Nagoya, Japan, September 13, 2017 – Trevor Clevenot and Barthelemy Chinenyeze led France to a 3-0 (25-15, 25-23, 25-23) win over hosts Japan in the FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Grand Champions Cup at the Nippon Gaishi Hall on Wednesday.
Clevenot and Chinenyeze had identical 14-point outputs, but played with different missions to help their squad earn their first ever win in the tournament. Clevenot was solid in attacks, while Chinenyeze took care of defence with five blocks. Stephen Boyer and Thibault Rossard added 13 points each for France. Takashi Dekita, who came off the bench in the first set, top scored for Japan with 14 points.
In their first encounter at the World Grand Champions Cup, France came up with a straight-set win. France have also extended their winning streak over Japan at world level with their 10th victory in their last 11 matches.
The French side claimed the first set as they hustled on defence to set up Chinenyeze on offence. Benjamin Toniutti went for balance in running the plays, which involved Boyer, Clevenot and Rossard in scoring; but a couple of errors allowed Japan to trail closely. France still got the final breaks to win the set with a slim lead at 25-23. Another tight third set ensued as Japan continued to fight back against France, but the latter still sealed match victory.
France coach Laurent Tillie: Volleyball is an extraordinary sport. Sometimes you play well then sometimes you play badly. It’s a mental sport. In the European Championship, we didn’t play too well and it looked like we had lost our direction. But against a very good Japan team, we seem to have rediscovered our fluidity. So I think this result is significant.
We played very well today and I was particularly pleased with the second and third sets in which we fought hard with Japan. I think Japan have been raising their level year by year. We played Japan in 2014 and I seem to recall they weren’t so great, but I think in 2015, 2016 and 2017, they have evolved as a team and are becoming more effective. They always have a problem of height, but they have speed, technique and good defence. I adore their fighting spirit. Whether they are winning or losing, they always fight as one.
France captain Benjamin Toniutti: It was important to get this win today, so I am satisfied with the result. In the beginning, we played perfectly but then Japan got better, especially with their service. Somehow we kept our concentration and played well, so I’m happy to win 3-0.
Japan coach Yuichi Nakagaichi: After our loss yesterday, we had some meetings in which we considered what we had to do to show our strengths. At the start of the match, the players were nervous like yesterday. I really thought we’d start better today, but that shows the immaturity of the team. (Yuki) Ishikawa didn’t get going as well as we’d hoped he would and as a result the team’s performance didn’t pick up either. He’s still far from his real self because of the injury to his lower back. His jumping is not up to scratch and the opposition today targeted him.
In terms of tactics, we have to return the second ball to the setter properly. If we can get the ball to the setter, we could be better but we didn’t do that. We need our service to be more aggressive. Also, our blocking hasn’t been well coordinated and I think there are balls we could have blocked. It continues to be a big issue for us.
Japan player Naonobu Fujii: We could have won today’s game but we made mistakes and that made it difficult for us to break through. When we play top teams, we have to play better than we did today or we’re not going to make much progress.
Japan player Takashi Dekita: In the first set, we let them play as they wanted but in the second and third sets we competed better. But we have to start winning these difficult sets. The fact that we can’t at the moment suggests that there’s still a lot we have to do. We got more side-outs in the second and third sets and we had chances, but we really have to capitalise on these chances. Yesterday, we had no spirit but I think we had some today.
Japan player Masahiro Yanagida: We failed to handle easy balls when things were in our favour so that narrowed our attacking options and we couldn’t penetrate their defence. We still need to grow and become a bigger threat. The team failed to come together at crucial moments so we need to help each other more so we feel less pressure.
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