Curitiba, Brazil, July 4, 2017 – Efficient defense was what led France to its best international volleyball results. However, as the team debuts in the FIVB World League Final – Group 1 this Tuesday (July 4) at 17:40 at the Arena da Baixada against the United States, it will be its potent attack, led by Earvin Ngapeth and Stephen Boyer, which will make the headlines.
“Defense was always part of France’s DNA”, coach Laurent Tillie said. “Our players focus on that since they are really young. We felt we needed to add some offensive skills to our game and started doing it step by step. Now we have four or five great spikers, all with international experience, and the competition between them makes all of them get better and better”.
A 26-year-old veteran, Ngapeth is definitely one of them. The Most Valuable Player of France's victorious World League campaign in 2015, the outside hitter was sidelined for all but one match at the Preliminary Round because of an injury. Playing for a few minutes against Belgium, he scored five points.
During Ngapeth’s absence, Stephen Boyer carried the load of leading France’s offense. The 21-year-old opposite was part of France’s roster for the first time last year but really got featured when tasked to replace the retired Antonin Rouzier and responded by leading all scorers in the Preliminary Round with 165 points (135 kills, 13 blocks and 17 aces).
“It will be great to have both of them together in the Finals, they are great spikers”, Tillie added. “Boyer was amazing in the Preliminary Round. Ngapeth was injured for some time and didn’t train much before the Finals so we’ll see if he can keep the level for the entire week. But the good thing is that we showed that we can be competitive even without him”.
Indeed, France had the best campaign of the Preliminary Round with eight wins in nine matches. The team’s good performance gave Ngapeth the time he needed to recover and get to the Final Six ready to regain the crown they won in 2015.
“It was good taking this month to take care of myself”, Ngapeth commented. “As the team was doing well, I could take my time to recover completely. I’m lacking some rhythm now, but I am well physically and looking forward to play”.