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08/06/2013 22:00
Slovenia and Belgium earn their tickets to Eurovolley 2013
2013 CEV Volleyball European Championship - Men

Stozice, Slovenia - Kortrijk, Belgium, June 8, 2013.  Slovenia and Belgium earned their tickets to the Final Round of the 2013 CEV VELUX Volleyball European Championship - Men after knocking out Croatia and Greece respectively in the third round of qualification.  The Slovenes shut out neighbors Croatia and ended up in Pool C in Herning, Denmark, along with Finland, Serbia and the Netherlands.  After a convincing away win in the first leg, Belgium had a tough time at home against Greece, but eventually made it through a crucial golden set.  The Belgians will have to face Belarus, Italy and hosts Denmark in the battles of Pool A in Odense.  The last team to complete the lineup for the European Championship in Poland and Denmark will be determined on Sunday afternoon as Latvia entertains Turkey in the final qualification encounter.
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Slovenia vs. Croatia 3:0 (25-21, 26-24, 25-17)
Slovenia qualified for its fourth consecutive European championship with a 3:0 victory at home in the second leg against Croatia after having won by 3:1 in the first match.  Matija Sabljak and Danijel Galic were the best scorers of the match with 9 points each for Croatia, while Alen Sket and Tine Urnaut scored 8 each for the winning team.
Croatia started the match better and was up 4-1 through good serving by captain Cimafej Žukovski, and then 8-5 at the first technical time-out. Only then did the match start for Slovenia as well and the game was tied until 12-12. Slovenia was up 16-13 at the second technical time-out.  Croatia managed to narrow the gap to only one point (17-16), but could not quite equalize. At the end of the set, the Slovenes remained focused and grabbed it by 25-21.
The second set started similarly to the first with Croatia in the lead. Slovenia was up 8-7 at the first technical time-out.  Then it was Croatia that gained a two-point advantage at 13-11, however, only until Alen Pajenk came to the serve and Slovenia scored four consecutive points. Slovenia piled up a four-point lead before the end of the set, but the Croatian players were relentless and equalized at 23-23. They even had a set point, but did not manage to convert it. Setter Dejan Vinčić and captain Tine Urnaut scored the last two points for 26-24.
After the hard battle in the second set, the Croatian game fell apart. Slovenia’s head coach Luka Slabe made some substitutions, which did not disturb the game at all and Slovenia was 8-3 and 16-8 up at the technical time-outs, and then brought the match to an end at 25:17.
Luka Slabe, Slovenia’s mentor, was satisfied that the team made it to the European Championships, but he nevertheless sees much room for improvement. “In the coming months, we need to learn a lot, because this is the only way to get better. I am already looking forward to the coming months.”
Igor Šimunčić, Croatia’s head coach, congratulated Slovenia for making it to the European championships. “It was clearly visible at these two matches, which team was better. Slovenia has better individual players and more routine in its game. These were the decisive factors.”
Belgium vs. Greece 2:3 (25-19, 21-25, 25-18, 21-25, 13-15)
Golden Set 15-12

In the sold out Arena Lange Munte in Kortrijk 2500 volleyball fans spent a remarkable evening in an exciting thrilling match between Belgium and Greece with the final outcome to emerge only after a golden set: 15-12 to Belgium after the final attack of Belgian’s opposite Bram Van den Dries.  After a total of six sets in 2 hours and 25 minutes of play, Mitar Tzourits and Andreas-Dimitrios Fragkos topped the scorers’ chart with 24 points each for Greece.  Van den Dries was most prolific on the home team side with 17 points.
“If we play as in the first game against Greece, qualification should not be a problem,” Belgian coach Dominique Baeyens said before the game in the overwhelming atmosphere in the hall.
He started with the same team that had beaten the Greek team in its own country. But it was clear the visitors looked for revenge and they took an early lead in the first set. But then the Belgian serves were too strong for the Greek reception, especially when Bram Van den Dries reached his aim with his cannonballs. Too many faults on the Greek side gave the home heroes an 18-9 advantage. Fragkos with his attacks and strong serves fought back to 22-18, but again Van den Dries was ‘guilty’ for the first set win of the Belgians.
The second set was much more equilibrated till 18-18 with a weaker Belgian defense and strong performance by Tzourits and Fragkos, who finalized it at 21-25.
But there was no panic for the Belgians.  Hendrik Tuerlinckx was an excellent back-up for Van den Dries, Sam Deroo was working as an impressive blocker and the visitors from Greece made again too many individual faults to help the home team win the third set.
Similarly, the Greeks came back after a lot of serving faults on the Belgian side, a better middle department and an ace by Georgios Petreas. Even the return of Van den Dries was not enough to change the score everything was set for the tie-break.
In the fifth set Tzourits was unstoppable. Together with his compatriots Konstantinos Prousalis and Nikolaos Smaragdis, he contributed to Greece’s victory to bring it all to a decisive golden set.
The Greeks lost their head by discussing a line call. Matthijs Verhanneman and Pieter Verhees took profit of it to make open a gap for 6-3. Tzourits and an ace from captain Prousalis brought their team back to 10-9, but then Deroo and Van den Dries brought an end to the game as the spectators were rejoicing wild on the stands.
Alexandros Leonis, head coach of Greece: ”You know that in a golden set every point is important. That was why we were so angry after a decision by the linesman, who was wrong in our opinion. It was a pity, because in a golden set it is not a question of performance, it is rather a question of luck.”  
Konstantinos Prousalis, captain of Greece: “Congratulations to the Belgians! We played a lot better than last week in our country. It was a pity for that point in the golden set, because we knew that Belgium is not playing so fast when they are under pressure. But it was a great evening for volleyball.”
Frank Depestele, captain of Belgium: “For us, it was a lesson. We were perhaps too sure that we could win this game. But in some moments you saw the lack of experience by our players, who became nervous.”
Bram Van den Dries, player in the team of Belgium: “We started well in the first set putting a lot of pressure into our serve. Fortunately, we reached that level again in the golden set.”
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