“A real test” for a team from France under construction

It was the hit of the summer. Handball players, handball players and volleyball players in gold, basketball players in silver and basketball players in bronze: the French teams of “BHV” shone during the Olympic Games (Olympic Games) in Tokyo. All that was missing was the volleyball players to perfect this five-star cuvée.

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But the latter do not evolve in the same category as their counterparts in indoor sports. Classified to 33e world rank, the Blues do not exist in international competitions. Their latest result is a 21e place (out of 24) during the 2019 European Championship. Suffice to say that the French women are far from being among the favorites of the 2021 edition, which began on Wednesday August 18 (in Serbia, Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania) and that they will start with a match against Russia on Friday (8 p.m.).

This lack of competitiveness of the Blue is explained by many factors. Starting with the lack of resources. “The federation has two Olympic disciplines, indoor volleyball [en salle] and beach volleyball, with investments to be made ”, details Axelle Guiguet, national technical director (DTN):

“Historically, women’s volleyball has always suffered from refereeing: for over thirty years, only a quarter of the indoor volleyball budget went to girls.

At the level of the national selection, “It prevented long internships, continues Axelle Guiguet. The girls only had ten days to prepare for a big competition, you couldn’t expect miracles. “

The size, a problem of size

Appointed at the head of the national team in 2018, Emile Rousseaux became aware of the work that awaited him. Before his arrival, the coach of Belgian origin carried out an audit. He remembers : I was disappointed with what I saw. We have to be careful, because I do not want to discourage those who do their job well, but, overall, the work at the detection level is insufficient. “

The physical dimension crystallizes the attentions. “There is a real problem: taller players do not go to volleyball”, explains Hubert Henno, former French international and consultant for France Télévisions during the Olympic Games.

“Detection comes too late compared to other sports”

What Emile Rousseaux confirms: “Tall girls go more naturally to basketball”, notes the coach, according to whom “Detection comes too late compared to other sports”. “We have an overabundance in the 18-22 age group, while other nations start in the 5-12 age group”, he develops.

In 2019, 67,000 women were made redundant in volleyball clubs, nearly three times less than basketball and handball (180,000 each).

France is home to nine poles to train future high-level volleyball players. “In some poles, 80% of girls measure less than 1.70 m”, laments the coach. The average height of French women who will compete in the Euro is 1.80 m. That is 8 centimeters shorter than the Russians. “In a major sport like volleyball, it is inevitably prohibitive , adds Hubert Henno, now coach of the Nantes men’s club.

“The quality and quantity of players are limited”

Axelle Guiguet is aware of the problem. “I asked the technical executives to get involved in the detection of templates. We are trying to collaborate with schools and colleges. A mission slowed down by the Covid-19 epidemic, which lost 30% of volleyball licensees in 2020-2021.

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League A clubs rely above all on foreign players

In this context, the clubs of Ligue A, the first national division, rely above all on foreign players. The regulations nevertheless oblige them to field at least one Frenchwoman. “In the first twelve matches of the last championship, only 22% of the holders were French, recalls Emile Rousseaux. This represents twenty-five players in all, 40% of whom played at the libero position! “

Distinguished from her teammates by a jersey of another color, the libero has essentially a defensive role and does not go to the net. This is therefore a position where the size criterion is less important. But a team has only one libero …

“A French player has very little chance of performing with us, adds Fabien Simondet, coach of the Béziers women’s team, second in the last championship. I would be happy to have more French women in my squad, but the quality and quantity of players are limitedes.

France Avenir 2024, a solution?

Among the initiatives put in place, the French women’s team joined Ligue A in 2018. Called “France Avenir 2024”, it is made up of junior level players (under 20). They can thus be confronted at the high level. “It’s a good idea at the base, but they hardly win any matches”, tempers Fabien Simondet.

In three years in the elite, France Avenir 2024 has won only two meetings. What bothers me is that there is a certain culture of defeat, continues the technician from Béziers. It’s complicated for the players to take 3-0 every weekend.ends. “

In this long-term work, Axelle Guiguet prefers to retain the positive. “The French junior team reached the semi-finals of the Euro in 2020, with a typical team coming out of the France Avenir 2024 pole”, she emphasizes. Young French women had not reached this rank since 1996.

What to be optimistic in the perspective of the Paris Olympics in three years, where the Blue will be present for the first time (as an organizing country)? The France team is starting to perform against once unplayable teams. But the Euro is going to be a real test », Agrees Hubert Henno. And Axelle Guiguet to conclude: “I would have preferred the Games to be in 2028 for women! “

Les Bleues in the “hen of death”

The French women’s volleyball team, 33rd nation in the world rankings, inherited a hen raised at the Euro. The French will play against three of the best European selections: Russia (5th in the world), Serbia (6th), which plays at home, and Belgium (11th). Bosnia and Herzegovina, 35th, and Azerbaijan, 42nd, seem more affordable on paper.

“We have a very young team, but we don’t come as tourists”, indicates coach Emile Rousseaux. Axelle Guiguet, national technical director set the objective: “ We want to get out of the hen. Despite the draw, we are staying the course. The top four ranked teams will take part in the round of 16. First meeting Friday August 20 for the Blue, against the Russians (at 9 p.m.)