Serbia and Slovenia celebrate victorious start before crossing their ways on Saturday
2014 FIVB Volleyball World Championship - Men
Nis, Serbia, January 3, 2014. Though they did not perform their best the home heroes of Serbia opened the World Champs qualifier that is taking place at the Cair sports hall in Nis with a straight victory over their neighbors from the F.Y.R. of Macedonia (25-22, 25-22, and 25-23). Serbia’s head coach Igor Kolakovic was not happy at all with the performance of his guys and on Saturday the 2013 European bronze medalists will have a tough test as they take on Slovenia that opened the tournament on Friday afternoon by edging Portugal 3:1 (20-25, 25-19, 25-21, and 25-21). The match will be a remake of the game Serbia and Slovenia played in the prelims of the 2013 CEV VELUX Volleyball European Championship in Herning where Slovenia had caused a sensation by edging the titleholders (3:1).
Slovenia had to dig deep in the first match of Pool J in Nis to overpower a good Portuguese team 3:1 (20-25, 25-19, 25-21, and 25-21) in 102 minutes of play. Hugo Gaspar of Portugal top scored in the match with 19 points while Matej Vidic paced Slovenia with 14 in their winning effort.
Portugal opened the match in a strong fashion, going up by five points and maintaining the gap throughout the whole set. In the second set Slovenia woke up thanks to their rivals who let them find the right rhythm in the final section of the set. Slovenia claimed a three-point lead that was more than enough to wrap up the set at 25-19 and tie the score. The Portuguese players managed to respond in the beginning of the third set going up 8:4 at the first technical time-out, but then Slovenia took over the control of the match and flipped the charts around at the second mandatory stop (16:13). Despite Tine Urnaut’s injury in the last stage of the third set, Slovenia firmly grabbed hold of the match and got in front 2:1. In the fourth set, the score was tight up to the second technical time-out. After that, Slovenia managed to break away and score a very important victory to open the tournament with the right pace.
Luka Slabe, head coach of Slovenia: “We were not aggressive in the first set. We had to make some adjustments, it worked, and we got away with an important victory.”
Hugo Silva, Portuguese head coach: “We just played one set. After that we stopped. In the end, this was a fair victory for Slovenia.”
Tine Urnaut, team captain of Slovenia: “We started poorly, they escaped to 2-3 points of advantage and we couldn’t overturn the score. After that, we relaxed a little bit. We started to play better in defense and everything went well in the end. I had a light knee injury, but nothing serious. I will be ready for tomorrow.”
Joao Jose, team captain of Portugal: “The game is about consistency. We showed it in the first set, but in the second we struggled and could not complete the side-out. However, I think we had some good moments in block and defense, but overall this is a well-deserved victory for Slovenia. Tomorrow we must improve a lot, especially in maintaining the rhythm of the match.”
The hosts of Serbia opened the tournament in Nis with a flawless victory over Macedonia 3:0 (25-22, 25-22, and 25-23) in 78 minutes of play. Nikola Gjorgiev of Macedonia topped the scorers’ chart with 24 points, while Nikola Kovacevic registered 13 for the winners.
Serbia started the match playing with ease against a very cautious opponent. However, the hosts could not gain much of an advantage, as the teams went to the first technical time-out at 8-6 for Serbia. After that, the visitors got more relaxed and started creating all sorts of problems for the home side. When they reached just one point of deficit at 20:21, Serbia’s head coach Igor Kolaković had to react with a time-out. The Serbian team settled a little bit after the break, and wrapped up the first set with a couple of good points (25-22).
In the second set Macedonia managed to keep up with the hosts until the first technical break (8:7 to Serbia), but after that the home side went 4 points ahead and preserved that lead for a provisional 2:0 lead in sets. The third set started in the same fashion as the previous one, but this time Macedonia fought until the very end. They even grabbed the lead at 23:22 forcing Serbia’s coach Kolaković to call a time-out. After the pause, good blocking by Srecko Lisinac and couple of errors by the guests gave the victory to the home side.
Igor Kolakovic, head coach of Serbia: “This match will be remembered just for the victory, because the game we presented was disastrous. Macedonia surprised us, and we were too relaxed. After this match, we are no more the favorites of the tournament. The match against Slovenia tomorrow will decide everything, so we must be very careful.”
Zarko Ristoski, head coach of the F.Y.R. of Macedonia: “Congratulations to Serbia, first of all. We gave our best, and frankly, after all the problems we had, I am surprised with the way we played. I am proud of my guys.”
Dragan Stankovic, team captain of Serbia: “This wasn’t easy. We did not expect Macedonia would play this well. The only thing that matters is the victory. This was a true wake-up call and it is great that it came in this moment.”
Nikola Gjorgiev, team captain of the F.Y.R. of Macedonia: “I am very satisfied and proud of my teammates. We played an excellent match, but we respected Serbia too much and in the end we made mistakes that cost us the match.”
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