Lausanne, Switzerland, January 10, 2020 – Tunisia became to first team to book one of the five tickets to Tokyo 2020, available through the continental Olympic qualification tournaments, by topping the standings at the event in Cairo. Shortly after, on Friday evening, France followed suit by winning the final of the European qualifier in Berlin.
Venezuela and Colombia came up with the victories on the first competition day of the South American tournament in Santiago. So did Canada and Cuba in Vancouver, where the NORCECA qualifier got underway on Friday.
France stamped their ticket to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, winning the European continental qualifier in Berlin. In Friday’s big final, coach Laurent Tillie’s squad disappointed the home crowd of over 6,500 at the Max-Schmeling-Halle with a straight-set 3-0 (25-20, 25-20, 25-23) victory over hosts Germany to triumph with the symbolic Daruma doll. German opposite Gyorgy Grozer’s 20 points made him the best scorer of the match, while his counterpart Jean Patry contributed 14, including four aces, to the French success. France’s middle blocker Nicolas Le Goff impressed with six kill blocks to his name.
This will be the fifth time France appear at the Olympic Games. At Rio 2016, they finished ninth. Their best Olympic result was the eighth place they claimed at their rookie participation at Seoul 1988.
Although there is one more match on the tournament’s schedule to be played between Cameroon and Egypt on Saturday, Friday’s clash between neighbours Tunisia and Algeria was the de facto final of the African qualifier in Cairo, as depending on the score one of the two teams would earn a trip to Tokyo 2020. While Algeria needed a straight-set victory to book the Olympic ticket, winning one set would have been sufficient for Tunisia to top the final standings. The dilemma was solved in the very first set, but coach Antonio Giaccobe’s squad went on to claim a 3-1 (25-17, 25-23, 26-28, 25-18) victory and triumph as tournament winner undefeated. In fact, the third set of this match was the only one they lost at the event. Hamza Nagga was the best scorer of the match with 23 points to his name. Nagga (5) and Omar Agrebi (6) piled up a combined total of 11 stuff blocks towards Tunisia’s win. Toufik Mahdjoubi was Algeria’s most prolific player on 21 points.
Tunisia earned the right to play at the Olympics for the seventh time. Most recently, they appeared at the 2012 Games in London. In 1984 in Los Angeles, they achieved their best finish, ninth place.
A remarkable first set, resolved after as many as 72 rallies, got the game between Venezuela and hosts Chile underway on the first competition day of the round-robin South American qualifier in Santiago. Venezuela went on to claim a 3-1 (37-35, 25-14, 25-27, 25-22) victory, with Willner Enrique Rivas Quijada contributing 23 points. He and his teammate Emerson Alexander Rodriguez Gonzalez also shone from the serving line with five aces each. Chile's Vicente Parraguirre scored 23 to share the top scorers' honours.
In the earlier match in Santiago, Colombia produced a 3-0 (25-19, 25-23, 25-21) shutout of Peru. Liberman Agamez topped the scorers’ chart of the match on a 16-point tally for the winning side.
At home in Vancouver, Canada got the NORCECA qualification tournament underway with an emphatic 3-0 (25-16, 25-14, 25-17) win over Mexico. Stephen Timothy Maar led the scorers with 11 points for the host team. In the other game on Friday’s programme, Marlon Yant Herrera chipped in 13 points towards Cuba’s convincing 3-0 (25-18, 25-14, 25-19) victory over Puerto Rico.
Friday was a rest day at the Asian continental qualifier in Jiangmen as no matches were scheduled for the day and the teams of Iran, Korea, Qatar and hosts China prepared for the two semifinals on Saturday.