Belgium and Austria win ‘Golden Matches’ to play for ticket to Rio
2014-2016 CEV Beach Volleyball Continental Cup - Final
Stavanger, Norway, June 25, 2016. Austria and Belgium will be playing on Sunday for a much coveted quota place to the men’s Beach Volleyball competition of the Rio 2016 Olympics. On the next-to-last-day of action at the 2014-2016 CEV Beach Volleyball Continental Cup Final in Stavanger, Austria and Belgium won ‘Golden Matches’ to edge Russia and Spain, respectively and progress to the last stage of the competition. Tom van Walle and Dries Koekelkoren of Belgium won on Saturday night their third ‘Golden Match’ in as many days after they had edged Greece and Norway in the previous rounds by means of this extra match as well. As for Austria, Alexander Huber and Robin Seidl came from behind to beat Russia’s ‘brand new’ duo Oleg Stoyanovskiy and Nikita Liamin who played their first match together in an effort to secure progression to the ‘grand finale’ for their team.
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Third ‘Golden Match’ win for Belgium
Tom van Walle and Dries Koekelkoren put on another show to stamp a 21-16, 21-17 victory in their ‘Golden Match’ with Spain’s no. 1 team Francisco Alfredo Marco and Christian Garcia. This was a far more convincing performance for the Belgians than what they had showed earlier in the day in their clash with Cesar Menendez and Francisco Tomas.
“Yes, it went really well,” van Walle said. “Maybe that is because we knew this Spanish team a lot better than the other one, we played them and beat them before today’s game. We had worked with our coaching staff on a tactical plan and I think we executed it pretty well, even though the Spaniards hit quite a lot of short diagonal shots and we had some problems in dealing with these,” he continued. “We had to wait pretty long for this match to take place, maybe the break was a little too long, some six hours or so, but still good enough to rest, recover and re-focus after the tough match we had earlier today.”
On Sunday a ticket to the Olympics, any athlete’s ultimate dream, will be at stake in the ‘grand finale’ with Austria. “Of course we really want to go for it. We know that the excitement is now mounting back home in Belgium. Many people and especially the media have been speculating for a while about our chances to qualify to the Olympics, but initially we did not pay much attention to that, because we know that we have started very late and this is only the first full season for us on the tour. However, now that we are so close to the achievement of this goal, we definitely want to seize the day,” van Walle said.
Will they have to play yet another – what would be their fourth ‘Golden Match’ in as many days? “We will be supporting our second team as much as possible, but we know that we can’t really count on a victory over the top team from Austria. And if there is a ‘Golden Match’ to play, we’ll be ready for it,” he concluded.
David edges Goliath in Austria vs. Russia matchup
The first of two ‘Golden Matches’ on schedule for Saturday night turned into some kind of ‘David vs. Goliath’ game after the Russian coaching staff decided to mix their pairs up with the 203 cm tall Nikita Liamin teaming up with Oleg Stoyanovskiy (205 cm) in an effort to claim a spot in the ‘grand finale’ of the CEV Continental Cup.
Their combined effort produced a 21-15 win in the opening set of the matchup with Alexander Huber and Robin Seidl, in what looked like a real show of strength by the Russian unusual tandem – with Liamin leaving mostly to Stoyanovskiy the duty to block the attacks coming from the other side of the net.
However, the course of the match changed quite dramatically in the second set where Huber and Seidl finally found a way through the Russian block and pulled out a 21-14 win. The Austrians controlled the tie-break that followed almost from start to end and after their 15-7 victory was sealed by a Russian service error, they could celebrate their progression to the final act of the tournament together with teammates Thomas Kunert and Christoph Dressler who literally jumped down from the stands to congratulate their friends on such impressive achievement.
The 179 cm tall Alexander ‘Xandi’ Huber commented after this come-from-behind victory: “Together with our coaches we had agreed on a well-defined game plan for this match and we knew exactly what we had to do in order to beat the Russians. However, it did not quite work the way we wished in the opening set. Our tactics finally paid off in the second set and in the tie-break as well. Was I scared because of the big hits killed by the Russians? Not that much, especially after my teammate – who is also a lot smaller than they are at 190 cm – found a way to block them, so in a way he protected me.”