Serbia just one set away from ticket to World Champs
2014 FIVB Volleyball World Championship - Men
Nis, Serbia, January 4, 2014. On Saturday the European bronze medalists of Serbia beat Slovenia in straight sets (25-20, 25-19, and 26-24) in their second match at the Cair sports hall in Nis and with this result – combined with Portugal’s straight victory over the F.Y.R. of Macedonia – they cemented their leadership in Pool J. On Sunday, as they play Portugal they will need to take only one set to book their spot in the Final Round of the 2014 FIVB Volleyball World Championship. The match starring Serbia and Slovenia was attended by more than 5,000 fans and with this home victory Serbia also got their revenge for the defeat they had suffered to Slovenia in the pool phase of the 2013 CEV VELUX Volleyball European Championship last September in Herning, Denmark.
On Saturday Serbia scored their second victory at the tournament in Nis beating Slovenia in straight sets (25-20, 25-19, and 26-24) in 79 minutes of play. Aleksandar Atanasijevic and Milos Nikic of Serbia and Slovenia’s Mitja Gasparini topped the charts of the best scorers with 14 points apiece.
Among the crowd of more than 5’000 spectators, there were Mr. Aleksandar Boricic, President of the Volleyball Federation of Serbia, Prof. Dr. Zoran Perisic, Lord Mayor of Nis, Mr. Brtislav Gasic, Lord Mayor of Krusevac, Mr. Andreas Graf, member of the Managing Board in the “Vip mobile” company – general sponsor of the Volleyball Federation of Serbia, Mr. Slobodan Milosevic, Secretary General, Nenad Golijanin, First Vice-President, Vladimir Grbic, Vice-President, Zoran Avramovic, Marketing Director, all engaged in the Volleyball Federation of Serbia, Mr. Darko Bulatovic, President of the Nis City District “Red Cross”, and Milan Pesic, member of the Nis City Council. Before the start of the match, the Lord Mayor of Nis, Prof. Dr. Zoran Perisic, gave away golden coins of Emperor Constantine to team captains Dragan Stankovic and Tine Urnaut.
Both teams started very carefully this, what appeared to be, deciding match of the tournament. After an initial point-for-point race, Serbia managed to gain a two-point advantage at 5:3. However, when Matevz Kamnik stepped behind the service line, the visitors from Slovenia got six straight points and took a 9:5 lead. Serbia slowly but surely regained momentum and the match got tied at 11. After that, neither of the teams could break the tie all the way until 19:19, when Serbia took off to a four-point lead (23:19) and wrapped up this set (25-20).
The second set started pretty much in the same fashion. Serbia took a 5:3 lead, but this time the hosts didn’t allow their rivals to fight back. Serbia gradually widened the lead, until they gained a four-point advantage at 12:8. Then Slovenia regained some momentum and cut the distance to just one point (11:12). However, Atanasijevic’s spikes and Serbia’s strong block made it 14:11 for the home side. The host successfully preserved a three-point lead thru the second technical time-out (16:13). Serbia’s opposite Atanasijevic continued slamming the ball into opponents’ field as the game resumed and Slovenia couldn’t find any answer to stand that storm. In addition, Serbia’s block was almost impassable in the last stage of the second set, so the home team easily doubled their lead to 2:0 in sets (25-19).
Like in the previous two sets, in the beginning of the third one the points were pretty evenly distributed. However, Serbia was slightly in front, so the teams went to the first technical break at 8:5 for the home heroes. In these moments the lead was only getting bigger by the minute, as the Slovenian players couldn’t stop Serbia in their relentless attacks. However, after being down by five points at 14:19, Slovenia did manage to cut the distance to just 2 points (16:18) forcing Serbia’s coach Igor Kolakovic to ask for a time-out. Nevertheless, Slovenia kept cool and tied the score at 20:20. After another time-out called by Serbia Slovenia got to the front at 21:20. In an exciting finish of the third set Slovenia had a two-point advantage at 23:21, but Serbia didn’t let go and quickly overturned the score in their favor at 24:23. After a couple of extraordinary points, Serbia’s block made by Srecko Lisinac and Milos Nikic finally wrapped it up at 26-24 for a straight-set victory. As a result of this performance and result, Serbia needs just one set tomorrow from the game with Portugal to qualify to the 2014 World Championship.
Igor Kolakovic, head coach of Serbia: “This was an extremely difficult match for us. After yesterday’s game, today I can say that I am very satisfied with my guys. Slovenia had their chances in this match, but we were focused, consistent and we didn’t allow any surprises come up along the way. Tomorrow, I hope, we will validate the first place and claim our spot for the World Championship.”
Dragan Stankovic, team captain of Serbia: “We knew what to expect from this match. The stakes were high, and Slovenia had beaten us at the last European Championship. I am glad we found our game, and successfully finished this second match. Tomorrow is the last day. We are playing against Portugal, another team who used to beat us recently, so we have to be very careful.”
Luka Slabe, head coach of Slovenia: “Both teams served strong. Milos Nikic and Nikola Kovacevic caused a lot of trouble for us, and we didn’t know how to stop them. The atmosphere here in Nis was great and I congratulate Serbia on this valuable victory for them.”
Tine Urnaut, team captain of Slovenia: “Both teams showed a great effort. However, Serbia was better today and they deserved the victory. We had problems keeping the right rhythm in this match.”
After losing on Friday to Slovenia, Portugal scored their first victory at the World Champs qualifier in Nis beating the F.Y.R. of Macedonia in straight sets (25-14, 33-31, and 25-21) in 81 minutes of play. Alexandre Ferreira of Portugal topped the scorers’ chart with 20 points, while Nikola Gjorgiev scored 18 for the F.Y.R. of Macedonia in their losing effort.
The Portuguese players started the match with Macedonia in the same fashion as they had done on Friday against Slovenia – playing aggressively right from the beginning. As a result of that extraordinary effort, they conceded only 14 points to their opponents in the first set. In the second set, Portugal lost their rhythm, and Macedonia used that chance to get back into the match. They even moved up 21:19 before the Portuguese players managed to turn the score in their favor claiming two set balls at 24:22. However, Macedonia was determined to fight and tied the score at 24:24. The guys from Skopje had a couple of chances to tie the match, but ultimately it was Portugal that went up 2:0 winning the second set with the score of 33-31. In the third set Macedonia managed to keep up until the last stage where Portugal broke off to a 5-point advantage at 21:16. This was enough for the Portuguese team to score a flawless 3:0 victory.
Hugo Silva, head coach of Portugal: “Today we served very strong and I think that this was the key point of this match. I wish to congratulate Macedonia, they are a good team, but they have many problems at this moment. Tomorrow we face Serbia and we will try to win.”
Joao Jose, team captain of Portugal: “Macedonia had nothing to lose in this match and they played without pressure. I am satisfied with the way we served today. Also, we were good in defense. Tomorrow we play against Serbia, and I hope we win. Serbia is one of the best teams in the world; they are extremely difficult to beat, so we have to be aggressive throughout the whole match if we want to get a positive result from that game.”
Zarko Ristoski, head coach of the F.Y.R. of Macedonia: “We wanted to win at least one set in this match. However, we struggled in reception, especially in the first set. The second one we played better, but unfortunately we didn’t make the most of our chances. We struggle with injuries, but we showed a great effort. I hope tomorrow we will manage to grab couple of sets.”
Team captain Nikola Gjorgiev: “We wanted to win this match, but we were too nervous in the first set. We lack experience, and we have so many youngsters in the team who must learn to deal with this kind of matches. This tournament is a good preparation for the qualification round to the 2015 European Championship that is coming up later this year.”
Click here for more info including detailed stats of the matches