Sofia, Bulgaria, October 18, 2015. France is the gold medalist of the 2015 CEV Volleyball European Championship - Men. In the final of EuroVolley 2015 that took place at Sofia’s magnificent Arena Armeec and marked the end of a spectacular tournament, Les Bleus shut out the competition’s sensation by a dramatic 3-0 (25-19, 27-25, 27-25) to claim their historic first European title.
France established its domination on the court throughout the first set. The Slovenian attack was working well, but the team was also making too many unforced errors to help Les Bleus stay on top. France hammered four aces on the way to the 25-19 win.
The Slovenes did not want their fairy tale to end here and stepped up their efforts in the second set, especially in blocking and broke away with an 8-3 lead. Gradually, Antonin Rouzier and his teammates climbed back up to level the score and even took a 19-18 lead. Still, Slovenia secured three consecutive set points at 24-21, but could not convert any of them to prompt a dramatic ending. Andrea Giani’s men missed out on two more opportunities to win the set, before France finally took advantage of the second set point of its own and finished it all off at 29-27 with an ace by Rouzier.
The third set as also very dramatic. First, France took a 7-3 lead, later extending it to 10-5. But Slovenia would still not give in. The Slovenes fought their way back to the tie at 17-17 and even took a one-point advantage. The first match point came at 24-23 to France. The Slovenes cancelled it. This happened three more times. On the fifth match point Earvin Ngapeth put a spectacular ending to this spectacular tournament with a virtuoso spike that squeezed the ball between the block and France triumphed with the golden victory.
Antonin Rouzier was the main point contributor to France’s win with 21 points. Earvin Ngapeth added another 15. Tine Urnaut and Mitja Gasparini became Slovenia’s best scorers of the match with 14 points each.
Mitja Gasparini, player of Slovenia: “Right now I feel a little bit sad because we lost the final but maybe in a couple of minutes, after calming down, we will realize what we all have achieved during this tournament. It has been an amazing journey. As for our coach, I know Andrea Giani very well because he has been my mentor also during the club season for the last couple of years. We have been working very hard under his guidance for the last five months, won the European League, qualified for the World League, and now won a medal at the European Championship. We very much hope to continue this great journey with him and perform well next year as well.”
Benjamin Toniutti, captain of France: “It is an amazing feeling! We are European champions and just cannot find the right words to describe the way we feel. This summer we already won the World League but we continued to work very hard on our way to this tournament because we wanted to confirm that result and show that this is the level we can compete at. Tonight we played the perfect match, everything went just perfect and now we can celebrate.”
Andrea Giani, head coach of Slovenia, looked a bit disappointed, yet emotional at the same time after the final: “Of course, I cannot be completely happy but I am nevertheless very proud of my players. This group has made it very far from where we started but we knew from the very beginning they had the potential to go for something big and I had the same feeling coming in here. Maybe we could not predict we would be in the big final, but I was sure and confident we would have achieved a good result at this championship.”
Laurent Tillie, head coach of France: “I am very happy! This is a great satisfaction. When we started the competition all teams were so close – Russia, Italy, Bulgaria, Poland… And after you win the title, it is amazing. Unbelievable! We did it. And the feeling is greater because we won the World League title four months ago. And do you know what? When we come back to France, maybe I need to play the lottery, because I am so lucky. Everything seems like a dream. We were in a tough group in Italy, but we succeeded to beat Italy; after that the other host Bulgaria, and today - the strong Slovenian team. Amazing!”
For more information on the 2015 CEV Volleyball European Championship - Men in social media, please use the competition’s official hashtag #EuroVolleyM.