Slovakia claims real drama, France edges Poland to secure spot in second round
2013 CEV VELUX Volleyball European Championship - Men
Gdansk, Poland, September 21, 2013. Slovakia and Turkey played on Saturday a game where a ticket to the Playoffs was at stake since it looks like Poland and France will most probably top the final standing in Pool B. Slovakia eventually fought their way back from two sets down to beat Turkey (18-25, 16-25, 25-20, 25-21, and 19-17) after their head coach Stefan Chrtiansky opted for some substitutions that changed the course of the game. Milan Bencz joined the game in the second set and he eventually turned into Slovakia’s match winner top scoring in the end with 22 points. Metin Toy and Emre Batur registered 22 apiece for Turkey in their losing effort. Slovakia stood out with their block (17 to 9). As the ERGO Arena and its stands were filled up, France edged the home heroes of Poland (3:1; 25-22, 25-23, 20-25, and 25-20) to claim a spot in the second round of the 2013 VELUX EuroVolley.
Even though Martin Nemec and Emanuel Kohut were performing well for Slovakia, still Turkey dictated the pace of the game in the opening set. Similarly to yesterday’s game with Poland, Emre Batur was Turkey’s best player and helped by Mustafa Koc he anchored his side to the final 25-18. Turkey stretched that same pace to the early phases of the second set (6:3) before Chrtiansky changed Masny and Nemec with Juraj Zatko and Milan Bencz. Still Batur was not to stop and after leading by four points at the second technical time-out, Turkey cruised to a provisional 2:0 lead (25-16).
Slovakia found their way into the game in the third set going up 8:5 and keeping that margin also at the second technical time-out. Turkey clawed back and went to the front (18:17) but Slovakia showed great composure to score a series of rallies and with Bencz paving the way for the final 25-20. Bencz and Batur put up a great fight also in the fourth set where Slovakia claimed a very small margin (17:15); Turkey’s head coach Emanuele Zanini stopped the game as his side was trailing 16:19 but it did not help as Bencz, Zatko and Matej Patak – all not included on Slovakia’s starting six – showed great consistency in their play to call for the tie-break (25-21).
A neck-to-neck race unfolded there with Slovakia and Turkey fighting for every single rally; Kohut blocked Metin Toy for the 13:12 but Turkey survived to three match balls for their opponents; however Batur missed on a couple of attacks and he eventually paved the way with gold for Slovakia that finished it off at 19-17.
“Of course we are happy with this victory because this keeps alive our hopes to make it to the next round” said Slovakia captain Michal Masny. “After losing two sets we came back and the substitutions asked by our coach completely changed the course of the game. We only have to forget what we did tonight, clear up our minds because this is already history and get ready for our last match with Poland, hoping to be good enough to make it through pool play”.
“After leading 2:0 we did lose control of the game. Their substitutions brought extra energy. We are very disappointed but we will be doing our best tomorrow to beat France” said Turkey team captain Ulas Kiyak.
“I have to agree with Ulas; after these changes Slovakia changed the course of the game and we could not answer to this. Bencz was really outstanding today” said Turkey mentor Zanini. “Yesterday we had played with glowing hearts against Poland and today some players did not have that much energy left. I tried some substitutions too but it was all in vain. One single ball decided the winner of this fixture and even though we were better in serve and attack, we ended up losing the game”.
“It was a very tough game for both coaches” Slovakia mentor Stefan Chrtiansky added. “We started out very bad and did not perform well in any element of the game. Milan Bencz was the one who brought us to this victory. I decided to take some risks as young players joined the game but in the end it was a great move. I am very proud of my team because they did their best today”.
France and Poland – after winning their opening matches with Slovakia and Turkey respectively – were playing for the leadership in the group and the game lived up to the high expectations of the home audience right from the start. Poland caught a good start (13:11) but after that did more and more lose consistency and quality. France exploited every single weakeness of the home side and even though Anastasi asked for a time-out as his guys were trailing 22:23, only a few moments later Earvin Ngapeth cashed the first set at 25-22 for the “Bleus”.
In the second set Anastasi replaced Jakub Jarosz with Grzegorz Bociek and the young rising talent of Poland’s Volleyball contributed some more dynamism to his side’s play. However, Ngapeth scored for the 16:12 lead of France at the second technical time-out and even though Poland put up a fierce fight, France was definitely the better side tonight, with the final 25-23 being sealed by a mistake of Bociek. Poland finally found their best play in the third set going up 14:9 and with Bartosz Kurek on fire and well supported by Bociek, their lead stood at five points by the second mandatory stop. A single block by Lukasz Wisniewski moved the score up to 18:12 and Poland shortened the distance going for the provisional 1:2 (25-20).
Anastasi nevertheless had to call for an early time-out as his side was trailing 5:7 in the fourth set and it did bring the desired effects for the game was more even after that stop. It was a very close set but France eventually cruised past in the final section thereby pocketing a well-deserved 3:1 win (25-20).
France’s opposite Antonin Rouzier top scored for the winning side with 16 points followed by Ngapeth with 15. Kurek was the most prolific player in the game with 20.
“I have to congratulate the French players for they played amazing Volleyball especially in defence” said Poland captain Marcin Mozdzonek. “Our road to Copenhagen is longer than it was expected to be until yesterday but difficult moments can help regenerate the teams, making them stronger and capable of dealing with the next challenges”.
“The atmosphere in the sports hall was just amazing. However, I think we need to reset our minds, forget what we have accomplished tonight and focus on our next game with Turkey” stressed France captain Benjamin Toniutti. “We know we can stand strong teams like Poland or Italy but sometimes we have troubles with those who are ranked much lower. We want to finish first in the group to have an additional rest day so we will fight for another victory also tomorrow”.
“It was a tough game for us and France played a good match” home mentor Andrea Anastasi said. “We lost the fourth set in its mid-section but now we only have to focus on tomorrow’s game with Slovakia which will be crucial for us”.
“In my opinion this was the best game played by a French national team since years” said Laurent Tillie. “My team seems to have developed a very good form throughout the past summer. We have played great in defence and this helped us win tonight. We are happy with this victory but as my captain just said, we have to forget everything as quickly as possible. We must be focused on tomorrow. It is a long tournament, so we have to take it one step after the other”.
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