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05/01/2014 00:31
France and Belgium to battle for World Champs berth
2014 FIVB Volleyball World Championship - Men

Paris, France, January 4, 2014. France and Belgium will clash on Sunday night for a World Champs spot after their respective victories against Spain and Belarus on the second day of action at the Carpentier hall in Paris. The hosts of France opened the program on Saturday by sweeping the Spaniards in three straight sets (25-16, 25-17, and 25-18). The Belgians then took the stage in the French capital and overcame a one set deficit to edge Belarus 3:1 (21-25, 25-22, 25-19, and 25-20). Belarus will face Spain tomorrow at 3:00 p.m. as the two teams will be seeking their first win. France and Belgium will compete for a spot at the next World Championships at 5.00 p.m.

The hosts proved too much to stand for the Spaniards in front of an audience of 4,800 at the Carpentier hall, cruising to a three-set victory (25-16, 25-17, and 25-18). The technical difference in service reception between the two teams was too big for Spain to stand a chance against the side mentored by Laurent Tillie. Julien Lyneel emerged as the best scorer with 17 points while the wing-spiker Israel Rodriguez Calderon led Spain with 10.
France quickly took the lead in the first set with big serves by Ngapeth and Kevin Le Roux, while Julien Lyneel added an ace to give the hosts an eight-point lead (22:14). Earvin Ngapeth, who led his team with five points in the set, finished it off with a block (25-16). Spain did not surrender and showed a good fighting spirit by taking the lead in the second set (7:11). However, as Mory Sidibé replaced Antonin Rouzier for the hosts, that was a turning point as he immediately scored two points to trigger France’s comeback. A big serve followed by an ace by Ngapeth put France back in front (16:14) with the Spaniards committing too many unforced errors to win the set (25-17). Ngapeth performed strong to give France the victory in the third (25-18) where the hosts imposed their rule from the start up to the end.
Laurent Tillie, head coach of France: “We saw a good team effort today. We had a great quality of serve all match long. Spain was too weak in reception to stop us. It should be more difficult against Belgium tomorrow. They have a more balanced team and a have a great setter and a very good wing-spiker. Everyone had fun today, the team and the crowd.”
Fernando Muñoz Benitez, head coach of Spain: “The difference in service-reception was too big today. We saw a big difference between France's reception and our own. After these two games we cannot qualify anymore to the Worlds. So I will have a talk with my players, and we will see what we can do tomorrow.”

Later in the evening, Belgium and Belarus took the stage for a rematch of their 2013 European Championship game (that had ended in a 3-0 victory for Belgium). If Belarus won the first set (21-25) thanks to some great blocks, the Belgians claimed the next three (25-22, 25-19, and 25-20) to cruise to their second victory in the tournament. Sam Deroo finished the game as the top scorer with 23 points, while Aleh Akhrem led Belarus with 15.  
The first set was a close race with the score swaying from side to side until 16:16. But Belarus showed great blocking skills with 7 points, while Akhrem added 9 to win the first set (21-25). In the second set the Belgians quickly jumped ahead and led by as many as five points (18:13). But Belarus came back in the game thanks to some nice spikes, bringing the score to 22:22. Baeyens’ side did not let this set slip away and scored the last three points to make it 1:1 (25-22). Belgium kept their momentum in the third, taking the lead and keeping it all the way through (8:2, 16:9, and 21:16). Deroo finished the set with 7 points and Depestele scored 2 aces (25-19). The last set was a formality for the Belgians as Belarus made too many mistakes (25-20).
Victor Sidelnikov, head coach of Belarus: “We proved today that we can fight. We tried to play, but we suffered from our lack of experience. We need to play every set like we did in the first and the second. We lost concentration in the third and fourth set. We can maybe win against Spain who lost twice in straight sets. We need to try to win each game and to gain experience.”

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