Slovakia and Finland seize the night in Poprad with wins over Greece and Ukraine
2014 FIVB Volleyball World Championship - Men
Poprad, Slovakia, January 3, 2014. Slovakia and Finland got three points from their opening matches at the World Champs qualifier in Poprad where the hosts opened their campaign beating Greece in straight sets (25-16, 25-21, and 25-21) in front of a large crowd including the President of the Slovak Republic Ivan Gasparovic while Finland got past Ukraine with the score of 3:1 (23-25, 25-20, 25-22, and 25-22). The tournament will continue Saturday with the second round where Slovakia is set to take on Ukraine and Finland will get to test the likes of Greece.
With 2,500 fans in attendance, Slovakia started their home campaign by dominating the scene in the opening set of their match with Greece (25-16). Things changed slightly in the second where Greece got the lead at 11:8 and started pressuring the home heroes. However, the Slovak players clawed back and got back control of the operations cruising to the final 25-21 for a 2:0 lead in sets. The hosts showed excellent Volleyball also in the third set where they broke away quite early in the set (12:8) but Greece did not surrender and leveled the score at 19. Slovak libero Roman Ondrusek did some good work in defense in the final section of the set; Martin Nemec exploited Ondrusek’s actions in offense and he finished the game with his fifth ace and a total of 16 points (25-21). Mitar Tzourits registered 13 for Greece in their losing effort.
“I am satisfied because we were able to keep a good rhythm from the start up to the end of the match,” said Slovakia’s mentor Flavio Gulinelli. “I think this was the key to our success tonight. We started with a very good pace and it was difficult for Greece to keep it. They came back but we always were able to stop their attempts to change the course of the game. These are very good news for us, much more than the final result,” he added.
“We were not able to stand their rhythm and we made a lot of unforced errors in crucial moments of the game,” commented Greece’s head coach Sotirios Drikos. “I think this is the main reason for our defeat.”
Later in the evening Ukraine surprised Finland by starting strong in the opening set (16:13) and eventually cashed it at 25-23 thereby upsetting some 80 Finnish fans in attendance at the Poprad Arena. Ukraine set the pace of the game also in the second set (8:3, 16:12) but once their opposite Urpo Sivula moved to the service line, Finland flipped the charts around moving up 20:16 and paving their way to the final 25-20. The third set followed a similar plot with Ukraine moving up 14:11 before Finland responded vigorously to cruise to the final 25-22. The last set was very close as well but the Finns were able to hold on to their lead and with another 25-22 pocketed a 3:1 victory. Sivula top scored for Finland in the end with 21 points while Sergiy Tyutlin registered 19 for Ukraine.
“It was not an easy game because we knew that Ukraine has a good team. They play all together in the same club, for Lokomotiv Kharkiv. We found it difficult to stand their high balls especially in the first set where they scored a lot with these combinations. However, we slowly got into the game and we performed well in defense, thereby paving the way for good counterattacks. We had a very short preparation so it is very important to start the tournament with a victory. I am happy with this win because it gives us a lot of confidence but I also want to congratulate the players and coach of Ukraine,” said Finnish mentor Tuomas Sammelvuo.
“I am sad because we played very good in the first set and for half of the second,” commented Ukraine’s head coach Yuriy Filippov. “Finland has got a very experienced team; they regularly play in the World League and finally they could change the course of the match. We lost focus and Finland exploited this weakness from our side. Tomorrow we play against Slovakia and this is not going to be easy,” he concluded.
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