Influential Ngapeth Hands France Winning Start
Rouen, France, May 25, 2018 – Earvin Ngapeth provided the spark for France as the hosts began their inaugural FIVB men’s Nations League campaign with a gritty 4-set victory (25-20, 24-26, 25-20, 25-17) over Asian powerhouses Iran.
This was an intriguing match-up between two high quality sides, but it was 2017 World League champions France who got the better of the Grand Champions Cup bronze medalists in front of their home crowd at the Kindarena Arena on the banks of the River Seine, although it was far from easy against determined opposition.
France had Ngapeth to thank for a commanding attacking performance which yielded 18 points, but their star man was also erratic with his serving uncharacteristically poor. Jean Patry (17 points) was also a menace, while setter Benjamin Toniutti and libero Jenia Grebennikov were as influential as ever. Barthelemy Chinenyeze, who scored 8 spikes from 8 attempts, and Nicola Le Goff (9 points) also produced some big moments. France often utilized a 3-man blocking technique to great effect, but it was their extra attacking flair that gave them the edge in a tight match.
Iran, who beat France for the first time last year on their way to a 3rd-placed finish at the Grand Champions Cup – their first-ever podium finish at world level – provided plenty of power and style, while their blocking mirrored the quality of the French. Amir Ghafour was a scoring machine with 18 points – all of them spikes – while Seyed Mohammad (9 points) and Milad Ebadipour (6 points) were also influential. Iran were terrific but were ultimately outgunned, although they’ll expect to beat Australia and Japan in their remaining Pool 1 games in Rouen.