Katowice, Poland, September 18, 2014 - France defeated Iran 3-2 (25-20, 25-23, 22-25, 19-25, 15-9) to capture first place in Pool G of the FIVB Men's World Championship at Spodek Arena on Thursday night. The victory earned France a ticket to the semifinals for the second time in the history of the quadrennial competition.
The French side earned a total of five points from their 2-0 win-loss mark, while Germany finished second in the pool with 3 points and a 1-1 record. Iran will play Olympic champions and World No 2 Russia for the fifth position.
After winning the first two sets to secure their spot in the Final Four, French coach Tillie Laurent rested his first unit the rest of the way which enabled Iran to reduce the gap.
Mory Sidibe topped France with 17 points, followed by Nicolas Marechal and Nicolas LeGoff with 11 apiece and Samuele Tuia with 10 tallies. Iran's Shahram Mahmoudi had a match-high 22 points in the losing effort while Milad Ebadipour and Pourya Fayazi added 14 and 11, respectively.
The game at the beginning of the first set was very balanced. After a fierce finished by Amir Ghafour, Iran took 2-1 lead, but next minutes were fulfilled with point-by-point play. Hard spikes from both sides kept an even score (5-5) till the first technical timeout, when France led 8-7 after Earvin Ngapeth's right-wing counter-attack. Improving their passing and speeding up, France managed to increase their lead to three points (11-8) and forced Slobodan Kovac to call timeout. Taking the risk at the serve line, Iran with Amir Ghafour and Farhad Ghaemi's performance jumped 15-14 ahead. However, despite some fine digs, their mistakes prevented them from keeping the lead and at 22-19 France seemed to control the game. Laurent Tillie's players finished the first set 25-20 and booked a semi-final ticket.
Being assured of the promotion to the Final Four, France didn't lose their focus and started the second set with 4-3 lead. Coach Laurent Tillie decided to make some substitutions, putting Samuele Tuia and Franck Lafitte into the court. However, Iran still fought hard and kept the touch. With Shahram Mahmoudi's kill, they gained one point of advantage (11-10). At the second technical timeout, It was France who led 16-14 after their efficient play in counter-attacks. When Mehdi Mahdavi started to serve, the scores changed and Iran jumped 18-16 ahead, but this leading didn't last long and mostly due to their astonishing defence, France went 22-20 ahead and finished the second set 25-23.
As it was in two previous sets, the third one started with very balanced game. The scores changed often throughout the set as any of teams could fully control the game. At 4-4 France managed to take a two-point lead (6-4), but after a fierce finished out-spike of Mory Sidibe, Iran came closer at 6-5. However, France managed to extend their advantage once again and went off the court 8-5 ahead for the first technical timeout. Staying focused Iran, did their best in building fine defence and showing their power in spiking and, as a result, they ran 13-10 ahead and kept this three-point distance at the second technical timeout (16-13). An exciting ending was finally won by Iran 25-22.
At the beginning of the fourth set, the scoreboard showed 3-3 and it was a real reflection of the situation on the court. Spikes' performance from both sides (by Mory Sidibe of France and Damnabi Fayazi of Iran) in accordance of well played defence kept the game very balanced. With an efficient game of Mehdi Mahdavi and some France's simple mistakes, Iran went 9-6 ahead. Shahram Mahmoudi's kill increased Iran's lead to five points (11-6) what was enthusiastically experienced by Iran fans supporting their team at Spodek Hall in Katowice. After Mehdi Mahdavi's fine block, Iran built a comfortable margin at the second technical timeout (16-9) and started to control the game in every single element. Although France reduced the distance to four points (18-14), Iran confidently opened the way to tie-break, winning the fourth set 25-19.
Regaining focus, France opened the fifth set with 2-0 lead. After Shahram Mahmoudi's kill, Iran came closer at 3-2, but it was the French side who controlled the game and kept at least one point of advantage. The distance was extended to four points (9-5), mostly because of aggressive serves and well built defence that resulted in efficient counter-attacks. At 11-6 Slobodan Kovac decided to call a timeout, but this break didn't stop France, who jumped 12-6 ahead after Nicholas Marechal's ace. Despite Iran's devotion, France managed to win the match, finishing the tie-break at 15-9.
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