Chicago, USA, July 10, 2019 - Hosts and 2018 bronze medallists USA defeated 2018 runners-up France in four sets 3-1 (25-16, 25-22, 23-25, 25-21) in their first match in the 2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League Finals in Chicago on Wednesday. Maxwell Holt led the USA team with 17 points, alongside Aaron Russell on 16, while Jean Patry was the leading scorer for France on 17.
Coach John Speraw's USA team claimed nine wins in 15 matches during the Preliminary Round to finish in the top six and earn a place in the Finals despite being automatically qualified as the tounrnament hosts. Benjamin Patch was the top scorer for his team during the Preliminary Round with 146 points, ahead of Garrett Muagututia on 130 and Torey 'TJ' Defalco on 93.
France reached the Finals in Chicago on a total of 11 wins from 15 matches. They also lost to their opponents on Wednesday in four sets when the two teams met in Cannes, France in week 3 of the competition.
A strong run took France all the way to the final of the inaugural edition of the Volleyball Nations League in 2018, which they played in front of their fans at the Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille, with Russia claiming a three-set victory.Match centre: USA-FrancePre-match stats:
United States - France (July 10, 2019)
· United States have a W21-L14 record in their 35 matches against France in world level major competitions (FIVB Volleyball Nations League, Olympic Games, World Championship, World Cup, World League and Grand Champions Cup).
· USA beat France 3-1 in the 2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League, with only five points separating the two sides: 103-98.
· France scored more points from spikes in that 3-1 defeat versus USA (57-53), but USA had more points from blocks (15-13) and made fewer errors (25-30).
· France twice beat USA in the 2018 VNL, both in five sets. They won 3-2 in the preliminary round and 3-2 in the semi-finals. France's Stephen Boyer was top scorer in the semi-final encounter on 31 points.
· France have won four of the last six matches against USA at major world level competitions.United States
· USA could win their first major trophy since lifting the 2015 World Cup.
· The last time they won a major world level tournament on home soil was the gold medal at the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games.
· USA beat Brazil to claim third place in the 2018 VNL. They won their first match in the finals against Poland before losing to Russia and then France in the semifinals.· Benjamin Patch is USA's top scorer in the 2019 VNL on 146 points. He scored 16 points in last year's final round, when Matthew Anderson led USA in scoring on 51 points in the finals.
· Patch's 56.79% spike success rate is the second highest in the 2019 VNL behind Iran's Amir Ghafour (57.73%).
· Garrett Muagututia is among the 10 best receivers (17.89% efficiency) and the 10 best servers (0.25 average) in this year's VNL.France
· France finished runners-up in the 2018 Volleyball Nations League after losing the final 3-0 to Russia.
· They could win their third world level major competition after winning the 2015 and 2017 World League. Apart from these two wins, they also won the European title in 2015.
· Only Russia (27) have won more VNL matches than France (26).
· France finished fourth in the preliminary round in the 2019 VNL. Last year they entered the finals as the top ranked team in the preliminary phase.· Jean Patry leads France in scoring in this year's VNL on 132 points. He registered three points in the final round in 2018.
· Stephen Boyer (75) and Earvin Ngapeth (67) were the VNL top scorers in last year's finals.
· Antoine Brizard is among the best setters in the 2019 VNL with an average of 3.96.
· Jenia Grebennikov (1.93) has the fourth highest average as digger in the 2019 VNL.