The Blues have not found the remedy for their Italian indigestion. Two days after the slap inflicted by Italy in the semi-finals, the French volleyball players lost 3 sets to 2 against the Slovenes in the match for 3rd place in Euro 2023, Saturday in Rome. The 2021 Olympic champions left Rome and its Sports Palace with a double hangover. Dominated by Italy in the semi-finals on Thursday, they came back to 2-2 after being down 2-0 before losing in the tie-break and having to settle for 4th place in the final.
Their record of this European Championship, the last major tournament before the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, is mixed with a total of three losses, including their defeat in the group stage, against Romania. Small consolation, less than a year before “their” Olympic Games, Earvin Ngapeth and his teammates signed their best result in a major international event since their Olympic coronation in Tokyo in 2021.
While they were ranked 9th in Euro 2021 and 5th in the 2022 World Cup, without taking into account their victory in the 2022 Nations League, this 4th place places them back in the international elite. The players of Andrea Giani, Italian “pallavolo” legend, dreamed of a European title, eight years after the only one in the history of French volleyball, won by this golden generation. But after a summer and a preparation disrupted by injuries (Trevor Clévenot, Kevin Tillie) and convalescences (Ngapeth), Italy, reigning European and world champion, and Slovenia exposed their current limits in two meetings one-sided (3-0).
The Blues began the “consolation final” with Ngapeth starting for the first time in the knockout stage. Also with Stephen Boyer and Kevin Tillie in the starting team, they never led in the first set despite a burst at the end of the set and conceded on a fault in the service of Yacine Louati.
The Blues led for the first time at the start of the 2nd set up to 8-8, before losing their footing, notably against the Slovenian counterattacks (11-16, 12-19, 15-23). Despite the entries of Louati, Jean Patry and Benjamin Toniutti, they did not disturb the Slovenes and conceded the 2nd set in 30 minutes (2-0). More effective on counterattacks and thanks to Ngapeth's 5 points, they snatched the third set to return to 2-1 and continued with the 4th set, before giving in in the tie-break.