Year in Review: France create shockwaves with World League title


As part of the end of year series, the Year in Review looks back at France, winners of the 2015 FIVB World League

Lausanne, Switzerland, December 20, 2015 - It's the stuff dreams are made of: Out of Group 2 and straight to Group 1 gold in the 2015 FIVB World League.

After charging through Group 2 and crushing anyone within sight (including a straight-set win over Bulgaria in the group final at Varna), France qualified to the Final Six on a record-breaking 14-0 record. They were certainly the underdogs in Rio 2015, but they extended that record to an astonishing 17-1, losing only to USA in pool play at the Finals.

France's Antonin Rouzier gets the ball past the double Bulgarian block of Nikolay Nikolov and Vladimir Nikolov in the Group 2 final in Varna.

Pool play provided very few surprises - apart from Russia's below-par performance that left them with an appalling 1-11 record at the end of the season. Serbia and Italy joined Final Six hosts Brazil in qualifying from Pool A and USA with Poland followed suit from Pool B.

But there couldn't have been more suspense and grief in the Finals. The two pools both ended in three-way ties at 1-1 for all teams. When the final count was in, hosts Brazil and Italy were out, leaving defending champions USA, plus Poland, Serbia and France to battle it out for gold.

In took two nail-biting five setters in the semis to set up the final and bronze medal matches in Rio 2015. Aleksandar Atanasijevic led Serbia to their first final since 2009 with an astounding 3-2 (25-23, 25-21, 25-27, 20-25, 15-12) over defending champions USA that could easily have ended in straight sets had not Serbia blown a match point in the third.

A little later, France shocked the world as they held off reigning world champions Poland for a 3-2 (25-23, 25-23, 19-25, 22-25, 17-15) win that saw them join Serbia for the final of the World League.

USA found a little consolation in defeating Poland 3-0 (25-22, 25-23, 25-23) to claim bronze, but it was France's unbelievable victory over Serbia 3-0 (25-19, 25-21, 25-23) that sent shockwaves throughout the volleyball world - even prompting congratulations from the President of France himself.

It was undoubtebly Earvin Ngapeth who was the deciding force behind France's dream season - and it was recognised when he was named MVP of the World League Final Six, at the head of the tournament's Dream Team.

But what has gone down in history is Antonin Rouzier's very last point in the final against Serbia: The spike that sealed the gold medal after an incredible rally - true joy to watch, over and over again.


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