Kraków, Poland, July 17, 2016 – The defending champions France claimed their first ever bronze medal at the World League after a fast victory in straight sets against Italy 3-0 (25-23, 25-21, 25-20).
Antonin Rouzier once again top scored for Les Tricolours with 14 points, followed by Earvin Ngapeth, who showed his brilliant skills once again with 13 while Kevin Le Roux served up victory, as his three serves at 22-20 in the final set sealed victory. On the Italian side the most efficient was Ivan Zaytsev with eight points to his name.
Italy and France met for the 40th time at the World League with France claiming their 16th victory. It was, however, their fifth straight victory over Azzurri - their last defeat (3-1) dates back to 2012.
France now have all three medals in the World League after winning last year and finishing second in 2006.
Both teams showed up motivated wanting to redeem yesterday’s lost chances of winning the title. Italy opened stronger and led 4-2 after a massive spike from their captain Emanuele Birarelli. Their own subsequent errors led to a tie at 6-6. Tough battle lasted till the end of the set. As in the previous games Rouzier and Ngapeth were responsible for scoring in team France and Zaytsev did the same job on the other side of the net. Ngapeth’s huge spike and Osmany Juantorena’s failure to receive at set point brought the Les Bleus a step closer to the medal, after a 25-23 win in set number one.
The second set started quite similar. The Azzurri took a two-point lead at 6-4, but Nicolas Marechal threatened them twice with his serve and made it 6-6. Matteo Piano tried to outsmart the French block, but Nicolas Le Goff swung from the middle to close the gap to 15-14. Another tight ending was on. France bounced back at 24-21, after an individual block by Rouzier on Zaytsev and finished at the second attempt when Filippo Lanza served into the net.
With the comfort of a 2-0 lead, France played joyful volleyball from the beginning of set three and took a 6-2 lead, after Ngapeth’s fantastic series on serve. Italy did not let go and tried their best, but coach Laurent Tillie’s players managed to play really efficiently, building a 16-13 lead at the second technical time-out. It was visible that France were performing with enthusiasm – Ngapeth was scoring easily even from the middle at 19-16. Italy could not deal with Rouzier and company. In the end Gianlorenzo Blengini’s team touched the net again, Luca Vettori made a foot fault, Oleg Antonov received to the French side giving the set 25-20 and the final victory to last year's champions.