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19/06/2015 19:35
Late night show by Azerbaijan’s ‘adoptive son’ Neilton Moises Santos
2015 European Games

Baku, Azerbaijan, June 19, 2015. Though they had ups and downs in pool play, Azerbaijan’s home heroes were back in action full of energy on Friday night for the late matches at the Beach Arena and the crowd in attendance got more than just something to cheer about. Neilton Moises Santos and Iaroslav Rudykh stormed to a 2:1 win in their match with Ukraine’s Oleksii Denin and Oleh Plotnytskiy (21-15, 20-22, 15-12) and on Saturday will play Latvia’s Olympic bronze medallist Martins Plavins and his young partner Haralds Regza for a spot in the quarterfinals of the first ever European Games.

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The ‘man of the match’ was Neilton Moises Santos who delivered a post-game show as he climbed up the stands to celebrate with the coaching staff of Azerbaijan straight after sealing his and partner Rudykh’s tie-break win over the young, yet talented Ukrainians. The home heroes set the pace right from the start of the third set but the promising Ukrainians – Plotnytskiy is a silver medallist from last year’s U19 World Championship with Illia Kovalov – levelled the score at 8 all before the Azerbaijani tandem broke away again and did not look back anymore.

The home teams are literally mesmerising the Azerbaijani crowd with their actions and this is something remarkable especially since Beach Volleyball was not known at all among the local population only a couple of years ago. The many kids in attendance got not only something to celebrate with their heroes but they were hopefully inspired to take up – one day – this sport.

“Actually I still do not know who we are going to play next,” Santos said after a show that epitomised his emotional side and Brazilian roots. “Only God knows how hard we have been working with Iaroslav for about one and a half year since we first came to Azerbaijan and decided to embark on this adventure. We are very committed to this cause and have devoted much of our time and of our lives to this project. I would like to thank the audience for all their support and can only promise we will be giving it all to move on and make the next stage of the competition,” he said while being interviewed by the Azerbaijani television.

“I totally agree with my partner and would like to stress that we will be trying our best to upset the Latvian team in the next round,” Rudykh added. “As we make it through to the next stages of the competition, our opponents will evidently get stronger and stronger. However, we are absolutely determined to play with all our hearts and go for another victory, even though this is the goal which is shared by all other teams competing here at the European Games. Tonight’s victory is very important for us, it means a lot but we move on and hope to achieve more.”

The audience hoped for more glory to follow in the last match of the day but Leonid Gritsai and Bernardo Wermelinger Romano lost at the tie-break a very close match with Russia’s 2007 world silver medallist Dmitry Barsouk and his partner Yaroslav Koshkarev (21-17, 17-21, 13-15). 

The first elimination round of the men’s competition was packed with great actions and the teams eventually moving on to the next stage – to play there the winners of the pool phase – include Premysl Kubala/Jan Hadrava and Robert Kufa/Jan Dumek of the Czech Republic, Latvia’s Ruslans Sorokins/Aleksandrs Solovejs, France’s Jean-Baptiste Daguerre/Yannick Salvetti, Poland’s Maciej Kosiak/Maciej Rudol and Aliaksandr Kavalenka/Aliaksandr Dziadkou of Belarus.

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