Curitiba, Brazil, July 8, 2017 – As the reigning European champions, France came to Brazil last August to compete in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games with the goal of getting its first-ever medal in the prestigious event. Their dreams came up short early in the tournament, though, as the team did not make it out of its pool after a defeat to hosts Brazil, who ended up winning the gold medal some days later.
Less than one year later, the teams are set for a new meeting, this time with the reward being the gold medal of the 2017 FIVB World League. The match will be disputed this Saturday (July 8) at 23:05 (local time) at the Arena da Baixada Stadium, in Curitiba.
After a 3-1 semifinal win over Canada
, French libero Jennia Grebennikov did not hide his excitement about facing the rivals in the gold medal match.
“We wanted to play against Brazil in the final”, he said. “It is a revenge for us because last year we did not play well in the Olympic Games. It will be difficult, Brazil are a complete team. We will need to play at 200% against them”.
But playing in Brazil does not bring only bad memories to the French as they won their first and only World League title so far in the South American country, in 2015.
“That was a historic tournament for us as we went to the Finals from Group 2 and won it”, Grebennikov recalls. “We defeated Brazil 3-1 in our first match in the Final Round and it was probably the best we ever played against them. To win again, we have to play on that level”.
The 26-year-old libero will be instrumental to France’s ambitions as he is the best digger of the Finals so far averaging 3.21 per set. Outside hitter Earvin Ngapeth, the third best scorer of the Final Six, and middle-blocker Kevin Le Roux, ranked third on serves, are other key players of the team coached by Laurent Tillie.
“It is always a big challenge for us”, Tillie commented. “Brazil is the best team in the world and we want to compete, we want to see where we are. We’ve lost many matches to Brazil, in Rio, in the World League and we have another chance tomorrow”.
Earvin Ngapeth was vital to France's semifinal win over Canada