Bulgaria claims top spot in Pool I and helps Serbia into the semis
2012 Olympic Games - European Qualification
Sofia, Bulgaria, May 11, 2012. Bulgaria managed to hammer out a third victory at the 2012 Olympic Games - European Qualification for men in Bulgaria, and claimed the first place in Pool II with a perfect record. Cheered on by the colorful crowd on the stands of Arena Armeec hall, the Lions defeated Spain by 3:0 (25-16, 25-20, 25-16) and allowed Balkan neighbor Serbia to stay in the runner-up position of the pool and become the fourth team to secure its participation in tomorrow’s semifinals. CEV President André Meyer was also among the spectators of the game.
Live photo gallery of all matches is running in real time here
In the first set the Spanish team was able to stay in contention only before the first technical time-out. The Bulgarian block proved almost impossible to break through, while the offense, led by captain Vladimir Nikolov, took care of opening up a wide gap of 9 points to close the set at 25-16.
Although winning the first set secured the first place in the pool for the Bulgarian team, head coach Radostin Stoytchev showed no mercy for the Spaniards and started the second set with the same lineup as the first. Spain fought to stay alive with improved spiking efforts, especially from Iban Perez, but the opponent was just way too strong. Vladimir Nikolov kept his 100% success rate in attack while the block continued to contribute greatly towards the eventual 25-20 in the set.
Finally for the third set Stoytchev gave some rest to Vladimir Nikolov, Todor Aleksiev and Nikolay Nikolov and a little later he also pulled Matey Kaziyski out of the court. But the Spanish spirit was already completely gone. The team of coach Fernando Munoz Benitez made too many unforced errors, while the Bulgarian attack, now led by second opposite Tsvetan Sokolov, continued to score point after point. Another impressive 25-16 was registered at the end of the set to the great satisfaction of the thousands of Bulgarian spectators in the hall.
Iban Perez added 15 points against his name and became the best scorer of the match. Vlado Nikolov was Bulgaria’s top scorer with his 10 points from the first two sets. “I am glad that we finished the pool with a straight-set win, which will motivate us even more,” he said after the match. ”We managed to limit our mistakes and played calmer than our opponent. The big difference in today's match came from our stable blocking and offense. That is why we won relatively easy. I want to thank the terrific Bulgarian fans for their support. It will get harder and harder for us as of tomorrow, so we will need their love more than ever.” Spanish captain Guillermo Hernan Ruperez congratulated the Bulgarian team for the level they are showing in this whole tournament. ”We were having some deep problems with our block and attack today and deservedly lost,” he said. ”We came here to try to win a spot at the Olympics, but we failed. After all we must stay positive and be happy about the experience we got from our games here."
“This game was easier for Bulgaria than it should have been,” coach Fernando Munoz Benitez stated. ”The result came from our inefficient block and attack. We did not put enough pressure on our opponents. We are happy that we were part of that tournament. During these days we developed individually and together as a team.” “This victory was on our to-do list and we wanted it very much,” a satisfied Stoytchev said. ”We knew that Spain has a very tricky serve and good reception, so we were careful. Tomorrow's game against Germany is a completely different story. We need to recover as fast as possible. To qualify for the final we need concentration, motivation and a little more on top of that.”