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Advantage Russia, France in race for VNL semifinals

 
Earvin Ngapeth beats the block of Brazil's Lucas Loh as he guides France to a thrilling win on the opening day of the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Nations League.
Lille, France, July 4, 2018 - Russia and hosts France took their first step towards a semifinal berth in the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Nations League finals on Wednesday with wins over Poland (3-1) and Brazil (3-2) respectively on the opening day of competition. While both winners rest on Thursday, Poland and Brazil are with their backs against the wall, in must-win situations - for Poland especially on full points, no less.

France twice came back from a set down to edge reigning Olympic champions Brazil in a tie-break, much to the delight of their 8,000 fans for the late-night drama at the magnificent, state-of-the-art Stade Pierre-Mauroy, here in this city of northern France.

Well-balanced scoring from both Stephen Boyer (25) and Earvin Ngapeth (23) was a deciding factor in France's win, but the injury and withdrawal in the third set of Brazil's Mauricio Borges was also key.

Brazil can only continue to hope now if they beat Serbia on Thursday, but Mauricio's absence may be critical. France, on the other hand, can secure their ticket to the semifinals from Pool A (alongside Serbia) without even playing, if the Balkan side can hand Brazil their second defeat in these finals.


Dmitry Volkov stuffs Bartosz Kurek as he leads European champions Russia to a huge win over reigning world champions Poland in the opening match of the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Nations League Final Six in Lille.

Earlier in the day and with a full team available to coach Sergei Shliapnikov for the first time this season, Russia made a show of strength in the first two sets, but faltered a bit in the third as coach Vital Heynen's substitutions began to pay off for Poland. But the reigning European champions did react to close the match in four. Every single Russian produced an attacking efficiency of 50 per cent or above, with scoring very nicely distributed within the single lineup that
Shliapnikov stuck to throughout the game.

Poland take to the court again on Thursday and nothing short of a win for full points against USA will keep them alive in the race for a ticket to Saturday's semifinals.

Russia next play on Friday, against USA, but it could well be all over by then and the two sides could be just jostling for position within the two qualifying spots of Pool B. In fact Russia could qualify without having to step on the court the minute USA take two sets from Poland.

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