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05/01/2014 21:55
Belgium upsets France as both teams claim qualification for 2014 Worlds
2014 FIVB Volleyball World Championship - Men

Paris, France, January 5, 2014. France and Belgium played an epic game in an incredible atmosphere at Carpentier hall in Paris on Sunday afternoon for the last round of action at the World Champs qualifier held in France’s capital city. Though the Belgians edged the hosts 3:2 (25-22, 20-25, 25-17, 23-25, and 15-11), both teams won the right to go to Poland in September for the World Championship, France finishing this round of qualification as the best second across the five Pools. Spain started this action-packed day of Volleyball by claiming their first win in the competition against Belarus (3:1; 25-22, 18-25, 25-19, and 25-22).

In front of an amazing crowd of 3,100 fans at the Carpentier hall, France and Belgium played an epic game with the Belgians eventually edging France 3-2. The Belgians took the first set 25-22 before the hosts made it even, winning the second set 25-20. But this did not stop the visitors as they easily won the third set 25-17. The crowd then witnessed an intense fourth set, with France making two blocks with Nicolas Le Goff to tie the match and push it to a tie-break. But in the end the Belgians left Paris with the win after dominating the deciding fifth set (15-11). French wing-spiker Antonin Rouzier emerged as the top scorer of the game with 26 points, while Bram Van Den Dries led Belgium with 20 points.  

The first set started very close (8:8) but too many unforced errors from the hosts quickly gave the lead to the Belgians who cruised to the final 25-22. The French found their rhythm in the second set with powerful spikes from their wing-spikers and stormed to even the game (25-20). The third set was easily won by the Belgians who held a 10-point lead (22:12) before sealing the final 25-17. In an incredible atmosphere, the locals won a very close fourth set. With the 3,100 spectators in attendance just roaring, the set was tied at 22:22 before two consecutive blocks from Le Goff, who had just entered the game, gave France a two-point lead. A final spike from Rouzier (the wing-spiker scored 9 points in this set) made it 25-23 for France. The tie-break was won rather easily by the visitors who took an early lead (5:2), and never let it go. Van Den Dries scored four points for Belgium as they concluded the match 15-11.      
Dominique Baeyens, head coach of Belgium: “There is a lot of joy for us today. We knew that winning here against France would be complicated. But my team is constantly improving. We had a two-year plan: first to qualify for the European Championship, which we did and where we finished 7th, then to go to the World League, which we did last summer after winning the European League; and then to qualify for the World Champs, which we managed to do tonight. It’s incredible to achieve all these goals. For us tonight it was very negative when someone told us that we were qualified as the score stood at 2:1. My players became too relaxed. But even though the victory wasn’t necessary, it’s very nice to have won.”
Laurent Tillie, head coach of France: “I’m a bit frustrated by this defeat so it’s hard for me to be joyous, even though we succeeded in our goal which was to qualify for the World Championship. As a coach I saw during this match all the aspects of our game that need to be improved. Nicolas Le Goff’s entry in the game was a huge boost for us. Now we’re qualified for the World Champs, the European Championship and the World League, so we have 2 years to work with this group.”

In the other game of this spectacular day of Volleyball action in Paris, Spain edged Belarus 3:1 to claim their first victory in the tournament. Both teams were seeking to leave Paris with a win but Spain’s experience made the difference against a very young team from Belarus. The Spanish wing-spiker Iban Perez Manzanares finished the game as the top scorer with 19 points while Siarhei Antanovich led Belarus with 15 points.
In front of 1,800 spectators Spain quickly took the lead in the first set. With their wing-spikers Perez Manzanares and Rodriguez Calderon scoring 7 and 6 points respectively, the Spaniards won the set 25-22. In the second set Belarus played more aggressively while Spain committing much more errors, especially behind the service line. Sidelnikov’s side took the set 25-18. But the young Belarusians seemed then a bit tired and Spain easily won the third 25-19. Belarus did not surrender in the fourth set but Spain was too strong and grabbed the final 25-22 for a well-deserved 3:1 victory.  
Fernando Muñoz Benitez, head coach of Spain: “Today’s game was not important for the qualification as the two teams had lost their first two matches. But it was important for us since we have a lot of young players. They need to improve technically, physically, but also mentally and learn how to prepare these games. Now we are going to continue working with this group, composed of a mix of 3-4 experienced players and younger players. In May we have the qualification for the 2015 European Championship and in June we continue our season with the World League.”
Victor Sidelnikov, head coach of Belarus: “We played this game and this tournament at our level, which is not so high. I think we had a good game. We played not so bad. Some players were tired, but this match was a gift from us to the spectators. We have some very young players that I put in the game after the second set to give them a chance. This is maybe the last time we play a competition at this level. It was history for Belarus, the first time we were in this round of qualification for a World Championship. Now we look forward to the European Championship qualification in May.”

Click here for more info including detailed stats of the matches

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