Antoine Brizard, the conductor of the French team

The French volleyball team has “Mister Freeze”, a player whose mind is soaked in liquid nitrogen, able to cool boiling rooms with his clinical movements. Antoine Brizard is the passer for the Habs, who will face Japan on Monday, September 5, in Ljubljana, for a place in the quarter-finals of the World Cup, a competition they have yet to win. Since the Olympic title of the Blues at the Tokyo Games in 2021, Poitevin has declared himself, a match, as a world reference for this strategic position.

One action sums up Antoine Brizard: this tense back pass for Barthélémy Chinenyeze in the quarter-finals of the Games, while France, which came from nowhere, led 10-6 in the tie-break against Poland. A bold move, taking the highest risk, raining down Poland’s last hope.

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“Mentally, he is very strong. He is an intelligent player, who is always two or three steps ahead of what the opponent is going to do. Most of all, he impressed me with his consistency. He can constantly pressure the opponent to serve and block.testified Guillermo Hernan, the former smuggler of the Spanish team, who held him for three years in Paris Volley, his first professional club.

Called “the best player in the world”

The World Cup, organized until September 11 in Slovenia and Poland, is the first major international meeting played by Antoine Brizard as a holder, he who started the Games on the bench, before winning, at the age of 27. , as the boss of the group. In January, he was named “the best player in the world” by the International Federation. A dedication he accepted without enthusiasm, almost with shyness.

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“It’s a bit of a basic passing game that’s in the shadows, I don’t want to be in the spotlighthe said. Through this nomination, the duo of smugglers from the France team was also rewarded. Benjamin Toniutti was very important to my development. When I came to the selection, 2017, I was very far from his level. »

At 32, Benjamin Toniutti is a senior player for the French team (300 caps) and for Jastrzebski Wegiel’s Polish club, one of the best in Europe. But Andrea Giani, the Italian head coach of the France team since March, decided to trust Antoine Brizard.

It is true that Poitevin, with his 196 cm and his powerful serve, is more similar to the profile of a modern volleyball player than the “small” Toniutti and his 183 cm. Today, the two men form an important duo for the French team.

It is important for a team to have two passers who agree, because the one who is not playing is better placed to read the opponent’s game and can give an outside perspective.explains former international Stéphane Faure, who saw Antoine Brizard arrive at the age of 15 at the Center for Resources, Expertise and Sports Performance (Creps) in Bordeaux, where he managed the men’s section.

“He made himself”

It’s hard to escape volleyball when you’re born in Poitiers, the citadel of French discipline. As a child, Antoine Brizard often attended games at the Stade Poitevin with his mother, a former volleyball player, and his father, who practiced athletics and football. “at a good level”. After trying football and tennis, he followed his brother Benjamin when the latter signed up for volleyball. Upgraded by the Saint-Benoît club chicks, he rubbed the shoulders of Earvin Ngapeth, older and already a physical monster, and thought his place on the farm might not be among the big hitters, but the conductor .

A few years later, he found himself at the boarding school of Creps de Bordeaux. For a while, he planned to study medicine, like his mother and his brother, but his passion for volleyball prevailed. If he doesn’t have the physical strength at his best, the technique and the mind are there. “Antoine is quiet strongsaid Stéphane Faure. When he came to us, he was a good student, with his head on his shoulders. He has a good feel for the game, but he lacks explosiveness. Because he is a hard worker, he works hard to get this physical dimension. He made himself. »

At 18, Antoine Brizard arrived at Paris Volley, one of the best French clubs. For three years, he developed alongside Guillermo Hernan. But the Parisian club, which plays in the Champions League, does not risk giving responsibilities to a player without experience.. “He doesn’t play, but he doesn’t complainremembers Mr. Hernan. He is a mature, respectful child who listens to others. He enjoyed discussing tactics for hours. Technically, he is talented without talent, but his determination is impressive. »

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With a lack of playing time, Antoine Brizard left Paris Volley in 2015 for Spacer’s Toulouse Volley, where he reached the final of the French championship in 2017, earning him his first selections. Then, the call of the open sea: three seasons in Poland, one in Russia and, last year, Italy, “The best championship in the world”. In Piacenza, a wealthy small town on the border of Emilia-Romagna and Lombardy, the “quiet man” quickly found his bearings, but he remained attached to Paris Volleyball, to the point of becoming a minority who is a shareholder of the club in 2021. .

Paris was my first pro club, it’s a city that means a lot to me, because I met my wife and my best friends there. This is my second family here”he told the Parisian in January. In two years, the City of Light will be back on its road map. “The Games, I think about it every day”he said.

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