Łódź, Poland, June 25, 2016 – Argentina needed five sets to defeat the last year’s World League winners 3-2 (19-25, 25-21, 25-23, 25-27, 15-13) in the first Saturday match in Atlas Arena.
Argentina was highly-motivated after Friday’s loss to Poland and showed their volleyball today. Last year’s World League winners fought with passion, Antonin Rouzier seemed to be unstoppable with 29 points to his name, but in the end Julio Velasco’s players were the ones to open the champagne. Sebastian Sole (19 points) and Cristian Poglajen (18 points) showed the best form on the winning side.
Coach Laurent Tillie’s team started a bit nervously and let the South Americans show their play. An ace from Antonin Rouzier helped for a while, but the rivals earned a one-point advantage at the first technical time-out. Kevin Le Roux pumped up the atmosphere with atomic serves and gave his team a 14-10 lead. From this point on Argentina was helpless. France found their rhythm and paved their way to the 25-19.
Ezequiel Palacios, after his nice performance against Poland the day before, showed the efficiency today as well (9 points in two sets) and forced the French to make mistakes. A point-by-point battle lasted almost untill the end of the set, but an individual block by Cristian Poglajen turned the game and Albicelestes edged ahead 20-17. The white-and-blue team preserved the lead and Nicolas Bruno closed out the set at 25-21.
Argentina stayed on their winning path and easily scored five times in a row, which forced coach Tillie to call for a break for Les Bleus. It helped and France came back into the game, again thanks to a great serve by Le Roux, but still losing three points (5-8) at the first technical time-out. They kept chasing and reached the opponents at a 10 point mark. An eye for an eye fight lasted in next rallies and despite the French breakaway 21-19, the Argentinians moved to the front and gained another set on their account, after an amazing block from Sebastian Sole and Nicolas Bruno.
European champions did not say their last word and opened strongly, with Rouzier leading the way. A four-point advantage gave France a comfort and they used it well. Sebastian Sole tried his best on the opposite side of the net, but Rouzier was unstoppable on serve again, which resulted in a score of 14-8. The sense of a near tie-breaker accompanied the game, even though the Argentinians stepped up their efforts and tied at 17-17. The tight and exciting finish belonged to phenomenal Rouzier who gave France the desired 27-25.
It was clear that both teams want the victory badly. Albicelestes lost concentration in the beginning and let France lead by two points 4-2, but they did not lose faith. Nicolas Bruno served an ace and gave 7-6 to his team. Another one by one pursuit took place, but Argentina showed nerves of steel and even Rouzier could not help here. France gave away a free point and a double block stopped Rouzier’s attack. Sole and his teammates could enjoy their first victory in Lodz, after a 15-13 win in the tie-breaker.