France claimed a 3-1 victory over Brazil in the opening match of the FIVB World League final event in Rio ©FIVB

France continued their superb form in the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) World League by claiming their 15th consecutive win with victory over hosts Brazil in the opening game of the final event at the Maracanãzinho in Rio de Janeiro.

The French side came into the tournament with a 100 per cent record in their preliminary matches and they proved too strong for the favourites, emerging with a 3-1 success.

Their quest for a win over the hotly-fancied hosts did not start well, though, as poor serving contributed to conceding the first set 29-27.

They responded well,however,  levelling proceedings in the second set 25-21 scoreline.

From that moment on, the French team, bidding to claim their maiden FIVB World League title, controlled the match and they turned the contest on its head by claiming a marathon third set 31-29.

That seemingly took the wind out of Brazilian sails and France were able to take advantage, winning the fourth 25-19 to get their campaign off to the best possible start.

“It was an unusual result, and it was difficult for us because Brazil put a lot of pressure with blocks and defence,” France coach Laurent Tillie said.

“We did not know how to play.

“My team found the spirit to stay cool, focus on the match and then we started to serve and dig better.

“It was easier after that and for us it was a great satisfaction, I think we played very well.”

Italy got the better of Serbia in their Pool B opener with a 3-2 victory in a match that lasted nearly two-and-a-half hours
Italy got the better of Serbia in their Pool B opener with a 3-2 victory in a marathon match ©FIVB

In the other match to take place on the first day of the event, which doubles as a test event for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Italy claimed a narrow 3-2 win over Serbia in a pulsating start to Pool B.

In a topsy-turvy match-up, eight-times FIVB World League champions Italy took the first set 25-23, before the Serbians hit back and restored parity in the second.

The Italians went in front once again thanks to being on the right side of a 25-23 scoreline in the third, yet Serbia never gave in and they took it to a decider by clinching the fourth set 25-20.

Despite the character being shown by the Serbian outfit, Italy were the team who had the nerve in the fifth set as they breezed to a 15-9 win to secure the victory in a match that lasted nearly two-and-a-half hours.

The competition is due continue tomorrow when Brazil face defending champions the United States in Pool A, while reigning world champions Poland enter the tournament when they go up against Italy.

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