Serbia and Spain set for much anticipated final showdown in Ivanjica
2013 FIVB Volleyball Men's U21 World Championship - European Qualification
Ivanjica, Serbia, May 10, 2013. Two years after a memorable final match of the FIVB Youth World Championship in Argentina, Serbia and Spain will be crossing their ways once more on Saturday, this time with a ticket to the 2013 FIVB Volleyball Men’s U21 World Champs at stake. These sides literally routed their opponents on Friday to keep an immaculate record in the tournament which is taking place in Arilje and will hence contribute to the spectacular showdown that everyone has been waiting for since the start of the competition. On the fourth day of action Serbia got past their neighbors of Croatia in straight sets (25-21, 25-16, and 25-12) while Spain downed Finland with the same score (3:0; 25-18, 25-23, and 25-11). A large crowd is expected on Saturday for what is the revenge of the match that two years ago Serbia had claimed at the end of a dramatic five-setter.
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In the first match of the penultimate day of action the Czech Republic overpowered Slovakia 3:1 (25-9, 25-23, 22-25, and 25-18) after 103 minutes of play. Czech Michal Finger topped the scorers’ chart with 29 points, while Peter Ondrovic scored 12, including 8 blocks, for Slovakia.
The Czech Republic started out very strong going up 4:1 and then 8:3 at the first technical time-out. The Czechs were clearly dominant in the first set and with no major problems they managed to wrap it up at 25-9. In the second set the crowd saw a fairly equalized battle, but after the score was leveled at 20 all the Czech Republic went ahead by two points (23:21) which was enough for a narrow victory by 25-23 and 2:0 overall. In the third set Slovakia was the better side. They went up 8:4 at the first technical break, and then 12:6 which was the highest margin the Slovaks had in this match. The Czech Republic managed to narrow the gap to just one point of difference at 20:21, but they could not quite overturn the score, as Slovakia preserved a minimum lead to take the third set at 25-23 and cut the distance in half for a 1:2 in sets. Slovakia continued to play well in the fourth set and they created all sorts of problems to their rivals. However, the Czech Republic was determined not to let this match go the whole five sets and after claiming the lead (16:14) at the second technical break, they pushed hard and reached a comfortable 23-16. In the end, it was a well deserved 25-18 and 3:1 overall for the Czechs.
Petr Juda, head coach of the Czech Republic: “We have a more experienced team and I think that was the key for our victory today”.
Michal Finger, Czechs opposite: “We won the first set fairly easy, in the second we had some problems, but we managed to pull through. Slovakia spiked hard in the third set and we could not defend. Luckily for us, we wrapped it up in four sets otherwise it could have been very difficult to win today”.
Miroslav Palgut, head coach of Slovakia: “I am not satisfied, we were not aggressive today and we allowed our rivals to score many easy points”.
Filip Gavenda, Slovakia’s receiver: “It has been very hard for us in this tournament. We have many ups and downs in our game, and we struggle a lot”.
In the second match of the day Spain – silver medalist from the 2012 European Championship – swept away Finland in straight sets (25-18, 25-23, and 25-11) after just 72 minutes of play. Andres J. Villena of Spain and Karl Külaots of Finland topped the scorers’ chart with 16 points each.
Right from the start Spain showed very clearly that they were going to set the tempo of the game. They got off to an early 3:0 lead, and they kept extending the advantage throughout the whole set. It was 16:8 at the second technical break for the “red fury” who lived up to their nickname storming to a 25-18 to take the first period. In the second set it was everybody’s game, as both teams battled hard for each and every ball. However, by the second technical break Spain got four points of advantage (16:12). Finland did not give in, though. They fought back with four quick points to reach the tie at 16 all, and then moved ahead 20:18. Spain, however, did not panic, they slowly but surely resumed control of the match and managed to edge their rivals 25-23 to double the lead in sets. The third set was a matter of routine for Spain as they conceded only 11 points to their rivals. In the end it was a quick and well-deserved victory for the yet unbeaten Spanish side.
Ricardo Maldonado, head coach of Spain: “We have been improving over these days and it all comes to the game against Serbia tomorrow. It will be a break or make bout for both of our teams”.
Andres J. Villena, team captain of Spain: “Finland is a very good team, especially in defense, and we knew that it would not be easy against them. We go step by step, so today we did not think about Serbia. We had to win today, and tomorrow it will be a “live or die”. I am hoping for the best”.
Pekka Lahtinen, head coach of Finland: “We peaked in the second set, but we made some unnecessary errors in the key moments and unfortunately we lost. Spain is a very solid and well organized team, and we did not stand a chance against them”.
In the third and last match of the day the hosts of Serbia swept neighboring Croatia in straight sets (25-21, 25-16, and 25-12) in front of 800 spectators. Croatia’s Leo Andrić topped the scorers’ chart with 11 points while Serbia’s captain Uroš Kovačević scored 11 for the winners. Many esteemed guests followed the match from the stands, among others Mr. Aleksandar Boričić, President of the Volleyball Federation of Serbia, Mr. Nenad Golijanin, First Vice-President of the Volleyball Federation of Serbia, Mr. Žarko Blanuša, member of the Executive Board in the Volleyball club Partizan Termoelektro BEOGRAD, and Mr. Golub Labudović, General Director of hotel “Park” in Ivanjica.
The teams were evenly matched until 3:3 in the first set when Serbia broke the tie and went up 6:4. However, Croatia quickly equalized at 6:6, but Serbia managed to regain a couple of points before the first technical break (8:6). The Croats once again tied at 10, but then the hosts definitely took over the control of the match winning 5 points in a row for the provisional 15:10. Until the end of the set, Croatia managed to narrow the gap and reach the tie at 20:20, but that was it. They could not complete the turnaround, as Serbia went ahead 1:0 in sets after securing a comfortable 25-21. The beginning of the second set was similar to the first one, but this time Serbia went to the first technical break having a somewhat bigger advantage (8:5). After that there was only one team on the court, as the home side stormed to a 25-16 to double the overall lead. In the beginning of the third set Serbia created a 3-point gap and successfully maintained it through the mid-stage (10:7) before flying off to a 16:7 lead at the second technical time-out. By the end of the set, Serbia further extended the advantage and the match was concluded at 25-12 in favor of the yet unbeaten Serbs.
Siniša Reljić, head coach of Serbia, said: “We expected a stronger resistance in this match, but we played an excellent game and my players got everything right. I have to thank this wonderful audience, and I hope we will celebrate with them tomorrow”.
Uroš Kovačević, captain of Serbia: “I am glad that so many people came to watch us. We gave our best in this match and the final result is fair. Tomorrow we play the final of the World Championship, and I am not exaggerating, because in this moment Serbia and Spain are certainly the best junior teams on the globe”.
Milorad Krunić, head coach of Croatia: “This was our worst match in the tournament. On the other hand, Serbia played their best game. They bombarded us with power serves and we failed to respond. I expect a victory tomorrow, but no matter what happens the Volleyball sport has won and we leave Ivanjica satisfied”.
Marko Sedlaček, receiver of Croatia: “We came here with many youngsters in the team. We showed that we have potential, and with the right kind of assistance there is a future for this team, for sure”.