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FIVB World League 2006
Match Description
France win 3rd 5-setter against Italy

France's Ludovic Castard and Loic Le Marrec celebrate

The match started evenly with good rallies on both sides. France took a three-point lead by the first technical time-out with some solid two-man blocking at the net. By the second technical time-out, France had almost double Italy's success rate in attack, with 56% against Italy's 26%, though Italy had the edge with defence. Philippe Blain's team maintained the lead at this point 16-10.

After Philippe Blain's first time-out call, France had their wits about them to leave an attack from Italy that went just wide of the line for 20-15. They then forged ahead with their sound blocking and reached set point with a tip over after Gianpaolo Montali had called his second time-out. Captain Stephane Antiga secured the first set for his team 25-18 with a block on Italy's attack after they had saved a ball off the line.

The teams were equally matched as they came out for the second set, staying head-to-head until 5-5 before Italy pulled away on a couple of errors from France, up to the first technical time-out. At that point, both teams counted 12 errors and, as Italy continued to pull away at 11-7 with three points in succession, Philippe Blain called his first time-out. The teams were still matched on errors (14 each) at the second technical time-out, but Italy had turned the game around with some winning spikes from the Intercontinental Round's top scorer Alessandro Fei. France responded with some quick-fire attacks and their agile three-man block to close out to 16-17 before an Italian time-out call disrupted their recovery.

After a time-out for France, an Italian service error allowed the French to draw within one point in the closing stages of the set before Italy countered with a two-point advantage at set point. France again drew closer with a crafty spike from the captain only to lose the set on a close line call 25-23. France had a distinct advantage in attack after two sets, with Italy clearly stronger in recpetion.

Entering the third set, Italy seemed to have second-guessed France's attacks and were well positioned, moving four points clear at 6-2. After the first technical time-out, France's Ludovic Castard took control of the game with a scoring spike and an ace before confusion among his team mates prevented a spectacular recovery after he dug the ball from the depths of the court. Castard's all-round presence showed with a block that secured France the lead at the second technical time-out after making up the deficit. Some more deep recovery work by Castard, coupled with an Italian reception error, brought France closer to the azzuri, but Italy countered the serve and attack of its opponent's captain in the closing minutes to take the third set 25-23.

In the fourth set, the teams remained evenly matched over the first 24 points before France pulled away with three points in a row thanks to some more excellent setting that allowed lightning strikes by captain Stephane Antiga, giving them the lead at the second technical break. Trailing 21-19 Italy brought on their tallest player Andrea Semenzato for the serve but could not close the gap as France moved four points clear before Gianpaolo Montali called his second time-out of the set. France gave away the set point at 24-19 on a service error only for Italy to repeat the mistake and allow France a reprieve with a tie-break set.

Ludovic Castard gave France the edge in the deciding set with a service ace that put his team 5-2 ahead and forced a time-out by Italy, who responded to draw level just before the first technical time-out at 7-7. The final points went down to a battle of the servers, as Italy once again brought on Semenzato as a counter to the powerful serves of France's Castard. France kept on the pressure to secure the match with another spectacular three-man block at 15-11. Final score 25-18, 23-25, 23-25, 25-20 and 15-11.