The French Men’s National Team announced their arrival as one of the best teams in the world when they finished second to Brazil in the 2006 FIVB World League Finals in Moscow.
The French, who finished fifth in the first-ever World League in 1990, negotiated a tricky passage through to the Finals, playing in Russia, China and Italy.
By the end of August, it was mission accomplished. Head Coach Philippe Blain’s Men had booked themselves a place in Moscow after winning Pool matches against the Russians, Italians and Chinese, home and away.
In the Final, France lost in five sets to Brazil, but it was still their crowning glory so far in the world of Volleyball, and set them up nicely for the 2006 FIVB World Championship in Japan.
France had won the bronze medal at the 2002 FIVB World Championship in Buenos Aires, their first appearance in the tournament in 12 years moving them from 10th to fifth in the FIVB world rankings, and after their silver medal at the 2003 European Championship and the impressive World League performance three years later they had every right to be in a confident mood.
The 2006 World Championships started very well for the French when they beat Brazil, which would prove to be the only defeat of the event for the eventual winners.
Unfortunately, the young French team did not capitalize on the Brazil result and a few days later lost to Germany, which negated all the benefits of the Brazil win.
During the second phase, France lost to Bulgaria in an incredible game, killing off any lingering hopes of French glory and they finally finished sixth after losing to Italy in a Playoff.
In the 2007 World League Preliminary Round, the French were up against Japan, Italy and USA. Victims of the Americans, the French missed out on first place in their Pool.
Blain and his players were given a lifeline, though, with a wild card for the final phase in Katowice, Poland. But after losing a five-set match against Poland, the French team are on their way home.
The French had to quickly pick themselves up in November 2007 for the European Championship in Saint Petersburg and Moscow. Bad news struck, though, when Blain lost three of his major players. Frantz Granvorka and Oliver Kieffer were injured just before leaving France, and Pierre Pujol was ruled out of the rest of the tournament after injuring his ankle in the first set of the first game against Slovakia.
Even so, France started well with two victories versus Slovakia and Slovenia before losing to Spain. But in this second phase, the French lost against Serbia, Netherlands and Germany to finish ninth.
FIVB Coaching Commission President Philippe Blain, named France's Head Coach in 2001, also enjoyed a successful playing career. He played 340 times for the French National Team from 1980 to 1991 and was elected MVP at the 1986 FIVB World Championships and 1987 European Championships.
He started his professional career as a setter with the French Junior Team, a position he also played in the French National Championship, before changing to receiver for the French Senior National Team. He ended his professional career at Italian Club Cuneo before devoting himself to training players, taking charge at Italy’s Cuneo and France’s Cannes and Sète Arago.
The highlights of the 47-year-old’s career so far as France Head Coach are a bronze medal at the 2002 World Championships in Argentina, silver at the 2003 European Championships, qualification for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and silver at the 2006 World League Finals.