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2017 Review: Ngapeth magic hands France second World League crown

France celebrate winning the 2017 and final edition of the FIVB Volleyball World League.
Lausanne, Switzerland, January 10, 2018 - The 2017 and final edition of the FIVB Volleyball World League culminated in a remarkable, 'magical' moment. In the fifth set of the Group 1 final between France and hosts Brazil, the competition’s MVP Earvin Ngapeth played a stunning ball in defence to foil a Brazilian attack.

The ball crossed the net and fell on Brazil’s side of the court to give the French a valuable 12-11 lead. “Brazil were supposed to win the point, but that defence by Ngapeth that landed in the corner changed the outcome of the match. Volleyball is like that: you may only have to work for three points... to stay in the game for a moment like that,” said France coach Laurent Tillie after the match.

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French captain Benjamin Toniutti emphasised the point by saying that his teammate's defensive play had been the key moment of the entire season. “It was when Ngapeth’s dig on the tie-break fell on their side of the court. We came back into the game after that point, we gained a lot of energy there and it made me think that nothing could go wrong. When you have that kind of luck, it’s just amazing.”

France went on to win an incredible final 3-2 (21-25, 25-15, 25-23, 19-25, 15-13) and put an end to the samba party the 23,149 fans in Curitiba had enjoyed up to that point. They added a second FIVB World League title to their name and picked up a winner’s cheque for one million dollars.

One man was key for France. Earvin “Magic” Ngapeth, whose parents named him after the legendary basketball star Earvin “Magic” Johnson. He also contributed 29 points in the final. With 79 points in total, Ngapeth was the top scorer in the six-team Finals, and was deservedly named MVP. He achieved the same feat in 2015, when France claimed their first World League title.

Ngapeth was injured for most of the Preliminary Round, and only returned to the team one match ahead of the Finals.

"I barely played in the Preliminary Round," he said. "But the team were doing so well without me that I had all the time I needed to recover, work on my fitness and prepare for the Finals. They also played a big part in my performance." For Ngapeth, an incredible team spirit was key to France’s success. "We are like a family. Many of us started playing together at a very young age and it is amazing that after some years we are able to be here, all together, taking our country to the top of the world. Coach Tillie played with my dad and held me in his arms when I was a baby.”

Canada also enjoyed a successful World League campaign in 2017.

The Canadians claimed the bronze medals courtesy of a 3-1 victory over their neighbours USA in the Finals. Coach Stephane Antiga, who led Poland to a World Championship title in 2014, said: "When you taste that, you want to repeat it and that’s really our goal. We need to train the younger guys and have a wider group of players to generate some competition between them. We want to improve our programme and get good results, but we also want to develop players."

Rookie and 18-year-old opposite Sharone Vernon-Evans scored 53 points in the final round. He could be a player to look out for in the future.

FIVB Volleyball World League 2017 - Dream Team
MVP: Earvin Ngapeth (France)
Best Outside Hitters: Ricardo Lucarelli (Brazil) & Earvin Ngapeth (France)
Best Middle-Blockers: Graham Vigrass (Canada) & Kevin Le Roux (France)
Best Libero: Blair Bann (Canada)
Best Setter: Benjamin Toniutti (France)
Best Opposite: Wallace De Souza (Brazil)

Results - Group 1

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