Ukraine upsets Slovakia, Finland sole team with two wins in Poprad
2014 FIVB Volleyball World Championship - Men
Poprad, Slovakia, January 4, 2014. Finland is the only team with a perfect record of two victories in as many matches at the World Champs qualifier – Pool M. On Saturday the Finns beat Greece 3:1 (25-21, 25-23, 19-25, and 33-31) to top the table with six points after two rounds while the home heroes of Slovakia suffered a real setback losing in straight sets to Ukraine (20-25, 23-25, and 20-25) thereby disappointing 2,800 home fans that had packed the local arena in Poprad. This means that with one round still to go three teams – Finland, Slovakia, and Ukraine – still can finish first in the group and take the much desired ticket to the Final Round of the 2014 Worlds.
Slovakia started their match with Ukraine very bad while their opponents served strong to shake the home defense. Slovakia could not find their rhythm and struggled all the way through the first set while Ukraine’s opposite Sergiy Tyutlin (pictured, #9) was just unstoppable (20-25). Ukraine set the pace of the game also in the second set (10:15) before Slovakia came back strong to level the score at 19 all. The home side even got the lead at 23:22 but finally Ukraine scored three in a row to make it 23-25 and 0:2 in sets. Slovakia could not find their way back into the game and Ukraine dominated also the third set (20-25) thereby pocketing a straight victory that keeps alive their chances to make it to the World Champs. Tyutlin top scored in the end with 26 points while Martin Nemec got 17 for Slovakia.
“I have to congratulate our opponents from Ukraine because they played an excellent match and this is what we had expected” said Slovakia’s mentor Flavio Gulinelli. “There are a number of good reasons to explain our defeat. We had problems in reception and our side-out was not consistent. They also played much better with high balls than we did and they showed a very good defense. As the score was favorable to our opponents, we felt the pressure and this pressure just got bigger and bigger. Our chances to make it to the Worlds look compromised but we will fight until the end and try to make the best out of our game with Finland.”
“Of course we are very happy especially because we still stand a chance to win the tournament” said Ukrainian head coach Yury Filippov. “My players played really good and I am proud of my team. We will see what happens tomorrow.”
Finland beat Greece 3:1 in the second match of the day to top the charts of the Pool with six points. Greece started out strong and led the way 15:10 in the opening set but the Finns showed patience and resilience to flip the charts around and cruise to the final 25-21. Finland controlled the second set easily leading the way there by three-four points from the start up to the end. Greece was able to get closer a few times but in the end Finland showed good composure to make it 25-23. The atmosphere at the Poprad Arena was just great as Greece got the right energy from the audience to play superbly in the third set and cash it with the score of 25-19. The fourth set was very close and culminated in a dramatic final rush where Finland said the last word at 33-31 to take three important points from this game.
“It was a very exciting match and I think we played a good game” said Greece head coach Sotirios Drikos. “Unfortunately we made too many mistakes and this prevented us from winning the first set. I am glad that we found our rhythm later in the game and were close to call for the tie-break but we were a little unlucky. I think that Finland was more under pressure because their goal is to make it to the World Championship while we have a young team and we need more work and experience to become fully competitive at this level. The atmosphere was just great and I want to thank the Slovak and Finnish fans for the ambiance they created tonight” he added.
“It was a very good game, Greece played good especially in defense and they put us under pressure” commented Finnish mentor Tuomas Sammelvuo. “In this kind of games it is important to be a little better than your opponent and this way we managed to win again. We are only one step away from making the Worlds. I like the atmosphere here; the Slovak fans were cheering on Greece which is understandable because a good result of Greece would have helped their team.”
Greece’s Mitar Tzourits was the best scorer in the game with 26 points while Finland’s opposite Urpo Sivula registered 21 for the winners.
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