hosts from the very start and remained with them until the end, especially with Boyer in super form to lead his side (17-8). A couple Gallic mistakes lifted Argentina back into contention but it just wasn't enough as Boyer shined and the home side easily claimed the second set (25-16).
Coach Tillie changed things around, introducing Lyneel and Bultor, and the French struggled, making too many mistakes and allowing Argentina to take the lead at 11-10. In a tense end of the set, France failed to deliver and let Argentina take a slight lead (20-17) and, after Tillie asked for more concentration from his men, they clawed back thanks to a last-minute rally and an impressive display from Jean Patry... but Cristian Poglajen was there to conclude (25-23).
After this upset, the Albiceleste seemed to have regained confidence and jumped to a 4-1 lead despite an incredibly deft play by Patry. The French then regained composure as well as control of the game but could not get rid of a well-oiled Argentinian machine (14-11). The South Americans remained within reach of the Europeans but trailed until the business end of the set when Boyer rose to wrap it up (25-20).