Zurich, Switzerland, September 8, 2013. It is probably the first big sensation at EuroVolley 2013: Belgium outclassed World No. 4 Italy in Sunday’s last Pool B match 3:1 (22-25, 25-16, 26-24, 25-18) and thus directly qualified for the quarterfinals. Italy and France move to the playoff round. The team of Fabrice Vial beat hosts Switzerland in extremis 3:2 (17-25, 25-17, 24-26, 25-17, 15-9).
After three hard-hitting competition days, Gert Vande Broeks’ “Yellow Tigers” topped pool B of the 2013 CEV Volleyball European Championship – Women in Zurich with their third consecutive victory. Captain Charlotte Leys (18 points) and her team proved an amazing fighting spirit. Valentina Diouf contributed 16 kills for the Azzurre.
3.000 spectators in Zurich’s Hallenstadion saw a thrilling fight for the crown in Pool B. The favourites from Italy started as expected by gaining momentum quickly (8-4). The Belgian team shortened the deficit to 11-14 by good serves and an aggressive offensive play of Lise Van Hecke. Nevertheless, Marco Mencarelli’s players kept cool and won the opening set 25-22. Important at this moment was Italy’s opposite Valentina Diouf with her strong attacks.
The story of the match changed in the second set. The “Yellow Tigers” played much more focused and rapidly took a five-point lead at the first technical break. Freya Aelbrecht put a lot of pressure on the Italian defenders who did not find a way to stop the powerful Belgian offense. Italy’s head coach Marco Mencarelli called his players several times off court but it did not help. It was not the day of the Azzurre. Belgium sealed the set 25-16.
The Italian serve became better in the third set. However, Valentina Diouf and her teammates never found their usual rhythm. The Belgians worked well as a team and led 16-13 at the second technical time-out. Italy bounced back at 21-20. However, it was not good enough. In the key moments of the third and probably decisive set, Italy struggled with uncommon mistakes and insufficient power at the net. On the other side, Belgium played like Swiss clockwork, flying to a well-deserved 26-24 and 2:1 set lead.
The Italians felt the pressure on their shoulders. Gert Vande Broek’s players on the contrary played freely und without any fears. The “Yellow Tigers” showed great team spirit and quickly led 21-13 in the fourth set. The Belgians never looked back and ended the contest with their fifth match ball 25-18.
The Italians, who were favourites for the first place in Pool B, move to the playoff round (against Poland), while Belgium enjoy an additional rest day before their quarterfinal duel versus the winner from the duel the Czech Republic versus France.
Italy captain Martina Guiggi: “The Belgians were really good in block-defence and reception. We lost a little bit our patience and committed too many errors. This is Volleyball. We have to be able to force a change in hard moments of the match. We have to focus on the next game against Poland. Playing the playoffs can be an advantage as we might keep a good rhythm.”
Belgium captain Charlotte Leys: “The first set was difficult. We committed too many errors. Later on, we played with excellent team spirit. With twelve individuals, you cannot win against Italy. We are a young team and our motivation is one of our strengths. A day off is certainly a good idea for our team.”
Italy head coach Marco Mencarelli: “First of all I have to say that Belgium played an amazing game. They grew during the game and found the right measures to stop our play. It will be unavoidable for our match analysis to see their merits in this game. The period of favourite thinking is over at the elimination-stage of the tournament. We have to focus on our play against Poland. It depends mainly on us.”
Belgium head coach Gert Vande Broek: “We played really well tonight. We saved balls you normally cannot. Additionally, we had a good reception, which was important for our very variable setter. When you work hard you sometimes are lucky.”
France overcome host Switzerland in extremis
France qualified for the playoffs after a tight 3:2 (17-25, 25-17, 24-26, 25-17, 15-9) win against hosts Switzerland. A good performance by Swiss opposite Mandy Wigger with 18 points could not stop the French team, which trusted in middle-blocker Myriam Kloster and wing-spiker Hélène Schleck with 20 kills each.
The Swiss and French fought in a direct duel for the third place of Pool B and thus the qualification for the playoffs on Tuesday. Swiss head coach Svetlana Ilic denied any feelings of pressure; meanwhile Fabrice Vial said that he couldn’t be happy with two losses so far.
The local heroines started free-minded and took an early 8-4 lead. Fabrice Vial and his players seemed quite nervous. The Swiss served well and showed a strong blocking game what led them to a six-point advantage at 21-15. The French players could not find a way to break through the Swiss defence. Consequently, hosts Switzerland sailed to a well-deserved 25-17 set win.
Fabrice Vial’s players started better into the second set, leading 8-6 at the first technical break. Young Swiss player Laura Unternährer performed well on the left side. However, France was the better team now. Their reception became better and better and the Swiss found no solutions to stop the strong French spikers. France concluded the second set 25-17 in their favour.
France kept momentum in the third set. The Swiss serving game was not as precise as it was in the first set. After a comfortable 8-4 lead for France, the Swiss players needed a fast reaction. The hosts won six points in a row and led 10-8 after precise block work. French middle-blocker Christina Bauer answered with some nice moves in the middle to bring France again four points ahead (16-12). Swiss coach Svetlana Ilic tried to push her players to the limits. It worked as Switzerland started to serve and block better. The host nation proved an incredible will and won the set in extremis 26-24.
France was under pressure now. If they wanted to keep their hopes for the playoff round alive, they had to improve their game quickly. Fabrice Vial found the right words during the set pause with his team coming back strongly. The French took a quick 8-4 lead. The Swiss found better into the game but could not shorten the deficit. The Swiss’ blocking system did not work at all at that moment of the match. Consequently, France wrapped up the set in style 25-17.
France jumped out for a 5-1 lead in the fifth and deciding set. Ilic called her players off court to give new instructions. The Swiss bounced back heroically to tie the game at 5-5. However, France kept cool. The French scored four consecutive points and never looked back (15-9).
Switzerland wing-spiker Inès Granvorka: “Now, we feel a lot of emotions and the question of ‘what could we have done better’. We have dreamt to play the quarterfinals during three years of preparation. When we were behind in the tiebreak, we all said ‘yes we can’ but we finally produced too many unforced errors.”
France captain Anna Rybaczewski: “We knew it would be a hard game against Switzerland as there was a huge crowd cheering for the Swiss team. We wanted to commit fewer errors than our opponents did. Luckily, we proved patience today.”
Switzerland head coach Svetlana Ilic: “There is a mix of emotions, which doesn’t let me analyse the game at the moment. The game was one of the hardest in the last months of my career. I am proud of my team. My team played bravely. Our project has to continue if we want to have professional Volleyball in Switzerland.”
France head coach Fabrice Vial: “You can really be satisfied, Svetlana. You did a great job with your team. Even if France is not a big Volleyball nation, we have a little bit more experience. We achieved our goal of qualifying for the playoff round. We have young and talented players, but need more stability in our game, which sometimes is a little bit difficult.”
The Preliminary Phase of the 2013 CEV Volleyball European Championship – Women was 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 playoff round.