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France celebrate historic European crown, Slovenia happy with silver

FIVB President Dr Ary. S. Graça F°, with new CEV President Aleksandar Boricic (left) and former CEV President André Meyer (right), hands over the 2015 CEV Volleyball European Championship trophy to France captain Benjamin Toniutti
Sofia, Bulgaria, October 18, 2015 – FIVB Volleyball World League winners France capped its incredible season with straight-set (25-19, 29-27, 29-27) win over Slovenia in the gold medal match of the  2015 CEV Volleyball European Championship – Men at the Arena Armeec on Sunday.

Slovenia were one step away from an unprecedented sporting achievement for their country but France were determined to claim their first European crown as well, while performing before legendary soccer player Lilian Thuram and their Sports Minister, Patrick Kanner.

France dictated the tempo at the start of the match 5-3. Slovenia could rely on a large group of their passionate and loyal supporters that travelled to Sofia on Sunday to witness their squad in the historic final. However, France still gained edge of four points at the second technical timeout 16-12. The Frenchmen held on to their lead and seized the first set 25-19.

Slovenia discharged some pressure and showed quality plays in the second set. France stormed back to level the score at 17-all and force Slovenia coach Andrea Giani to call for a timeout. France took the lead 19-18 off a Slovenian error, but Mitja Gasparini and Tine Urnaut stepped up to keep their side on track. Slovenia scored two points in a row to grab the lead 21-19 but could not take advantage of the three set balls as Earvin Ngapeth tied the score at 24-all. France survived another set point but Ngapeth served into the net. Urnaut did the same on Slovenia’s fifth set ball, until a fault by Dejan Vincic provided France an opportunity to gain a 2-0 set advantage. France, however, missed on the opportunity and the score was tied again at 27-all. Kozamernik served out of bounds and an ace by Antonin Rouzier ended the thrilling second set 29-27 in favour of France.

Slovenia suffered a mental setback in the early stages of the third set, where France piled up a 9-5 lead. Slovenia then snapped out of this state and turned the tide 18-17. Rouzier stepped in to lead France’s offence. After a series of heart-stopping plays, Earvin Ngapeth came up with a fancy no-look spike to secure the championship 29-27.

“Right now I feel a little bit sad because we lost the final but maybe in a couple of minutes, after calming down, we will realise what we realise what we all have achieved in the tournament,” Slovenia star player Mitja Gasparini said. “It has been an amazing journey. As for our coach, I know Andrea Giani very well because he has been my mentor also during the club season for the last couple of years. We have been working very hard under his guidance for the last five months, won the European League, qualified for the World League, and now won a medal at the European Championship. We hope to continue this great journey with him and perform well next year.” 

“It is an amazing feeling, we are European champions and just can’t find the right words to describe the way we feel,” France captain Benjamin Toniutti said. “This summer we already won the World League but we continued to work very hard on our way to this tournament because we wanted to confirm that result and show that this is the level we can compete at. Tonight we played a perfect match, everything went just perfect and now we can celebrate.” 

“Of course I can’t be completely happy but I am nevertheless very proud of my players,” Slovenia mentor Andrea Giani said. “This group has made it very far from where we started but we knew from the very beginning they had the potential to go for something big and I had the same feeling coming in here. Maybe we could not predict we would be in the big final, but I was sure and confident we would have achieved a good result at this championship.” 

“I am very happy, this is such a great satisfaction,” France coach Laurent Tillie said. “When we started the competition all teams were so close – Russia, Italy, Bulgaria, Poland. And after you win the title, it is amazing and unbelievable. We did it and the feeling is greater because we won the World League title four months ago. When we come back to France, maybe I need to play the lottery, because I am so lucky. Everything seems like a dream. We were in a tough group in Italy, but we succeeded to beat Italy, then Bulgaria, and today, the strong Slovenian team.”

France walked confidently towards the achievement of another milestone in their volleyball history by winning their first ever gold in the European Championship. The gold medal is their seventh European medal, which is the most elaborate addition to their four silver medals and two bronze medals they have won since the European Championship was first played in 1948.

Slovenia, which became the revelations of 2015 Men’s EuroVolley, could be proud and happy of their silver medal finish, the first ever since the country’s independence in 1991 and the second in any team sport following the second place finish by their men’s handball national team at the 2004 European Championship.

The gold medal match was played before a sell-out and brought to an end after ten days of world-class volleyball across four venues in Bulgaria and Italy with more than 150,000 fans, which witnessed the action of Europe’s finest players.

2015 Men’s EuroVolley Dream Team 

MVP: Antonin Rouzier (FRA) 
Best Setter: Simone Giannelli (ITA) 
Best Opposite: Ivan Zaytsev (ITA) 
Best Outside Spiker. Tine Urnaut (SLO) 
Second Best Outside Spiker: Earvin Ngapeth (FRA) 
Best Middle Blocker: Teodor Todorov (BUL) 
Second Best Middle Blocker: Viktor Yosifov (BUL) 
Best Libero: Jénia Grebennikov (FRA) 

Fair Play Award: Vladimir Nikolov (BUL) 

Final Standing 

1.   France*
2.   Slovenia* 
3.   Italy* 
4.   Bulgaria* 
5.   Poland* 
6.   Russia* 
7.   Serbia*  
8.   Germany 
9.   Netherlands 
10. Belgium 
11. Estonia 
12. Finland 
13. Czech Republic 
14. Slovakia 
15. Croatia
16. Belarus 

*Qualified for the Final Round of the 2017 edition together with hosts Poland 

For more information on the 2015 CEV Volleyball European Championship - Men visit eurovolley2015.net.

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