Turin, Italy, September 26, 2010 - France defeated Bulgaria in a tight five-set (25-22, 23-25, 25-17, 28-30, 19-17) match in Pool E of the 2010 FIVB World Championship in Turin, Italy to book their place in the second round of the tournament.
France improve to 2-0 in the pool while Bulgaria fall to 1-1. Earlier in Pool E, Czech Republic improved to 1-1 with a four-set victory over China. The top three teams advance to the second round, while the last-placed team is eliminated from the tournament.
In the tie-breaking fifth set, neither team held a two-point lead until the final score. The set witnessed 17 ties and six lead changes. France led most of the early stages of the fifth set until Bulgaria grabbed a 9-8 advantage. France briefly returned to the lead at 11-10, only to have Bulgaria gain momentum at 12-11. France saved four set points and weathered three straight service errors and an attacking error as the sides drew even at 13, 14, 15 and 16. After Bulgaria served long to tie the set for the 17th time at 17-17, Antonin Rouzier scored a go-ahead spike at 18-17 and Bulgaria committed its 36th error of the match at 19-17.
Rouzier finished with a team-high 26 points with 22 spikes and four blocks. Earvin Ngapeth added 24 points with 19 spikes, three blocks and two aces. Oliver Kieffer and Stephane Antiga chipped in 10 points each in the victory.
Bulgaria was led by Matey Kaziyski's 26 points on 21 spikes, three aces and two blocks. Teammate Vladimir Nikolov added 19 spikes, three blocks and an ace for 23 points.
The two teams had not met since Bulgaria won a five-set match during the second round of the 2006 FIVB World Championship in Hiroshima, Japan.
France held a 64-54 advantage in spikes to offset Bulgaria's statistical edges in blocks (20-15) and aces (6-5). While Bulgaria had 36 errors in the match, France also had 31 in the five-set marathon.
With the first set tied at 8-8, France rattled off three consecutive points to obtain an 11-8 advantage and went into the second technical timeout leading 16-12 following a Bulgaria service error. Following the break, Bulgaria scored three unanswered points capped by a play that had Bulgaria's Andrey Zhekov kick save a ball that led to a point with a France hitting error at 16-15. Bulgaria tied the set at 17-all, only to have France go back up by four at 21-17 following two Kieffer blocks and a Nicolas Marechal ace. France finished set at 25-22 to gain the upperhand in the match. Kieffer collected three spikes and three blocks for six French points. The major difference in the set was France benefiting from seven Bulgaria errors while only committing three.
Bulgaria gained an early 6-2 lead in the second set, leading to a France timeout after Viktor Yosifov served an ace. Trailing 10-6, France rolled off four straight points to tie the set at 10-all after a Hardy-Dessources ace, Rouzier kill and Bulgaria attack error. Bulgaria responded with four of the next five points, including a Yosifov block at 14-11. France knotted the score again at 14-14 with an Earvin Ngapeth back-row spike, but Bulgaria went into the second technical timeout leading 16-14 on the strength of a Zhekov block. France tied the set at 17-17 with a Hardy-Dessources block. After Bulgaria was leading 21-19, France tied the set at 21-all on a Bulgaria error. France took a 23-22 lead on a Ngapeth block, but it was its last point of the set as Bulgaria evened the match with a 25-23 victory capped by a Hristo Tsvetanov block. Bulgaria produced five blocks in the second set while Nikolov tallied five points.
The third set was close in the early and middle stages as neither team could get more than a two-point cushion. Leading 15-14, France scored four unanswered points to take an 18-14 advantage after a Ngapeth spike and Rouzier block forcing a Bulgaria timeout. France scored two additional points following the break including a Rouzier block at 20-14. France fended off Bulgaria's attacks to win 25-17. Rouzier was credited with seven points in the third set, including three blocks.
Bulgaria made an early statement in the fourth set by taking an 8-4 lead at the first technical timeout as Kaziyski and Nikolov tallied two points apiece. Although France chipped to within two at 10-8, Bulgaria continued to be the aggressor by establishing a 16-11 lead at the second technical timeout following a Nikolay Nikolov block. Bulgaria's lead reached six points at 19-13 following another Nikolov block. France rallied to within one at 21-20 with a spike and block from Ngapeth and an overpass spike by Rouzier and went on to tie the score at 21-21 after a Bulgaria error, but Kaziyski served an ace to yield a 23-21 advantage. France answered with three straight points regaining the lead at 24-23 on a Rouzier block. Bulgaria saved four match points and gained the advantage at 28-27 on a France error. Bulgaria finished the set 30-28 with a spike from Kaziyski, his eighth point of the set. Vladimir Nikolov added six points in the victory.