2017 FIVB WORLD LEAGUE – GROUP 1
Day 1 of the 2017 Final 6 at the FIVB World League was a chilly day in Curitaba, Brazil. Players were all in long sleeves – it’s winter in Brazil, and the roof was closed on the soccer stadium, but that did little to warm the inside air with the heat off.
While the first match went according to plan, both France and the United States struggled in the second game of the day, and the Americans gave up a golden opportunity to steal an early match from the tournament front-runners, who played very poorly.
Brazil def. Canada 3-1 (25-21, 17-25, 25-19, 25-19)
The Canadians fought hard through the first two set, but ultimately the Olympic champions from Brazil wore down Canada with their quick offense and big blocks to take a 3-1 win.
Canada struggled with their passing throughout the match, and Brazil capitalized. Both teams had 9 blocks, but Brazil’s were in the more crucial moments.
Canada stole the 2nd set with their serve-and-block game. They had 4 aces in that set, as compared to 0 in the opener and just 1 in the other 3 sets combined.
But in the 3rd, after new Brazilian coach Renan dal Zotto laid into his team, and that sparked them to rally into the 3rd and 4th sets.
“It was a tense game, Canada always put us under pressure and recent games are a proof of that,” Dal Zotto said. “They have shown why they earned their place at this Final Round. We faced a big disadvantage on the first moments of the match and we struggled on passing. Our serving made considerable differences, but also we did very well in counterattack. That was one of the deficiencies we had on the first round and today we could perform better than a very strong team on that area.”
Brazil’s superstar Wallace de Souza led all players with 18 points. He stayed home in the first two rounds of pool play, but started the last 3 (where Brazil was closer to home in Argentina) and scored 52 points. Even with several key reserves injured, de Souza’s presence allows for a still-stable starting lineup that is as good as anybody’s in the tournament.
“We did something very good today – to improve along a very difficult game,” said Brazilian captain Bruno Rezende. “We never lost our temper, not even when we were trailing six points on the first set. We lowered our error rate and found some good blocks to change the course of the game.”
Canada was led offensively by Graham Vigrass with 15 points, followed by John Gordon Perrin (14 points) and the high-flying teenager Sharone Vernon-Evans (13 points). Vigrass only had 4 points in Canada’s last pool play game, but as Canada leaned more heavily on him on Tuesday, he responded. He landed 68.75% of his swings in the match.
“We had some good moments during the game, but we also suffered a lot as their block made things very difficult to us,” Gordon Perrin said. “We faced the best team in the world and we were very excited not only about this opportunity but also for doing it on such amazing venue.”
The match was marred a little by several malfunctions in the challenge system that caused significant delays in the action. Those issues seemed to have been worked out by the time the 2nd match started, however.
France def. United States 3-2 (27-25, 20-25, 26-24, 17-25, 15-12)
The Americans’ two biggest flaws cost them their opening match of the World League against France.
The first was their inability to close out sets with leads after 20 points. That’s where they struggled in the tournament’s opening weekend, which was the primary spot in which they struggled in an 0-3 opening weekend, reared its head.
The Americans had a big lead in the first set at 20-15, but wound up giving it away 27-25 on a 4-touches final point. The Americans again had big leads late in the 2nd and 4th sets, and in those cases they were able to close the sets out, but giving away that opening set cost them the match.
The other American flaw was in service errors. The U.S. had only 2 aces in the match, neither convincing, and 22 service errors. Fittingly, the final point of the match was given to France on a Taylor Sander serve long.
France, meanwhile, was at their best. Stephen Boyer (18 points) settled into his role next to Earvin Ngapeth, and Ngapeth was creative and France excelled in scramble plays. France, for example, won 3 crucial scramble points at the end of the 1st set to take that one away from the Americans.
Ngapeth struggled late, but as he faded, 19-year old Barthelemy Chinenyeze rose to the challenge, starting in place of Nicolas Le Goff (who didn’t make an appearance in the match). He finished with 7 kills on 11 swings and a block in the match. At 6’6″ out of the middle, he doesn’t provide much size for a French team that is badly undersized as it is, but he played well on Tuesday.
He paired in the middle with a healthy Kevin Le Roux, who was battling a head injury in pool play, to block 5 American balls in the match. France had 9 blocks overall, with 10 for the Americans.
The entire French offense struggled at the end of the 3rd and through the start of the 5th set. They made errors and joined the Americans in struggling from the service line late.
Julien Lyneel came alive late for France, especially in the 5th tie-breaking set where he was the team’s only player who seemed able to put a ball to the ground, and wound up with 20 points. France had a 9-1 run in the last set to take control.
Ben Patch was the top scorer for Team USA with 18 points, including 16 kills on 35 swings. France gave away 43 points and the U.S. 35 in the match on errors.
?? captain Toniutti talks about the amazing victory 3-2 vs ?? and the cold weather #FIVBWorldLeague #Curitiba2017 pic.twitter.com/tD49k7V1zD
— FIVB World League (@FIVBWorIdLeague) July 4, 2017
Patch say some words for ?? fans #4thofJuly #FIVBWorldLeague pic.twitter.com/z3ACPos7Oj
— FIVB World League (@FIVBWorIdLeague) July 4, 2017