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20/09/2013 19:00
France and Poland start their European campaign with convincing wins over Slovakia and Turkey
2013 CEV VELUX Volleyball European Championship - Men

Gdansk, Poland, September 20, 2013. On Friday in the very first clash in Pool B France cruised to a straight victory over Slovakia (25-20, 35-33, and 28-26). Though they did bring it home in only three sets, the score line suggests that the guys around head coach Laurent Tillie did not have it that easy until they finally powered past their opponents. Earvin Ngapeth and Antonin Rouzier top scored for France with 18 and 17 points respectively while Frantisek Ogurcak was Slovakia’s most prolific player with 14. Later in the evening Poland played their much awaited first game in the tournament and helped by their superstar Bartosz Kurek the home guys cruised past Turkey 3:1 (25-22, 25-15, 22-25, and 25-21) to delight some 11,000 fans all – as usual – dressed in their red and white gadgets.

In their game with Slovakia France caught a very good start with their opposite Antonin Rouzier looking unstoppable. Even though Slovak head coach Stefan Chrtiansky tried to change the course of the game with a double substitution and bringing in Juraj Zatko and Milan Bencz, the set was already gone as France had piled up a six-point lead finishing it off at 25-20.
Tomas Kmet set the pace for Slovakia in the second set as his side moved up 8:5, keeping control of the operations up to 15 all. The score stayed very close and Chrtiansky’s son Stefan jr. aced for the 22 all. Slovakia got up at 24:22 but missed out on a series of set balls until France showed great composure and very strong nerves to wrap it up at 35-33 for the 2:0.
Slovakia played good Volleyball also in the third set while their opponents looked faulty. Still the “Bleus” could fight their way back, drew level at 22 all and eventually closed it in straight sets with Kevin Le Roux blocking for the final 28-26.
“Congratulations to Slovakia’s players, who showed great defense and reception” said France’s team captain Benjamin Toniutti. “It’s hard to play against a team that plays this way. It was important to win today 3-0, get three points from this game and catch a good start in such demanding tournament. We need some rest before our key match with Poland”.
“We lost a game where we did not plan to win any points. In the end the second and third set were very close and we were able to keep the score tight for most of the time. We have to clean up our minds because this belongs to the past” said Slovakia’s team captain Michal Masny. “Tomorrow we need to play our best against Turkey in order to be promoted to the next round. On Saturday we will have our chances to progress in this tournament”.
“I am very happy we did win this match in straight sets especially after the close fights we had at the end of the second and third set” France’s mentor Laurent Tillie stressed. “We showed patience as we were confronted with the situation where Slovakia was playing better in defense than at the net, something quite unusual. We did not expect that things could develop this way and it was maybe the first time in history that Slovakia achieved to do so. Though the game was very nervous and we felt the pressure, we finished our mission showing the right accuracy”.
“It is not that easy to analyze this game. The only difference and that was minimal was to be seen in the final sections of the second and third set. France performed well and they showed that they can stand their chances even with teams that are stronger than mine. I am very happy with what we did in defense but our block was simply disastrous. Today France was just better than us and did deserve to win” said Slovak head coach Stefan Chrtiansky.   

On Friday evening, and with some 11,000 fans in attendance at ERGO Arena, the home heroes of Poland debuted at the VELUX EuroVolley 2013 cruising past Turkey in four sets (25-22, 25-15, 22-25, and 25-21). Bartosz Kurek paced the home side with 24 points while Emre Batur stood out for Turkey registering 19.
It was a very close game in its early phases with Turkey going up 8:7 at the first technical time-out after Jakub Jarosz made a mistake in attack. Kurek scored a few points to start leaving his mark on the match but Turkey was not that ready to leave the door open for the home side. Kurek was nevertheless the one who anchored the local favorites well supported by Michal Winiarski. Poland went ahead 18:16 and with a series of good blocks finished it off at 25-22.
Poland’s block worked just fine also in the early phases of the second set where the home side set the pace of the game at both technical time-outs (8:5; 16:10). Turkey could not find a way to stop the march of the guys in red and white jerseys and a block-out on Kurek sealed the final 25-15 for the provisional 2:0 lead in sets.
Emre Batur paced Turkey’s comeback in the third set but Jarosz spiked for the 8:7 at the first technical time-out. After this, however, Poland stopped playing their usual game and Turkey exploited that chance to move up 16:12. Michal Kubiak replaced Winiarski and with his contribution Poland fought their way back to level the score at 17 all. Still Turkey was able to stretch the game to the fourth set after a spike killed by Can Ayvazoglu made it 25-22 for the guests.
Turkey showed that same momentum also in the early phases of the fourth set and trailing 7:9, Anastasi decided to call back Winiarski for Kubiak. Kurek woke up and took his side by the hand moving the score up to 19:15; after that Poland looked very relaxed and an ace by Lukasz Wisniewski sealed the final 25-21 and 3:1 win for the home side.
“We played against one of the best teams in the world. We have been working with our new coach for a month and a half, and still I think we are well-prepared for this tournament” commented Turkey’s captain, Ulas Kiyak. “Our motto is to play from the beginning till the last ball for each point. We did our best, but Poland was simply better. I hope we will play better tomorrow”.
“The first match is behind us. It was a bit nervous game but the thing is that we were able to stay in this match, keeping control of our nerves” pointed out Marcin Mozdzonek, Polish captain. “We are satisfied and happy that we won today. Now it’s time for the coaches to analyze our strengths and weaknesses before tomorrow’s match”.
“As my captain said, I have been working with those guys for only 40 days, but I am happy with this performance, obviously not being satisfied with the score” stressed Emanuele Zanini, the head coach of Turkey. “If two teams ranked so differently meet each other in a tournament like this you can see the difference. I used to teach my players that the most important thing is to fight for each ball and from that they have to learn how to improve their game. I see the progress right now. I only regret that we made so many errors in the last set”.
“For every team it’s not easy to start this tournament. We can play better and I think it will change in the next days. Today’s game was a strange one with two good sets and two weak ones with many mistakes. We must change that” concluded Poland mentor Andrea Anastasi.

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