Italy takes the lead in Florence

France, Italy, South Korea and the USA opened the 23rd World League at the Nelson Mandela Forum in Florence, Italy, in front of fantastic audiences that didn’t just support the home team and cheered on all our FIVB Heroes. Antonin Rouzier and Clayton Stanley were actually the only two Heroes playing in this pool, as Simone Parodi and Moon Sung-Min couldn’t be part of the competition due to injuries.

On the first day France beat USA 3-1 (17-25, 25-20, 26-24, 25-17) with a great performance from the entire French team, while the second match saw Italy triumph over Korea after five sets (24-26, 27-25, 21-25, 29-27, 18-16) of pure, high-powered competitiveness. The following day Korea faced the US and lost again after another extended nail-biter: it took the Americans a full two hours to win 3-2 (20-25, 18-25, 25-17, 25-23, 17-15) in front of a packed Nelson Mandela Forum.

The crowd then literally exploded with joy when the Azzurri came onto the court for their match against France. Antonin Rouzier and his teammates tried to stop their Transalpine brethren on their way to the top of the pool but succumbed to them 3-1 (20-25, 25-22, 25-21, 25-22).

On the final day of the weekend France did better, winning 3-2 (25-18, 24-26, 25-20, 21-25, 15-11) against the unfortunate Koreans in a thrilling match, while Italy walked over the USA in straight sets (25-16, 25-20, 25-16), claiming an undisputed pole position in the pool with three victories in a row.

Our FIVB Heroes Clayton Stanley and Antonin Rouzier certainly made their mark in the tournament: Clayton as USA captain was always the first to cheer up his team during the timeout and even though he wasn’t in play for the whole weekend, his spikes were always amazing. Antonin Rouzier meanwhile was one of the best scorers for France and made a huge contribution to their victories.

Now the tournament takes a short break before the second week in Lyon from 15 June. Follow www.fivbheroes.com to stay up to date with your Heroes!