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France qualify for the round of 16 after a thrilling match
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France qualify for the round of 16 after a thrilling match

In a fiery atmosphere, France beat Slovenia three sets to two (25-21, 22-25, 23-25, 34-32, 15-7). Les Bleus won this epic match on a tie-break, after saving three match points in the fourth set. Throughout the match, the 12,500 spectators at Arena Stozice in Ljubljana noisily supported their team in a bullfighting atmosphere.

With two wins in two games, the Blues are already qualified for the round of 16 of the World Cup. They will play their third and last pool match in two days against Cameroon, a priori the weakest team in Pool D, in Ljubljana. France should then play its round of 16, still in the same venue, on Saturday 3 or Monday 5 September.

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On paper, this meeting looked like a trap match. After being vice-champion of Europe 2019 and 2021, Slovenia is a solid outsider in this World Cup. The country is ranked 10e rank of the International Volleyball Federation. For her entry into the tournament, she beat Cameroon three sets to zero.

Announced as the summit of group D, the meeting kept its promises. It is true that the matches between these two strong volleyball nations are always spectacular: the opposition of style is perfect between Slovenia, with their very offensive game, and France, renowned for their defensive solidity.

Easy first set

Despite a good start and a first set won quite easily, the French then had a hard time containing the fury of the Slovenian attack. The attacking receivers Klemen Cebulj and Tine Urnaut and the sharp Toncek Stern martyred the against tricolor. Long overtaken on the block, the French were unable to stop either the cross attacks or the “blowjob”, powerful attacks from the center to three meters. Galvanized by their public, the Slovenes hit harder and harder, and made almost no mistakes.

During the second and third sets, the Blues were overwhelmed, stuck in too predictable a game. Certainly, Earvin Ngapeth was in a great day, and kept the blue boat afloat. Also successful, central Barthélémy Chinenyeze missed nothing, but France was dominated by the power and desire of the Slovenians. While the French were beginning to doubt, the entry into play of Kevin Tillie at the end of the second set reshuffled the cards.

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Sparkling Earvin Ngapeth

The receiver-attacker brought the Habs the physical freshness and confidence they lacked. Suddenly, the French counters became more effective, their attacks sharper. Led 17-20 in the fourth set, the Blues went back in the lead at 22-21, the game reaching heights of intensity, to finally conclude the set with the score of 34 to 32! More relaxed, and still carried by a sparkling Earvin Ngapeth, they unfolded in the tie-break and finally managed to air-condition the Arena Stozice in Ljubljana.

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