Zurich, Switzerland, September 11, 2013. Belgium and titleholder Serbia claimed the last semi-final tickets of 2013 CEV Volleyball European Championship – Women. Belgium overpowered France in a thrilling five-setter (22-25, 25-23, 21-25, 25-20, 15-9) before defending champions Serbia proved too strong for World No. 4 Italy (25-14, 28-26, 25-18). 3.500 fans in Zurich’s Hallenstadion saw two spectacular match with long rallies and outstanding defense action.
In tonight’s much-awaited duel between titleholder Serbia and World. No. 4 Italy, the reigning champions kept the upper hand. The team of head coach Zoran Terzic outclassed the Azzurre in straight sets 25-14, 28-26, 25-18. The Italians had their best phase in the beginning of the second set.
Serbia kick started into the second quarterfinal in Zurich’s Hallenstadion. 3.500 fans saw an outstanding debut of the titleholders, entering the first technical timeout at 8-0 (!). Opposite Jovana Brakocevic and middle-blocker Milena Rasic set the pace with eight respective six points in the opening set. The Terzic squad added four service winners and six block kills in the first set. Italy increased their performance at the end of the first set, but it was already too late. Brizitka Molnar finished the first set with a block out shot from the left side.
Italy bounced back strongly in the beginning of the second set. It seemed as head coach Marco Mencarelli had found the right words during the first and the second period. The Azzurre improved their block-defense game and quickly led 5-1 and 15-12. Indre Sorokaite (6 points in the second set) led her teammates with blistering winners from the left side. Martina Guiggi and Valentina Diouf added five points each to move Italy forward. Brakocevic saved a first Italian set ball at 23-24 with a burning missile through the Italian blockers. Italy had two other chances to conclude, but did not. Team senior Jelena Nikolic served a service winner to turn the tables at 27-26 before Serbian setter Maja Ognjenovic (!) smashed for a hard-earned 2:0 set lead.
The story of the match did not change in the third and last set. The Italians, disillusioned by the Serbian comeback at the end of the second set, could not react. Serbia speedily set the pace with their strong middles Natasa Krsmanovic and Milena Rasic. Carolina Costagrande helped her team with some scorching hammers, but the Serbian spikers responded with a cascade of winners from back and front row. Italian head coach Marco Mencarelli sent in Caterina and Lucia Bosetti, but it did not help much. After 77 minutes of tough battle, Brakocevic brought up match point for Serbia with a hammer from the right side. One rally later, Krsmanovic served a service winner to offer titleholder Serbia their well-deserved ticket to Berlin (25-18).
Serbia captain Maja Ognjenovic: “I think everybody was surprised that Italy played that inconstant tonight. The key of our victory were our serves. It was quite hard for the Italians to play as they hadn’t a good reception. We played well as team and did everything to win the game. It was good to have two days off and recover. If Italy had won the second set, the game could have turned completely different. I’m happy we made a great comeback at that moment.”
Italy opposite Valentina Diouf: “We didn’t start well because we were afraid of Serbia. We only played better after having noticed that we had a small chance to win. Nevertheless, we missed our chance in the second set. It’s a pity.”
Serbia head coach Zoran Terzic: “We put a lot of pressure on the Italian players. First on serve, then also in block-defense. They needed many chances to score. If we are physically and mentally ready, we can also beat Russia.”
Italy head coach Marco Mencarelli: “I wouldn’t say we played bad tonight. Serbia made an excellent job. We knew that Serbia is a strong team. Their blocking game is one of the best in the world. We did not find a way to overcome it. Our players maybe felt some fear because they are still young; meanwhile the Serbians have been playing together for a long time.”
‘Yellow tigers’ write history for Belgium
For the first time in history, Belgium claimed a ticket for the final four at CEV Volleyball European Championship – Women. The ‘yellow tigers’ overpowered France in a thrilling five-setter (22-25, 25-23, 21-25, 25-20, and 15-9).
It was the second duel of France and Belgium at EuroVolley 2013. During pool phase, the “yellow tigers” beat France 3:1. Best scorer of tonight’s quarterfinal duel were Astrid Souply for France and Charlotte Leys for Belgium with 18 points each. Both teams had 19 block winners.
France and Belgium started their duel with long and spectacular rallies. The French gained an 8-4 lead at the first technical timeout. Middle-blocker Christina Bauer did a great job and scored with several well-timed smashes. The Belgians tied the game at 16-16 by better receptions and vigorous offensive patterns. However, until 20-20 there was not much to separate the two teams. Both liberos did a remarkable job with excellent defense play. As the day before versus the Czech Republic, Christina Bauer scored at the important moments of the game. France won the first set 25-22.
Fabrice Vial’s team took the rush of the first set into the second period. Les ‘Bleus’ showed a solid performance and quickly led 6-1. However, both teams struggled with passing at that moment of the game. Consequently, the offensive game lacked of precision and power. France kept a six-point lead at the second technical break, but could not conclude. The team of Gert Vande Broek made an amazing comeback to turn the tables in ‘money time’ (25-23).
At the start of the third set, both teams still experienced huge problems with their efficiency at the net. Long rallies were the logical consequence. Although Gert Vande Broek’s players fought for every ball, France regained momentum. Fabrice Vial’s players needed four set balls, but ended the third set finally 25-21 in their favour.
The “Yellow Tigers” started the fourth set under pressure. If the Belgians wanted to keep their semi-final dream alive, they had to show a quick reaction. Belgium’s setter Frauke Dirickx improved the variety in her offensive game, which rapidly caused problems in the French defence. At the second technical timeout, Belgium led by six points. France tried to shorten the deficit by focussing on middle-blocker Christina Bauer and wing-spiker Astrid Souply. However, the young Belgians never looked back (25-20) to postpone the final decision of today’s duel in the fifth and last set.
Belgium’s wing-spikers did a great job in the beginning of the fifth set and quickly led 6-3. Fabrice Vial rapidly called his ladies off court. It helped as captain Anna Rybaczewski brought les ‘bleus’ back into the game with strong defensive play. Nevertheless, Belgium proved too strong for the exhausted French players (15-9). For the first time in history, Belgium claimed a ticket for the final four at CEV Volleyball European Championship – Women.
France wing-spiker Astrid Souply: “We feel a lot of deception of course. We missed this big opportunity only by some details. Belgium’s regularity made the difference today.”
Belgium middle-blocker Freya Aelbrecht: “I don’t like to play against France. I was like paralyzed in the first two sets and our blocks did not work as we wanted. The French were the better team during four sets. We said that we have to go and push ourselves for the tiebreak.”
France head coach Fabrice Vial: “On one side I’m really proud that we reached our goal. On the other hand, there is this deception as the semi-finals were that close. I would like to congratulate my players and my staff as they did a great job. With Alexandra Jupiter, Astrid Souply and Elisabeth Fedele we had three young players who played for the first time at European Championships.”
Belgium head coach Gert Vande Broek: “France played an amazing game today. We knew that the French would be a difficult opponent. They had nothing to lose. The fifth set is always kind of gambling. The French defence was like hell for us today. Now we are looking forward for a new challenge in Berlin.”
Russia v Serbia
Germany v Belgium
The winner of the CEV Volleyball European Championship will qualify for the 2013 FIVB Volleyball World Grand Champions Cup featuring a total of six teams per gender with the hosts Japan being joined by the continental winners from Asia, Europe, NORCECA and South America with an additional country selected by the FIVB.
The two best-ranked teams of the 2013 CEV Volleyball European Championship – Women as well as organizer Italy will qualify for the 2014 FIVB Volleyball World Championship.
The five best-ranked teams of the 2013 CEV Volleyball European Championship – Women as well as the organizers from Belgium and the Netherlands will qualify for the 2015 CEV Volleyball European Championship – Women.
Final Ranking of the 2013 CEV Volleyball European Championship – Women
9. The Netherlands
10. The Czech Republic
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 (17/4/3)
All-time medal table (Gold/Silver/Bronze)
2. Germany (2/5/3) * including GDR
3. Poland (2/4/5)
4. Italy (2/2/2)
5. The Czech Republic (1/4/4)
6. The Netherlands (1/2/1)
7. Serbia (1/1/1)
8. Bulgaria (1/0/2)
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).
For further information visit www.eurovolley2013.org and www.cev.lu for a detailed match schedule of the final four.