RUSSIA CLAIM FIRST WORLD GOLD IN FIVE YEARS AT HISTORIC 2018 VNL
Lille, France, July 8, 2018 – Russia brought France’s brilliant run throughout the season to an abrupt end Sunday night in this northern France city, shutting out their opponents in three sets (25-22, 25-20, 25-23) in the final, silencing the 10,000-strong partisan crowd and claiming the historic gold medal of the inaugural FIVB Volleyball Nations League.
Russia, physical and strong, proved no match for France, although the hosts did try to get back in the game in the third, before Dmitry Kovalev stuffed Thibault Rossard to bring it home.
It is Russia’s first gold in a world competition since they won the 2013 FIVB World League – though in the meantime they had earned the prestigious title of European champions in 2017.
Sergei Shliapnikov (Russia head coach): “We’re really happy, it’s wonderful. We worked hard and for a long time; it has been successful. The thing is we knew that if they had passed the ball well, it would have been difficult for our middle blockers, so that’s why we focused on our service.”
Dmitry Muserskiy (Russia middle blocker): “It was really difficult to play against France in France. The fans were the seventh player of this team. But we did it.”
Aleksei Kabeshov (Russia libero): “We’ve been playing with the same team for a long time so that’s why we could be efficient in reception. We knew that the French would serve hard so we trained a lot on that.”
Laurent Tillie: “It’s true that the silver medal has a sour taste.”
Laurent Tillie (France head coach): “I’ve always been told that the silver medal had a sour taste, and it turns out that it is true. Even though we’re happy to have come this far, we hoped to do better. But they’re stronger. Maybe without some mistakes, we could have come close, but they suffocated us. The crowd was magnificent; we wanted to claim this gold medal. I don’t know what I could have done differently. I think we just need to progress individually and as a team. Because if we want to be the world or European champions, we’ll have to beat them. So there’s work to be done.”
Benjamin Toniutti (France captain): “The Russians are a very physical team, and you need to try and figure out solutions when you play against this kind of team. They put so much pressure on service and block. I always had the feeling we were back when actually we were three points behind. This kind of match is awfully hard, when you feel that the opponents are crushing you. We’ll learn from that. Overall, we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished.”
Antoine Brizard (France substitute setter): “I think there was not much to be done tonight. What we told each other after the game is that no matter what we could have done, what we did in serve, they kept it all up. I don’t think they took any ace; they were efficient with high balls, very strong with their block. The thing is we were close at times but there’s no leeway; every time we thought we could come back, they put us back down. When they play this way and they’re ahead, they can hardly be beaten.”
Jenia Grebennikov (France libero): “We were torn apart. Almost in every aspect of the game. I was not expecting this; actually, I’m somewhat shocked. The thing is I played against them before, whether in the National Team or with my club, but they were inhuman today. I did not think we would have so much trouble playing against them. The sideouts were so challenging. And then they were three or four points ahead and it was over. When we could pass better at last, they improved their block; it’s too much. But now we know.”
Earlier on the closing day of the finals, USA bounced back from their semifinal defeat to France to shut out Brazil 3-0 (25-21, 28-26, 28-26) for bronze. And they must have wanted it a lot, because coach John Speraw stuck to his starting lineup without using a single substitute despite the second and third sets being as close as they get.
It is USA’s first podium appearance in a world competition since they picked up bronze at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
the Dream Team of the VNL Finals
Setter: Benjamin Toniutti (France).
Opposite: Matt Anderson (USA).
Outside hitters: Taylor Sander (USA) and Dmitry Volkov (Russia).
Middle blockers: Dmitriy Muserskiy (Russia) and Kevin Le Roux (France).
Libero: Jenia Grebennikov (France).
MVP : opposite Maksim Mikhailov (Russia)
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