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Euro volleyball: a quarter that looks like revenge for the Blues

Objective Rome and the last four for the Blues.

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Euro volleyball: a quarter that looks like revenge for the Blues

Objective Rome and the last four for the Blues. A week after being surprised by the Romanians (3-1) in the group stage, the French find them in the quarter-finals of Euro 2023 volleyball on Monday (8:00 p.m.) in Varna.

To prepare for their round of 16 against Bulgaria, advanced in the last minute of a day and played in a melting room, the 2021 Olympic champions had no trouble finding their warrior state of mind which had been lacking during a lackluster group stage in Tel Aviv (Israel). “Full room, they make you play a day before, all these things make you arrive at the match and want to fight,” recalls their captain Benjamin Toniutti. As a result, the Blues swept the Bulgarians 3-0 on Friday, achieving by far their “most successful” match, according to their coach Andrea Giani.

Against Romania, the surprise of the tournament, the 5,000 seats at the Palace of Culture and Sport in Varna will not have all found takers, but the French will have no trouble finding the extra motivation to reach Rome, where the tournament will take place semi-finals, final/3rd place match on September 14-16. “We have to keep in mind that Romania beat us and that we have to take our revenge, we will have to show them from the start of the match that we are in a completely different configuration than during the group match », summarizes Toniutti, an understudy in Antoine Brizard's pass. “We want to dot the i’s and show that we want to go far in the competition,” adds Berlin receiver-attacker Timothée Carle.

The Blues also (and above all?) want to take revenge on themselves after their failed group stage match - without consequences for the rest of their tournament, since they were already qualified for the 8th. Against the Romanians (23rd in the world ranking), the Blues had squandered no less than 40 points on direct and indirect errors, including 24 on their serves! “We did not enter with the aggression necessary for a European Championship match. Individually, you have to get it into your head that this is going to be a complicated match against a team that is full of confidence and that is making a Euro beyond its expectations, ”warns Toniutti.

“It's a team on fire, adds Carle. We didn't expect her to perform so well, she is very physical, she serves hard. But the most important thing is how we are going to be on the ground. It is an understatement to say that Romania, with its sharp Alexandru Rata and its receiver-attacker Adrian Aciobanitei has nothing to lose in this almost historic quarter-final. Her success dates back to the 1960s (Euro 1963 champion and world vice-champion 1966), but she has only played in three European Championships (including 2023) since 1993.

The Blues, with their star Earvin Ngapeth in the role of luxury joker, short of competition after four months of break, are favorites in this quarter-final which should open the way to a test of a completely different level. Less than a year before "their" Olympics, they could meet the Italians, reigning European champions, in the semi-final on Thursday in Rome, a duel which they would approach as outsiders, a status which suits them well... “Everything in its time, let's think first of Romania,” says Andrea Giani, who, as a player, wore the Nazionale jersey 474 times.

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