Bulgaria makes step forward to World Champs with second straight victory
2014 FIVB Volleyball World Championship - Men
Opava, Czech Republic, January 4, 2014. After their straight victory over the Netherlands (25-19, 27-25, and 25-14), Bulgaria tops the charts in Pool I in Opava where the fourth-ranked from last year’s European Championship still haven’t dropped a set after two rounds. After losing their opening game to the “Oranjes”, on Saturday the hosts of the Czech Republic got back on track with an easy straight victory over underdogs Cyprus (25-18, 25-21, and 25-16) and will play Bulgaria on Sunday for what looks like a “mission impossible” as they still hope to be able to claim a ticket to the World Champs.
Bulgaria opened the program on Saturday and they imposed their rule right from the start of the game leading the score all the way through the opening set (8:4, 16:10, 21:17, and 25-19). The Netherlands did stand a chance only in the second set where Bulgaria got to the front at the first as well as the second technical time-out (8:4, 16:13) before the “Oranjes” briefly flipped the charts around (20:21). However, they could not capitalize on this lead and as Bulgaria wrapped it up at 27-25 it looked like the fate of the game was already written. That proved ultimately correct as the players mentored by Italian-born head coach Camillo Placì cruised to a speedy 25-14 to finish the game in straight sets.
In order to keep a theoretical chance to make the Final Round of the 2014 Worlds, the home heroes of the Czech Republic needed to score a straight victory over Cyprus and they eventually did so. More than 2,600 fans supported the home team in Opava and the local heroes paid back with a good performance. They initially trailed 6:8 in the opening set but after that they controlled the game and could sweep their opponents in straight sets as they wished (25-18, 25-21, and 25-16).
“I have to praise what my players did tonight because they could play good and compensate for the absence of our libero Martin Kristof who is still ill” said Czech mentor Zdenek Smejkal after the match. “As for the game with Bulgaria, I know we have very good players and since Volleyball is partly about mistakes, we will try to play responsibly without taking too many risks.”
These words were echoed by team captain Ondrej Hudecek: “The ball is round and we will see what happens tomorrow. We may start strong and surprise Bulgaria who probably underestimates us. And then let’s see what is next.”
“We came here to get experience and today we played our best” commented Cyprus head coach Petros Kontos. “This is the first competition we are playing at this level. We must expect a very tough game also tomorrow as we play the Netherlands. They will be playing their best because they still have a chance to qualify to the Worlds and they surely want to exploit it.”
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