Earvin Ngapeth returned from injury to help France win
Antwerp, Belgium, June 18, 2017 – France star Earvin Ngapeth
played his first World League minutes since returning from injury as les Bleus easily defeated Belgium 3-0 (25-21, 25-16, 25-16) in Sunday's final group 1 game in Antwerp.
The Modena wing spiker even scored his first points (5, including 3 aces) of the tournament, but the man of the match was named Thibaut Rossard
. The 23-year-old scored 15 points to lead the French to their eighth victory, as Italy remains the only team to have triumphed over the 2015 World League gold medalists.
Belgium was limited in its attack by the efficiency of the French wall (4 blocks) as Bram Van Den Dries
was the only Red Dragon in double digits with 12 points.
Belgium headed into its fourth World League encounter with an easy equation: while France had already booked its ticket for the Final Six in Brazil, the Belgians found themselves in a must-win situation. It was a no brainer and Belgium was hoping to rely on Matthias Valkiers to set up Bram Van Den Dries, the tournament's fifth leading scorer.
On the other hand, France locked horns with its neighbors knowing they didn't have to worry. But Les Bleus had a status to uphold and it would have been surprising to see Laurent Tillie's men throw their ninth and final game. Especially with players such as Stephen Boyer
(151 points) and Julien Lyneel
(66 spikes) up front who have caused a lot of trouble for their opponents.
But it was the Red Dragons who started well, taking an early 8-6 lead before the first technical timeout. The French however demonstrated tremendous solidity on defense as they started to snuff out Belgium's threat and they showed plenty of agility and guile in attack to level at 14-14. With the wind in its sails, the Team Yavbou took the edge as a substitution was made and the young Barthélémy Chinenyeze aced (21-17). French star Earvin Ngapeth also entered the fray, coming back from injury, and witness his teammates claim the first set 25-21.
Lethal Boyer was again on target in the beginning of the set as France took a 4-1 lead. In front of a partisan crowd, the home side clawed back to level at 7-7 as François Lecat finally blocked Boyer. And Les Bleus headed into the second technical time out with a four point lead as Benjamin Toniutti aced (16-12). Ngapeth once again came on in the business end of the set but it was Boyer who shone brightest (22-15), even if the Modena player scored his first point of the World League on a powerful pipe. Thibault Rossard closed the deal with an ace (25-16).
More of the same in the third set with a monster block from Chinenyeze that gave France a 4-0 lead. Les Bleus didn't slow down and Rossard sent them cruising with a nice spike (17-9). Laurent Tillie's men were in cruise control for the ending of the game as Ngapeth scored three straight aces for the Team Yavbou and the unstoppable French claimed another 3-0 victory (25-16).