out in the quarters by Italy, the Blues still managed their tournament

The French women’s team comes out of the Euro volleyball with the honors, despite the defeat in the quarter-finals of the competition, Tuesday August 29, against Italy in three sets (25-14, 29-27 , 25-13). Undefeated, the Transalpines have still not lost a single set since the start of the competition. In Florence, the Blues (who were playing in red tonight) were not favorites: the Italians, second in the world rankings behind Turkey, are a scarecrow in the tournament, they who won Euro 2021 and the League of nation 2022.

Dominated in the defensive block by opponents bigger than them, the French played too predictably, systematically favoring the wings, and were regularly countered. However, they had the merit of resisting, to the point of pushing Italy to their limits in the second set, obtaining several set points. On the Italian side, captain Miriam Sylla and the sharp Ekaterina Antropova, a 2.02m player naturalized this summer, martyred the tricolor defense.

Whatever. With five successes in seven games and a second straight quarter-final in continental competition, France had never obtained such good results. Five years ago, she was still around 50e place in the nations ranking. Less than a year from the Paris 2024 Games, the Bleues have shown that they could do better than extras during the Olympic meeting, in which they will take part for the first time in their history – automatically qualified as as representatives of the host country.

There is no question of a medal yet for a team now pointing to 15e world rank, but the French have confirmed the clear progress observed since 2021. After winning the European League (second world division) in 2022, then the Challenger Cup in July, they developed an ambitious game during this Euro, in particular on the offensive plan.

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“It’s frustrating because we lose in three sets against Italy, like against the Netherlands. We are able to produce a game almost equal to these teams at times, but we manage the decisive moments poorly. The players must learn to better control their emotions in these moments.spoke at the microphone of The channel L’Equipe Emile Rousseaux, former Belgian international (243 selections), at the head of the tricolor selection since 2018.

With captain Héléna Cazaute and the sharp Lucille Gicquel, the Bleues have spearheads capable of making them cross the levels that still separate them from the highest international level. Aged 25, the two players have hardened their skills abroad, in Serie A, the Italian championship known to be the most competitive with the Turkish league.

“This is one of the keys to the progress of the France teambelieves Héléna Cazaute. Going abroad allows players to take things a step further and gain experience. » After a successful season at Chieri, near Turin, the receiver-attacker will wear the colors of Milan, one of the heavyweights of Serie A, next season.

Lucille Gicquel has just signed for Nilüfer Belediyespor in Turkey after a difficult year marked by injuries at Coni. The daughter of ex-athlete Jean-Charles Gicquel, a high jump specialist, studied in 2020-2021 in Conegliano (Italy) as an understudy for the transalpine star Paola Egonu, who only played a few minutes on Tuesday evening.

Four French women abroad

The other great satisfaction of this Euro was the consistency of Nina Stojiljkovic as a setter. “Nina has been heavily criticized in recent years but she has not let go. Many said that we didn’t have a good setter in France, she proved the opposite. Mentally, she has passed a milestone., congratulates Héléna Cazaute. Failing to obtain the confidence of a French club, the young woman had to go into exile in the minor leagues to obtain playing time, first in Maribor, in Slovenia, then in Partizan Belgrade, in Serbia. Next season, she will discover Romania under the colors of Dinamo Bucharest.

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With Amandha Sylves (Coni, Italy), they are now four tricolors to flourish outside of France. Firmly installed in the post of central despite his young age (22 years), the West Indian embodies the future of the selection. In his wake, the receivers-attackers Amélie Rotar (22 years old) and Halimatou Bah (19 years old), or the setter Emilie Respaut (20 years old), bring new blood to the group.

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All have in common that they have come out of the France Avenir 2024 mold, the project set up in 2017 by the French Volleyball Federation and the National Volleyball League to give playing time, in the championship, to young people aged 16. at 21 from local training and grouped together in a single Pôle espoir.

Between the new and the old, the mayonnaise has taken hold and the climate seems serene. “We are a group of girlfriends, testifies Lucille Gicquel. We know each other well, we enjoy spending a lot of time together every summer. This solidarity allows us to hold on in difficult times. »

Take new steps

Against Italy and the Netherlands, Les Bleues were able to measure the path they still have to go to join the elite of world volleyball. The France team now has a competitive major seven at the highest level but it remains penalized by the weakness of its bench. Over the duration of the tournament, this handicap weighed heavily.

Their progress, however, encourages optimism, especially since the average age of the group does not exceed 24 years. For the coach, Emile Rousseaux, the priority is to continue to grow the pool of French volleyball players, a point which remains, in his eyes, the main obstacle.

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Thanks to their success in the Challenger Cup in July, Les Bleues will play next season, just before the Paris Games, the League of Nations, a competition between the sixteen best teams in the world each summer. Lucille Gicquel is delighted in advance: “This will allow us to compete with the best. This is what we lack to cross a new level, to reach the very high level. »

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