Olympic champions France are top of men's CEV EuroVolley 2021 Pool D on three wins from as many matches. It's a perfect start to the competition for the team, who are back in action a month after celebrating their victory in Tokyo on August 7.
Olympic champions France off to strong start at EuroVolley
Published 06:00, 08 Sep 2021
"The goal was to get things back on track, to get back in shape. The rest follows on naturally from what was set up for the FIVB Volleyball Nations League and the Olympics - our playing system is in place," Nicolas Le Goff told the French Volleyball Federation website. "It was more about optimising our fitness than our technique. I think our staff managed our return to the court well, putting things in place gradually without overloading us, so that we got here in the best conditions."
France won their first Olympic medal at the Games in Tokyo. They first participated in the quadrennial at the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games, then played at Barcelona 1992, Athens 2004 and Rio 2016. Their victory crowned their rise to prominence in international volleyball after notable successes in the FIVB Volleyball World League and FIVB Volleyball Nations League in recent years.
"Yes, it's true. We are Olympic champions," continued Le Goff. We have realised - but not completely yet. And now, as we are already involved in another competition, we are focused on a new chapter. We try not to think of the Olympics too much. We know we need to be focused on this tournament, even if the memories of Tokyo will remain for a very, very long time. And retrospectively, when we will think of the summer of 2021, we will think of only the Olympics. It was a great joy, incredible memories, and I think that more time passes, more we will understand that."
France are playing at EuroVolley with a new coaching staff in place, led by legendary Brazilian head coach Bernardo Rezende.
"Yes, it's true that it provides us with a new challenge. We are discovering each other, the coaching team is helping us and it is all going very well for now, especially with our three wins here. Our coach's reputation is of course impressive and he has many more Olympic victories than we do! We feel his serenity and experience. During matches, he tells us things and they happen, even if they are unlikely. We struggled a little against Germany and he found the right way to keep us calm. We know he has experienced a lot in his career and knows how to manage every situation. It won't work all the time, because that would be too easy, but it's a big strength."
For many, France will be the team to beat as they gradually build towards hosting the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024.
"We try not to see things that way," said Le Goff. "Because when we have been the team to beat, we have not always been very successful. The outsider role suits us well. We will not worry ourselves about that for now. We know we have already had a successful summer, but we will do our best to get a strong result at the EuroVolley. It is a major tournament and it is important for us to do well. We know we are able to do well, but it is not because we are the Olympic champions that we are superior to the others. We know what we have been through and we know we were almost knocked out in the pool stage of the Olympics. It is a very thin line between success and failure!"