After a failed European Championship in September, Andréa Giani’s players are back to winning ways in an international competition. The French won the League of Nations for the third time in their history after 2015 and 2017, when it was still called the World League.
As in the semi-final, the Blues take a little time before paying for their services. But better in place than the Americans, the French lead this first set. The smuggler Antoine Brizard is in all the right moves and always chooses the right solution. Jean Patry, Nicolas Le Goff and Earvin Ngapeth break the US defense. the French take a nice advantage, +9 (16-7). On the other side, the former Tours, David Smith, allows his team to hang on.
But solid at the reception, the Blues return everything. The United States is struggling to find the fault. Trevor Clévenot concludes this first set with a magnificent counter (25-16), France launches its League of Nations final.
Ngapeth, boss size
Back on the floor of the Unipol Arena in Bologna. The French leave on the same bases, an error, a punishment. Torey DeFalco and Kyle Russel are not on their feet and are multiplying unforced errors. Antoine Brizard has an excellent relationship with these centrals that they find perfectly, Barthélémy Chinenyeze takes advantage of it. First ball for Quentin Jouffroy, the Narbonnais slams an ace and allows France to take a nice advantage, 21-15. Time for Earvin Ngapeth to take matters into his own hands. Alone on the left wing, the player from Modena relaxes and finds the diagonal to offer six set points to the Blues (24-18), a few seconds later, he is found full axis, rebelote (25-19). France won the second set and took a big step towards victory.
Andréa Giani’s men are close to the coronation, but the Americans are not giving up. This third set sees Poland’s scorers in the semi-finals take over the Blues. The tricolor blocks are less precise, the receptions too approximate, David Smith and others regain color and return to the game by winning 25-15. The French lose their first set in this final 8.
The wind has turned
Two sets to one, the Blues lead, but the match seems to have turned, confidence is American. Success flees the French. Torey DeFalco finds a sharp position and is very efficient at the conclusion to allow his team to be in +3 (9-12). Trevor Clévenot, Earvin Ngapeth then Jean Patry offer a reprieve and allow Andréa Giani’s collective to pick up at -1 (15-16). The United States are in the lead but the French team hangs on. Jean Patry saves a first set point (21-24). Ngapeth misses his service (21-25, 2-2), Americans and French will compete for victory in the tie-break.
Start of the tie-break under tension. Neither team wants to do badly. Antoine Brizard is very efficient in the service, France takes a two-point lead (4-2). Out of timeout, the setter repeats and slams a new ace, on the next point, Ngapeth counters and finishes. Andrea Giani blows (7-2). The Blues find success and confidence, Brizard, again, finds the flaw on his first hand (11-8). The United States are in danger, and Russel cracks on his serve, France has four match points. It only takes one, Antoine Brizard serving, David Smith, the most French of Americans fails. France wins the League of Nations in five sets.