Three-time world champions Italy are in the semifinals of the FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship for the first time in 12 years after they showed tremendous determination to overcome reigning Olympic champions France in the quarterfinals of the 20th edition of the tournament in Ljubljana, Slovenia, on Wednesday.
Italy back in the semifinals after big win over France
The Europeans top the Olympic champions in an exciting five-setter in Ljubljana
Published 06:28, 07 Sep 2022
The winners of the 1990, 1994 and 1998 World Championships are just one win away from their first medal in 24 years after they came from behind twice to knock their French rivals out in a nail-biting, five-set (24-26, 25-21, 23-25, 25-22, 15-12) battle that provided a great spectacle for the fans in the Slovenian capital.
The Italians' semifinal opponents will be known later on Wednesday, when hosts Slovenia face Ukraine at 21.00 local time (19.00 GMT) also at Arena Stozice, in Ljubljana.
With the victory, the reigning European champions also got revenge for back-to-back defeats to the reigning Olympic champions earlier this season, during the Volleyball Nations League, including a loss in the semifinals of the event.
France’s uncharacteristically excessive 49 errors (against 39 from the Italians) proved too much against a team of Italy’s caliber, even if the Olympic champions were the more effective in offence (56 kills to 47). The Italians had the edge in blocks (ten to six) and aces (six to four).
“It’s amazing, a very good feeling now,” Italian captain Simone Giannelli said at the end of the match. “France have been one of the best teams of the last ten years and it’s so difficult to play against them because they have so many great players. I have been facing them for some years now and I don’t think I’ve won more than just a few times. We had a difficult start, but after we contained their main servers, the match got even. I’m very proud of the team. We’re young, but we have a lot of power, skills and energy.”
The 20-year-old, left-handed Michieletto added 14 with 12 kills, one block and one ace, while Lavia, left the court with 12 points to his name after he produced ten kills and two blocks.
French head coach Andrea Giani, who was part of the Italian squad in their three world title campaigns as a player, tried to find solutions during the entire match, sending all but two of his available players to the court.
Opposite Jean Patry, who started the match on the bench, ended it as the team’s top scorer, with 16 points, all in kills. He had one more than star outside hitter Earvin Ngapeth, who tallied 13 kills, one block and one ace. Middle blocker Barthélémy Chinenyeze was the third French player to reach double digits in scoring with 11 points (eight kills, three blocks).
Thursday’s schedule will also feature two quarterfinal duels, both in Gliwice, Poland. South American rivals Argentina and Brazil will be the first to get on the court, at 17.30 local time (15.30 GMT), followed by hosts Poland and the United States, at 21.00 local time (19.00 GMT).