Euro volleyball 2023: French and Italians meet in Rome for a place in the final

Difficult to find a more beautiful volleyball poster

Euro volleyball 2023: French and Italians meet in Rome for a place in the final

Difficult to find a more beautiful volleyball poster. Thursday September 14, at 9 p.m. (La Chaîne L'Equipe), in Rome, French volleyball players, Olympic champions, challenge Italy, reigning world and European champion, for a place in the Euro final. This is not a surprise, as these two nations dominate the Old Continent, with Poland, which faces Slovenia on the same day at 6 p.m. The four favorites are therefore there for the semi-finals.

“It’s like a derby, there’s electricity in the air,” says Paolo Perrone, the statistician who is part of the staff of Andrea Giani, the Italian coach of the France team. During the 2022 Nations League, the French beat the Italians in Bologna. The latter will do everything not to lose a second time in front of their audience. »

It’s a real shock that awaits the Blues, as the rivalry between the two nations is strong. Many players from the French team play, or have played, in the transalpine championship. the SuperLega, “the densest championship in the world”, according to Hubert Henno, former libero of the French team (1999-2010), who played for four of the best Italian clubs between 2006 and 2015.

“French and Italians know each other by heart. They are our best enemies. There is a lot of arrogance on both sides. Losing against Italy hurts the ego,” continues Mr. Henno. “We have often played against the Italians in the past. The French have extra motivation when they meet Italy,” confirms Jean-François Exiga, former libero of the French team, who played at Monza and Macerata between 2009 and 2011.

Although the Squadra Azzurra is younger, the two teams are very similar. Each nation also has a big hole in its record: the Italians have never been Olympic champions and the French have never been world champions.

“The pressure is more on Italy’s side”

Less than a month ago, on August 18, the Italians soundly defeated the French (29-27, 25-21, 25-20) at the Hubert Wagner Memorial in Poland, but it was a match without much at stake. A year ago, in Slovenia, in the quarter-finals of the World Cup, the Squadra Azzurra also dominated France, after a contentious decision by the referee in the tie-break, which had angered the Blues.

They had twenty-four hours less recovery than their opponents and had lacked freshness in the final packaging. This time, the scenario is different since it was the French who had an additional day of recovery.

Tuesday, in Bari (Italy), the Transalpines had to work to beat, in the decisive game, the Netherlands (19-25, 25-17, 25-16, 23-25, 15-12) in order to qualify for the semi-finals. A two-hour and nine-minute match that probably left its mark on the body. The French, for their part, easily got rid of the Romanians in three sets (25-22, 25-14, 27-25), a team which had nevertheless beaten them in the group stage.

With the match taking place in Rome, the 11,000 spectators at the Palazzo dello Sport in the Eternal City will unconditionally support the Squadra Azzurra – volleyball is the number two sport behind football in the country – but Andrea Giani's men say they enjoy the atmosphere overexcited.

“We must expect a big opposition in style: Italy is always very impressive in the defensive block, but France is better in serving and more stable in reception. Even if the match is played in Rome, I am optimistic because the Blues have impressive collective strength,” analyzes Jean-François Exiga.

An opinion shared by Paolo Perrone: “The winner will be the one who makes the fewest mistakes, and France makes very few. You have to expect long actions. You will have to be patient. » In impeccable French, the Italian statistician of the Blues adds: “The pressure is more on the side of Italy, which is the reigning champion and which plays at home. She has no right to lose. »