Dresden, Germany, September 6, 2013. Croatia and Russia successfully opened their 2013 CEV Volleyball European Championship – Women campaign in Pool C. Croatia proved too strong for Azerbaijan (25-15, 25-23, and 25-21) while Russia kept the upper hand against Belarus (25-21, 22-25, 25-14, and 25-14).
Azerbaijan had difficulties getting into the game and Croatia quickly led 6-0 in Friday’s first Pool C match. The Croatian team served tactically very concentrated on Odina Aliyeva and Natalya Mammadova. The weakness of the Azerbaijan’s team in passing was obvious. Furthermore, Azerbaijan’s top star Natalya Mammadova was less dominant at the net as expected. With a sharp spike, wing-spiker Mira Topic ended the first set 25-15 in Croatia’s favor.
The second set was more balanced. However, Azerbaijan still made too many mistakes, especially in passing. In the Croatian team, opposite Sanja Popovic was particularly strong and scored five points for her team for a 25-22 set win.
In the beginning of the third set, Azerbaijan reduced their reception line-up to two players in order to give Mammadova more space and time for her duties at the net. Nevertheless, Croatia stayed focused. Sanja Popovic led her team to an undisputed 25-21 in the third set and to a well-earned 3:0 win.
Croatia head coach Igor Lovrinov: "The experience and routine of my players made the difference. The victory is of course a perfect start into the tournament and groundbreaking for the rest of the games. We put a lot of pressure on Natalya Mammadova – it worked. I hope that my team will keep this level – especially against Russia.”
Croatia captain Sanja Popovic: "We were very well prepared and in top shape at the right time. We made a remarkable improvement compared to the test matches in the last weeks. We were much focused and could hold the concentration up until the last point.”
Azerbaijan Assistant Coach Aleksandr Chervyakov: "Our head coach Faig Garayev is so disappointed that he is not able to talk to the media representatives now. I ask you to understand this situation. It was a poor opening for our team. Preparing the team for tomorrow especially mentally and reducing the mistakes are the most important tasks now because the match against Belarus will be the crucial one for us.”
Azerbaijan captain Natalya Mammadova: "I am mostly disappointed about my own performance. We had no key against the tactics of Croatia. We have to forget it quickly and show our strength in the next match.”
Russia beat Belarus 3:1
It was a hard fight between Russia and Belarus in the first two sets of tonight’s second duel in Pool C. As from the third period, the Russians dominated clearly. Russia attacked harder and were physically superior. Russia kept the upper hand and won 25-21, 22-25, 25-14, 25-14.
The Russian team is a younger group than in previous competitions and still growing as a team. The departure of top player Ekaterina Gamova cannot be ignored. Belarus kick started into the match and surprisingly led at the start of the first set. Especially middle-blocker Anzhelika Barysevich scored several times with her quick attacks. Nevertheless, it was not good enough. Russia took over at 14-14 with a very strong Nataliya Obmochaeva. The Russians kept their advantage thanks to a great block-defense work until 25-21.
Russia still led 8-6 at the first technical break but Anastasiya Harelik turned the tables with some impressive winners for Belarus. Spectacular rallies brought heat into the ice arena and Belarus was up 16-15 at the second technical timeout. The audience cheered for both teams enthusiastically. Strong Nadzeya Malasai turned the second set ball into a 25-22 set win for Belarus.
Russia started more aggressively into the third set and left with 8-2 into the technical break. Too many mistakes by the players from Belarus made it easy for the Russians to achieve one point after the other until 16-6. The Russians kept scoring and never looked back (25-14).
In the fourth set, Belarus came closer again, but despite of three block winners, the Russians went with 8-6 into the first technical break. The Russians kept control. Russian wing-spiker Tatiana Kosheleva used the second match ball for a 25-14 and 3:1 match win for her team.
Russia head coach Yuriy Marichev: "Our Belarusian friends demanded a great effort of my team especially in the first two sets. Even though we won - we do not see ourselves as the absolute favourite in this group. Our team is in a transition phase.”
Russia captain Ekaterina Pankova: "It was a very close fight in the first two sets. We had some difficulties with our passing. From the third set on, we passed the balls in a better way and our attacks were successful. We have to conserve the achievements from the third and fourth set for the match tomorrow."
Belarus head coach Viktar Hancharou: "Although we have lost the game, I’m proud of my team. I saw a little chance for a win after the second set. Therefore, I substituted a lot to give the top players a rest. We wanted to attack with more power in the fourth set but the team of Russia was too strong.”
Belarus captain Volha Palcheuskaya: "It was a good match for our team. We did our best but unfortunately, it was not enough at the end of the game. We will try to go back to the power game of the first two sets in the further pool matches. Our chance to reach the next round won’t be bad then.”
The Preliminary Phase of the 2013 CEV Volleyball European Championship – Women is split into four pools of four teams with the top three from each pool advancing to the next competition stage. The first ranked teams of each pool are directly qualified for the quarterfinals, while the second and third ranked teams will fight for the last four quarterfinal tickets.
For the first time in history, 130 countries with all five continents involved cover the Women's EuroVolley.
CEV Volleyball European Championship – Women
2011 in Italy/Serbia: Serbia (gold), Germany (silver), Turkey (bronze)
Records of the last five editions
2009 in Poland: Italy (gold), the Netherlands (silver), Poland (bronze)
2007 in Belgium/Luxembourg: Italy (gold), Serbia (silver), Russia (bronze)
2005 in Croatia: Poland (gold), Italy (silver), Russia (bronze)
2003 in Turkey: Poland (gold), Turkey (silver), Germany (bronze)
CEV Volleyball European Championship – Women
1. Russia (17 gold / 4 silver / 3 bronze), 2. Poland (2/4/5), 3. Germany (2/5/3), 4. Italy (2/2/2), 5. The Czech Republic (1/4/4), 6. The Netherlands (1/2/1), 7. Bulgaria (1/0/2), 8. Serbia (1/1/1), 9. Croatia (0/3/0), 10. Hungary (0/1/3), 11. Turkey (0/1/1), 12. Romania (0/0/1). 12. Ukraine (0/0/1).
All-time medal table
World Ranking – Women (participating teams)
4. Italy, 6. Russia, 7. Serbia, 9. Germany, 11. Turkey, 13. Poland, 18. The Netherlands, 22. The Czech Republic, 31. Croatia, 31. Bulgaria, 36. Azerbaijan, 39. Belgium, 39. Belarus, 42. Spain, 42. France, 109. Switzerland.
For further information visit the official website or click here for a detailed match schedule of the prelims.