Laurent Tillie's team will start the World League with confidence high after eight wins from nine in the pool stages
Lausanne, Switzerland, July 3, 2017 – France coach Laurent Tillie is under no illusions as to how tough the FIVB World League Group 1 Finals will be, nor of how well his team will have to play if they want to reclaim the title they won in 2015.
Tillie’s team arrived in Curitiba on Saturday to begin their preparations for the tournament that begins with a match against USA on Tuesday.
Les Bleus will also take on defending champions Serbia in their pool with the top two teams set to progress to the semifinals, where a possible meeting with hosts and Olympic champions Brazil could await them.
“We want to play them (Brazil),” Tillie told the FFVB website. “They are great team and they are Olympic champions. Even if they have one or two players injured, they remain an extraordinary team, both in terms of individuals and collectively.
“In my opinion the United States will play much better than in group stage, because they train more regularly. They are a renewed team, but very aggressive and physically very strong. Serbia are a team that builds to a crescendo with players who are used to big meetings.”
France were in red-hot form in qualifying for the finals. They won eight of their nine fixtures, with only a loss to Italy stopping their hopes of a 100 percent record.
It meant they topped the Group 1 rankings and it is the type of form they will need to rediscover quickly if they are to match their heroics of 2015 when they won Group 1 and Group 2 and the European Championship later in the season.
“We will try not to drop our level,” Tillie said. “We have been waiting for two years, preparing and we are trying to only focus on our game. The quality we have shown has been incredible. Now we know that reality will come back very quickly. We are preparing for it, but we are really satisfied with what we have experienced.
“We never presume, but we work a lot: reception service, defence. I think we were all surprised and amazed by the quality and concentration that we showed during the pool stage and in our matches.”
France will also want to banish memories of their Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games experience when they failed to progress beyond the pool stages.
Since then they have brought through a number of young players who have stepped up to the greater challenge so far, but who will have to find another level yet at the Arena da Baixada, a 43,000-capacity football stadium that was built for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
“They settled in very quickly and they were helped by the more experienced players,” Tillie said. “A number of players who didn’t play as much last year have come through, namely Trevor (Clevenot) and Thibault (Rossard) who played very well in all our competitions.
“It is going to be a new experience since we will play in a football stadium. We cannot wait to get to grips with the Serbs, the Americans again and the Brazilians. Above all we go there to make the most of it and try to play well. It is the first time France has played in a Final Six three times in a row and that level of participation is very important.”