And suddenly the pressure drops. He is in tears, Laurent Tillie, sitting on the edge of the field. He cracks, the coach of the volleyball, caught up in emotion, he who since the start of this Olympic qualifying tournament in Berlin forces himself to remain unperturbed. He lets go of the valves, finds it difficult to find the words to comment on the feat of his team which comes, without trembling, to dominate Germany in three dry sets (25-20, 25-20, 25-23), this Friday January 10. And so offer the ticket for the Tokyo Games: “After the disappointment of our fourth place at the Euro last year, we got back on track in three months. To be able to qualify is huge. “
Always at the limit
A second consecutive participation in the Games, after Rio 2016, it had only happened once to the Blues, in 1988 in Seoul then in 1992 in Barcelona. Another era, a time when the cadors were not necessarily legion. Being on the Olympic journey has since become an obstacle course of rare intensity. “We are constantly at the limit, in an increasingly competitive environment”, underlined Laurent Tillie before this qualification tournament. And even he did not dare to make too many plans on the comet before the competition, his team finding themselves decimated by injuries with three absent holders, and embarking on the adventure without great marks, with a very short week of preparation.
But here it is: these boys believed in their luck and were able to find unsuspected reservations. Dominating from the outset European champion Serbia (3-0), then floating but ensuring the essential, a qualification in the semi-final despite two defeats against Bulgaria (2-3) and the Countries- Bottom (2-3).
Forget the disillusionment of Rio
It was there, against Slovenia vice-champion of Europe Thursday January 9 that they drew in the energy of despair, when crushed in the first two sets, they reversed the match and, at the end of an ascent epic, hung their place in the final (3-2). A scenario at Sofia 2015, when during the Euro in Bulgaria, they also returned from hell in the semi-final against the host country, before conquering the continental title in the final against Slovenia (3-0) .
Five years later, they redid the deal and closed their deal against Germany with unwavering determination. “No one would have bet on us last week, said forward Jean Patry, the revelation of the tournament, after the meeting. This team may have found a soul. Something was created there. It’s crazy, I don’t know what to say. It’s incredible. “ Incredible, the word returned in the mouth of all the players, still struggling to realize at the time of returning to the locker room.
The great adventure is launched and can justify a real ambition next summer at the Games. In Rio, the Blues had missed their tournament, failing to reach the quarterfinals. Tokyo in the air of revenge? “This is a group that lives very well, which has demonstrated very beautiful things, concluded Laurent Tillie. The work will have to be completed. We have time to prepare well. But for now, we will especially enjoy all these moments together “. They all deserve it. Ample.