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18/10/2015 22:42
France celebrate historic European crown, Slovenia happy with silver
2015 CEV Volleyball European Championship - Men

Sofia, Bulgaria, October 18, 2015. To cap an incredible season where they first won the Group 2 Finals of the FIVB Volleyball World League to move on to the Group 1 final stage and beat the ‘big guns’ in Rio de Janeiro, ‘Les Bleus’ claimed on Sunday night at Arena Armeec in Sofia their first, historic European title. They played a perfect match and even though the second and third sets added a bit of drama to the 2015 men’s EuroVolley final night of action, they walked quite confidently towards the achievement of yet another milestone in France’s Volleyball history recording a 3:0 win (25-19, 29-27, 29-27) in the gold medal match with Slovenia. This is France’s seventh European medal, which is to be added to four silver ones and another two bronze ‘Les Bleus’ have won since the European Championship was first played in 1948.

Slovenia, the real sensation of the tournament, could be proud and happy of their silver medal, the first ever since the country’s independence in 1991 and the second in any team sport following the second place claimed by the men’s national handball team at the 2004 European Championship on home soil.
The gold medal match was played before a sell-out crowd and brought to an end ten days of world-class Volleyball across four venues in Bulgaria and Italy with more than 150,000 fans having witnessed the actions of Europe’s finest players.

Click here for a live, comprehensive gallery of the 2015 men’s EuroVolley

France vs. Slovenia 3:0 (25-19, 29-27, 29-27)

The players mentored by Andrea Giani were only one step away from an unprecedented sporting achievement for their country, with the only European final contested by Slovenia in team sports dating back to the 2004 edition of the men’s handball championship they hosted and where they lost to Germany. However, ‘Les Bleus’ – on Sunday they actually wore white shirts – were determined to claim their first European crown as well while performing before legendary soccer player Lilian Thuram and their country’s Sports Minister, Patrick Kanner, and they set the tempo of the game (5:3) right from the start of the match. Slovenia could rely on an even larger group of passionate and loyal fans than in Saturday’s semi with Italy as the nation was experiencing a real Volleyball fever and some more supporters had travelled by bus to Sofia on Sunday. France got an edge of four points at the second technical time-out (16:12) and were able to hold on well to it to finish it off at 25-19.

The story of the match slightly changed in the early stages of the second set where Slovenia seemed to feel less pressure and showed the quality that had driven Giani’s guys to upset reigning world champions Poland and FIVB World Cup runners-up Italy. However, France stormed back and after ‘Les Bleus’ levelled the score at 17, Andrea Giani opted for a time-out in order to stop the positive run of his opponent. France edged ahead on a Slovenian error (19:18) but Mitja Gasparini and Tine Urnaut stepped up their efforts to keep their side on track. Two points in a row by the Slovenian opposite flipped the charts around (21:19) but Slovenia could not use three set balls in a row and Ngapeth closed in at 24 all; France survived another set point for their opponent, but Ngapeth served into the net, Urnaut did the same on Slovenia’s fifth set ball, a fault by Dejan Vincic provided France with their first chance to go for 2:0 but they missed it (27 all); Jan Kozamernik then served off the bounds and this nerve-racking drama eventually came to an end with an ace by Antonin Rouzier (29-27).

After dissipating such opportunity, Slovenia suffered a (psychological) setback in the early stages of the third set where France piled up a 9:5 lead that Giani’s guys were nevertheless able to cancel showing remarkable resilience and the determination that their new, charismatic mentor has been injecting since a few months already. As a result, Slovenia quite incredibly turned the tide (18:17) but France’s star opposite Antonin Rouzier performed just amazingly while en route to securing the MVP award of the 2015 men’s EuroVolley. After another round of emotions and some more heartbeat, the French party eventually got started after ‘Les Bleus’ cashed their fifth match ball with an incredible spike by Earvin Ngapeth who practically turned his back to the net while spiking the ball through the Slovenian block (29-27). 

“Right now I feel a little bit sad because we lost the final but maybe in a couple of minutes, after calming down, we will realise what we all have achieved during this tournament,” Slovenia’s star player Mitja Gasparini said. “It has been an amazing journey. As for our coach, I know Andrea Giani very well because he has been my mentor also during the club season for the last couple of years. We have been working very hard under his guidance for the last five months, won the European League, qualified for the World League, and now won a medal at the European Championship. We very much hope to continue this great journey with him and perform well next year as well.”

Slovenia’s mentor Andrea Giani looked a bit disappointed, yet emotional at the same time after the final: “Of course I can’t be completely happy but I am nevertheless very proud of my players. This group has made it very far from where we started but we knew from the very beginning they had the potential to go for something big and I had the same feeling coming in here. Maybe we could not predict we would be in the big final, but I was sure and confident we would have achieved a good result at this championship.”

France’s team captain Benjamin Toniutti said: “It is an amazing feeling, we are European champions and just can’t find the right words to describe the way we feel. This summer we already won the World League but we continued to work very hard on our way to this tournament because we wanted to confirm that result and show that this is the level we can compete at. Tonight we played the perfect match, everything went just perfect and now we can celebrate.”

Laurent Tillie, head coach of France: “I am very happy!  This is a great satisfaction. When we started the competition all teams were so close – Russia, Italy, Bulgaria, Poland… And after you win the title, it is amazing. Unbelievable! We did it. And the feeling is greater because we won the World League title four months ago. And do you know what? When we come back to France, maybe I need to play the lottery, because I am so lucky. Everything seems like a dream. We were in a tough group in Italy, but we succeeded to beat Italy; after that the other host Bulgaria, and today - the strong Slovenian team. Amazing!”

2015 men’s EuroVolley Dream Team

MVP: Antonin Rouzier (FRA)
Best Setter: Simone Giannelli (ITA)
Best Opposite: Ivan Zaytsev (ITA)
Best Outside Spiker. Tine Urnaut (SLO)
Second Best Outside Spiker: Earvin Ngapeth (FRA)
Best Middle Blocker: Teodor Todorov (BUL)
Second Best Middle Blocker: Viktor Yosifov (BUL)
Best Libero: Jénia Grebennikov (FRA)

Fair Play Award: Vladimir Nikolov (BUL)

Final standing

1.    France*
2.    Slovenia*
3.    Italy*
4.    Bulgaria*
5.    Poland*
6.    Russia*
7.    Serbia*  
8.    Germany
9.    The Netherlands
10.    Belgium
11.    Estonia
12.    Finland
13.    Czech Republic
14.    Slovakia
15.    Croatia
16.    Belarus

*Qualified for the Final Round of the 2017 edition together with hosts Poland

For more information on the 2015 CEV Volleyball European Championship - Men visit or click here. In social media, please use the competition’s official hashtag #EuroVolleyM.

News nr. 2 of 179
19/10/2015 02:57:00
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18/10/2015 20:03:00
Italy upset Bulgarian co-hosts, secure thirteenth EuroVolley medal

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