Les Bleus headed into Sunday's event hoping to finish week 2 of the 2017 FIVB World Grand Prix on a perfect 6-0 record. An added bonus for the “team Yavbou” was to erase from recent memories their 2016 Rio Olympics 3-1 defeat in the preliminary round. But the United States have won five of their last six World League matches against France, with the five-set defeat in June 2012 as the only exception. Stephen Boyer and Julien Lyneel are on top form and have so far largely compensated the absence of star Earvin Ngapeth in Laurent Tillie's squad.
On the other hand, the US struggled in the first round, suffering three defeats against Serbia, Belgium and neighbours Canada, but have since then turned things around. With rookie Benjamin Patch and veteran Taylor Sander, coach John Speraw seems to have found his two main weapons as they have amassed an impressive 136 points together. Middle blockers David Smith and Dan McDonnell also played big roles early in the match against Russia and each finished with six kills.
And the US started strong as their block proved the most efficient (2-4). But the French showed plenty of agility and guile in attack to level at 12-12. Two powerful spikes by Le Roux and Lyneel then gave the Europeans their first lead of the set (18-15) as they cruised to a 1-0 advantage thanks to a decisive surge at the business of the first set (25-20).
The Americans then jumped out to a 8-6 lead in the second set on the back of a strong performance by Sander behind the line. That kicked off a 4-1 run that put the US solidly ahead and Laurent Tillie's men never recovered (16-10). Rossard defended well but ruined it by serving into the net as the US ran away easily (25-18) thanks to another strong performance by Sander, who scored 14 points.
France turned things around with a strong start (5-3), increased by Asseco Resovia Rzeszow's Rossard's ace (12-8). Les Bleus remained in charge and controlled their opponents as they claimed a decisive lead (16-14) and sealed the deal as Boyer moved into action with a series of powerful spikes (25-22).
This proved to be a spark for the French who started well despite Kevin Le Roux's injury. Patch rose once again to keep the US within reach of the 2015 World League gold medallists (7-5). Les Bleus kept composure and Boyer added another point to his tally (15-13). But Patch spiked between Le Goff and Toniutti while Sander scored an ace to glose the gap. Not enough, however, as rookie Patch send the ball wide and Le Goff turned on the style with a nice serving streak (21-16). No nonsense France cruised to a 25-21 win and can already book a ticket for Brazil.