Tokyo, Japan, June 3, 2016 – Laurent Tillie is the man responsible for France’s recent surge in the world stage, now he has a tough task to end their 12-year absence from the Olympic Games, as they try to reach the final stage with one more win at the Men’s World Olympic Qualification Tournament in Tokyo.
Tillie was privileged to be part of two Olympic Games as a player at Seoul 1988 and Barcelona 1992. Now, the former France captain guides the team to earn their fourth Olympic Games appearance.
France have had their fair share of ups-and-downs on the road to the Olympic Games. After an impressive run at the 2015 World League and the European Championship, France missed qualification to Rio 2016 as they fell to Russia in the final of the continental Olympic qualifiers. However, they were given one last shot as runners-up to compete at the world qualifiers.
Tillie was only able to gather his players in less than a month as they have busy schedules with their respective clubs.
“Until now we are just playing with enthusiasm because we have nothing to lose,” Tillie said. “We arrived here with a lot of pressure and stress coming from the long club season. My players are playing in different clubs with many matches and they are exhausted. So, when you are exhausted and your are not a physical team like us, we need to be mentally perfect.”
Tillie seems to be a good motivator as French team is in a good position right now to qualify with a 4-1 win-loss record. Tillie hopes that they would get one more victory to ensure a berth for the quadrennial.
In their last five matches, France went through a tough five-set match against Poland. They had the lead but they lost their concentration and ended up giving the next three sets to their European rivals.
“We had a lot of discussion after the match against Poland,” Tillie said. “I tried to keep the energy and tell the players to stay focused on what they need to do. I need to give them some positive energy.”
Tillie’s positive energy rubbed off on the players and they were able to bounce back in their next three matches. The team still played a little bit shaky but managed to come out winners at the end of the match.
In their match against Australia, France took the first two sets easily but they lost their focus on the third frame. They looked like they could finish the fourth set easily but Australia challenged them until the end. The set ended with an incredible score of 44-42 in their favour.
“I am very proud of my players,” Tillie said. “Even though we didn’t have good spirit in that match, we stayed focused on what we have to do in the technical aspect of the game such as passing, concentration on block, and even our service.”
Tillie described that the game has been more dynamic now, as compared to his time when he was a player. Tillie took some positives from their opponents’ characteristics that can help them in their future.
“Volleyball is a worldwide sport, it is high-level everywhere,” Tillie said. “What is interesting in this tournament are the different dynamics of each team.”
“You have the Asian technique, which varies tactically like Japan and China. Australia are different because they are more physical but with an Asian philosophy. Then you have Poland and my team, which are very aggressive. Canada are strict and physically organised."
“So it is really interesting because we learned a lot playing these teams and it is good for our future. Volleyball is improving a lot.”