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21/09/2013 17:00
Italy comes back from slow start to edge rookie Belarus, Denmark misses out on tie-break with Belgium
2013 CEV VELUX Volleyball European Championship - Men

Odense, Denmark, September 21, 2013. On Saturday Italy prolonged their winning streak in prelim Pool A of the 2013 CEV VELUX Volleyball European Championship – Men edging Belarus 3:1 (21-25, 25-13, 25-21, and 25-17). After a relatively slow start, as they were still tired from Friday’s night game with Denmark, the guys mentored by head coach Mauro Berruto imposed their rule to keep an immaculate record in the group. Denmark’s fans could follow what was most probably the best performance ever by their heroes who played with glowing hearts and even had their chances to call for the tie-break before ultimately losing to Belgium 1:3 (25-23, 23-25, 16-25, and 26-28). On Sunday the Danes will have another chance to seize a ticket to the Playoffs as they take on Belarus.  

Belarus – this time dressed in green – got a good start setting the pace of the game at the first technical time-out (8:7). Italy got the slimmest margin halfway through the set before their opponents showed the quality that had secured their country a first appearance in the final round of the European Championship to wrap it up at 25-21 for the provisional 1:0 lead. Berruto was visibly unhappy with the performance of his players and did shake his guys before the start of the second set. They responded well going up 8:4 and 16:11 at the first and second mandatory break before cruising to a comfortable 25-13 to draw level in sets. Italy’s middle blockers did a very good job in the third set as Matteo Piano (pictured) and Thomas Beretta stopped the Belarusian spikers; Italy was well orchestrated by their setter Dragan Travica and after setting the pace right from the start (8:6) could finish it off at 25-21. In the fourth set the players from Belarus did show their lack of experience in major international competitions, quickly trailed 5:8 and 10:16 and even though they could score some more points, Italy closed it at 25-17 for a 3:1 victory.
Ivan Zaytsev top scored in the end with 16 points (as many as those registered by Jiri Kovar and Simone Parodi) and Berruto was evidently happy with his protégé: “We are lucky that he is playing for our team. Today he played a great game. Similarly to our match with Denmark we caught a slow start but finally we woke up and performed well. Belarus showed a good attitude and made things not that easy for us. We have to focus on tomorrow’s game with Belgium for our next opponents look really strong”.
“We tried our best but Italy was simply better” said Belarus mentor Victor Sidelnikov. “I think we played well in the first set where we displayed a great effort. We are very happy for we play at the European Championship for the first time. Today I made a lot of changes because I want all of my players to have the opportunity to play against a world-class team like Italy. This is the experience of a lifetime for my guys”.  

The Arena Fyn in Odense was on fire for the second day in a row and gave the Danish home team a massive support. Both the Danish and Belgian fans created that same fantastic atmosphere that has gradually turned into one of the main features of this tournament.      
Belgium had the lead all the way in the first set (8-6 and 16-11) but Denmark, still high after a great opening match against Italy, clawed their way back into the set and at 22-20 Belgian head coach Dominique Baeyens called a time-out to get his team back on track. No help as Denmark evened the score at 23-23 and won their first ever set in the group stage of a European Championship 25-23. The second set was close from the beginning to the end. The Danish serve was a lot better than in the first set, whereas Belgium’s halted a bit. 8-6 to Belgium at the first technical time-out and still close 16-14 at the second. As Danish opposite Mads Ditlevsen made one of his 25 points for the 21-23, Baeyens called a time-out. Ditlevsen aced his way to 23-23 and another timeout from Baeyens helped his team cruise to a 25-23 set win.
In the beginning of the third set the otherwise lively crowd went quiet, as Ditlevsen seemed injured. But the strong opposite kept on playing and kept on scoring. Danish head coach Fred Sturm called a needed time-out while his guys were trailing 6-10. He did not get the wished effect as Belgium increased their lead to 16-10 at the second time-out with good help from a strong serve and the Red Dragons closed the set 25-16.  
Denmark came out stronger than ever before in the fourth set. The home side was in front 8-6 and 16-12 with good help from a couple of aces from the thunder hand of Ditlevsen. Denmark had three set points at 24-21, but Belgium showed coolness and won the set 28-26 securing a 3-1 win. With the result Belgium is ready for the pool final against Italy tomorrow, whereas Denmark will face Belarus in a match on life or death. Man of the match was Bram van den Dries with 28 points.
Kristian Knudsen, captain of Denmark, said: “We have a bittersweet taste in our mouth after this match. On the one side I am very disappointed having lost a match where we had three chances of securing at least one point. But on the other hand I am so proud of the guys, their attitude and the high level of our performance. We played strong and smart and proved that we deserve to be in a European Championship. Now we have to erase this loss and focus 100 percent on the match against Belarus tomorrow”.
Dominique Baeyens, head coach of Belgium: “Every match starts at 0-0. We never thought that playing Denmark would be easy. They played very strong and have developed a lot during this season and from the time we met them in the European League. I am really pleased with my team and that they show that they can turn things around when they are under pressure. I promise that we will play our best against Italy tomorrow”.

Click here for more info including detailed stats of the matches

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