It’s the 15th time France has qualified in 18 attempts, but Tillie, who played for France from 1982 to 1995 before becoming the French coach in 2012, wasn’t completely overjoyed with his team’s success.
“I’ve got mixed feelings about it,” Tillie admitted. “I’m a little frustrated about losing the last game of the tournament to our neighbours from Belgium, and that makes it difficult for me to show the joy I feel about qualifying for the World Championships.
“We have achieved our goal and qualified for the World Championships for the fourth straight time, but there were moments during the match with Belgium where I started having some doubts.”
Tillie will have to dispel those doubts if France are to improve on their last showing at the World Championships in 2010, when they finished in 11th place.
In the past 12 years, France have had some impressive results. Their qualification for the 2002 World Championships in Argentina was their first in 12 years and they went on to prove their worth by taking the bronze medal.
They followed up with a silver medal at the 2003 European Championship and in the 2006 World League. After that, they struggled to find sustained success. They finished sixth in the 2006 World Championship – beating Brazil and Cuba in the opening round – missed out on the 2008 Olympics and then came 11th at the 2010 Worlds despite a promising start when they topped Pool E after wins over the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and China. They did, however, manage a silver medal at the 2009 European Championships. Last year, they finished 10th in the FIVB World League.
Tillie sees his task as a long-term building process.
“We know we will play in the 2014 World Championships and in the European Championship the following year, and we also have this year’s World League, which starts in May,” Tillie said. “So we have at least two busy years of work ahead of us.
“But I’m looking beyond that toward the Rio Games in 2016. However, getting to the Olympics is not just done in the year of the Olympics; the groundwork must be put in place a long time in advance.
“Whenever France have managed to get a ticket for the Games, the team were performing well two or three years prior to that. So our goal today is to say that if we want to go to Rio in 2016, we have to perform in the years before that – in others words, 2014 and 2015.”
France have been drawn to Pool D in this year’s World League, along with Argentina, Germany and Japan.