Lodz, Poland, June 2, 2018 - Thibault Rossard and Barthélémy Chinenyeze both produced fine individual performances as France recovered from Friday’s straight-sets defeat to Poland by beating Germany 3-0 (25-21, 25-18, 25-23) on Saturday.
France - winners of the now defunct FIVB World League in 2015 and 2017 - are already guaranteed a place in next month’s Final Six as hosts, but coach Laurent Tillie will nevertheless have been expecting a reaction after his previously unbeaten side went down 3-0 to current Volleyball Nations League leaders Poland in Lodz on Friday.
Rossard and Chinenyeze spearheaded the revolt against the Germans, in a repeat of the bronze medal match which France lost 3-0 at the 2014 FIVB World Championship. Wing spiker Rossard led the way with 10 points (eight spikes, one block and one ace), while 20-year-old middle blocker Chinenyeze contributed seven spikes and two blocks as France moved back up to fourth in the standings.
It was a solid team performance all around from Tillie’s men, with the coach even enjoying the luxury of resting his son - star wing spiker Kevin Tillie - ahead of their next match against China. Similarly, there was no sign of Germany’s top scorer Christian Fromm, as Andrea Giani’s men gear up for a crunch encounter with neighbours Poland on Sunday.
France’s top scorer Stephen Boyer also added seven spikes, while the towering Kevin Le Roux had six spikes and a block and 21-year-old Jean Patry came off the bench to add five spikes and an ace.
Simon Hirsch led the Germans with nine points - eight spikes and an ace - while highly rated youngster Linus Weber grabbed five spikes, two blocks and an ace despite only coming off the bench in the second set.
Germany’s Ruben Schott came up with a big block to shut down Boyer from the off, but Le Roux and Chinenyeze responded with huge spikes in a balanced opening to the match. Rossard whipped over a 126 kilometre-per-hour ace as the French opened up a four-point lead, before Boyer grabbed his first spike of the match to make it 10-5. Another fine serve from Antoine Brizard helped Tillie’s side remain in control, with the Germans let down by some poor serving. France never looked likely to let the first set slip after going in 16-9 at the second technical time out, and more excellent work from Boyer and Chinenyeze soon brought up five set points. Germany saved two, but Julien Lyneel soon saw the French over the line (25-21).
Germany made a better start to the second set - David Sossenheimer setting the tone with a thunderous spike - but a couple of serves into the net helped France get back on level terms. Rossard made it 4-4 after libero Jérémie Mouiel dived low to somehow keep a spectacular rally going, although a couple of storming efforts from Hirsch and Sossenheimer got the Germans back in front by the technical time out. It was incredibly tight throughout the middle part of the set, with the two sides matching each other blow-for-blow - a delicate touch from Chinenyeze here, a rocket from Hirsch there - but the French then embarked on a run of eight unanswered points to take a commanding 21-13 lead. Germany pulled it back to 21-16, but Yacine Louati and Le Roux edged France closer to a two-set advantage before Boyer rounded it out in style following a sensational rally (25-18).
France were able to take their foot off the gas somewhat early in the third, with coach Tillie entertaining the Polish crowd at the Atlas Arena while his men continued to keep Germany at arm’s length on the court. Patry responded to Jakob Günthör, while Le Roux grabbed another two points to make it 8-5 by the technical time out. Germany’s attempts to draw level were undermined by a number of serving errors, although the up-and-coming Weber, just 18, put in an impressive turn, scoring the majority of his eight points in the final set. Patry also did a fine job after coming off the bench as France closed in on victory, with Tillie even withdrawing Boyer in the closing stages. Germany managed to pull within two points, but some more wayward serves and a big spike from Louati brought up three match points, as Le Roux eventually saw it out for France (25-23).
Germany now face the arduous task of taking on top dogs Poland on home soil, as they seek only a second victory in six Volleyball Nations League outings. France should have it somewhat easier as they go up against China, who have also claimed just one win from five.