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23/06/2012 22:00
Slovakia beats Israel to book final four trip
2012 CEV Volleyball European League - Men

Kosice, Slovakia, June 23, 2012. Slovakia beat Israel 3:1 (25-23, 25-16, 22-25, and 25-20) on Saturday in Kosice to book its ticket to the final four of the 2012 CEV Volleyball European League – Men that is scheduled for next weekend in Ankara. In the other match of the day the Pool leaders of Spain needed five sets to edge rookie Denmark (25-16, 25-27, 23-25, 25-17, and 15-13) and make sure they will finish on top of the charts with one match, actually the real highlight of the weekend, still coming up on Sunday against last year’s winners and hosts of Slovakia.
Slovakia needed a win to make sure the group will participate in the final round of the competition but the home heroes started very slowly trailing 2:8 in the opening set, so that head coach Stefan Chrtiansky quickly opted for some changes to his starting six but this did not help straight away. Actually Slovakia found its way back right before the final rush of the set going up 23:22 after the head coach’s son, Stefan jr., hit an ace, to be followed up by another winning service scored by Peter Kasper who sealed the final 25-23 for the home side.
Slovakia imposed its rule in set 2 going there for a comfortable 25-16 but Israel did not surrender, as the guests went up 16:11 in set 3 before Slovakia clawed back for the 22 all. However, right by the deciding moments, the local heroes made some mistakes and so Israel could pocket that section of the game with the score of 22-25. Slovakia promptly reacted in set 4 cruising quite rapidly to the final 25-19 thereby booking their ticket to the final four in Ankara.   
“I think this was a nice game to watch for the fans and I am happy we played well especially as we had to score the most important points. Our initial goal in this edition of the European League was to qualify for the final four and I am happy we have achieved this with such a young group that is still lacking experience on international stage. We are looking forward to Ankara and we’ll be trying to play our best there” said Slovakia’s head coach Stefan Chrtiansky.
“We started well and did lead for most of the opening set but eventually Chrtiansky’s service was the factor that turned the tables around right before the end as he caused us a lot of problems. We went down after losing the opening set but Slovakia is a very good team and of course they wanted to play good in front of their fans. Still I am looking forward to the last match against Denmark on Sunday” stated Israel mentor Zohar Bar-Netzer.  

As for the other match of the day, Spain’s head coach Fernando Munoz decided to rest some of his starting players while Denmark played without regular opposite Mads Ditlevsen. Spain dominated the scene in the first set (25-16) but dissipated two set balls in the second with Denmark eventually drawing the count after sealing that affair at 25-27. The rookies of the year did stretch that good momentum also to the third set where Casper Munk Christiansen finished it off with a nice spike for the provisional 1:2 (23-25). After losing on Friday to Israel, Spain did not want to accept a second defeat and got back on track in set 4 (25-17) calling for the tie-break. Denmark was up 8:6 as teams changed sides there but Spain flipped the score around and Rodriguez was the man of the match cashing the first match ball for the final 15-13.
“I used some back-up players today as they also need to get valuable experience in international matches” said Munoz. “I do not know if on Sunday we’ll opt for our best starting six as we play the local heroes of Slovakia because some players are tired or nursing minor injuries”.
“I think the Spanish coach was very clever in opting for some fresh players after their defeat to Israel on Friday and we also did more or less the same. We had a tough time at the beginning but our guys gradually adjusted their play to the style of their opponents. We could have won the tie-break but I am still happy that we came back strongly after clearly losing the first set. This is also a good experience for us” stressed Danish assistant coach Martin Olafsen.  

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