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05/01/2014 21:00
Serbia edges Portugal to qualify to World Champs for fifth straight time
2014 FIVB Volleyball World Championship - Men

Nis, Serbia, January 5, 2014. The 2013 European bronze medalists of Serbia maintained a perfect score at the end of the World Champs qualifier – Pool J in Nis beating Portugal 3:1 (22-25, 25-11, 25-19, and 25-21) on the last day of action to book their ticket to the Final Round of the 2014 FIVB World Championship. Aleksandar Atanasijevic scored 13 points for the home heroes, while Portugal’s Hugo Gaspar registered a match-high 17 points.
With a crowd of 6,500 spectators in attendance, Serbia started the match a way too relaxed and the Portuguese players made the most of it as they cruised to 25-22 to take the first set. In the second set, however, the home team woke up and took control of the match right from the start. So, at the second technical time-out it was 16:9 to Serbia. The hosts had no trouble wrapping it up to tie the match at 1-1 in sets and this way they had already booked first place in the Pool as well as pocketed their ticket to the 2014 World Championship.
Having met the primary goal, Serbia’s coach Igor Kolakovic used the opportunity to let some of the substitute players feel the atmosphere in Nis. The Serbian youngsters were eager to show their skills, and they didn’t allow their rivals hope for anything else than an honorable defeat. Serbia wrapped it up to finish the tournament with an immaculate record of three wins in as many games and to qualify to the World Championship for the fifth straight edition since 1998.   
Igor Kolakovic, head coach of Serbia: “We are very satisfied because we qualified to the World Championship. We had many ups and downs in this tournament, but in the end it all went well for us. I am impressed with the love and support we felt here in Nis.”
Dragan Stankovic, team captain of Serbia: “We started well, but then we lost the focus and it began slipping out of our hands. Luckily, we managed to get back into the match against a very dangerous opponent. We knew that it wouldn’t be easy to qualify to the World Championship, but we were united from start until the very end and it paid off.”
Hugo Silva, head coach of Portugal: “Congratulations to Serbia for qualifying to the World Championship. Overall, I am satisfied; we played very well, except in the first match when we committed a couple of mistakes. This was a good tournament for us.”
Joao Jose, team captain of Portugal: “Overall, I have to be satisfied. We surprised Serbia in the first set, we were consistent, and we played well. After that we couldn’t maintain the rhythm and this is the difference between us and them. They can do this all the time, and we still have to improve a lot.”

On Sunday Slovenia scored their second victory at the World Champs qualifier in Nis beating the F.Y.R. of Macedonia in straight sets (26-24, 25-20, and 25-23) in 83 minutes of play. Nikola Gjorgiev of Macedonia topped the scorers’ chart with 17 points, while Mitja Gasparini registered 15 for the winners.
In the first set the teams battled hard for each point, but Slovenia was always one step in front of their rivals. Macedonia managed to tie the match in the last stage of the set, but didn’t have enough strength to completely turn the score around in their favor. In the end, Slovenia got away with the first set at 26-24.
The second set saw Macedonia set the pace of the game all the way thru the second technical time-out. However, at the second technical break Slovenia was in front 16:14. After that, Slovenia kept pushing and reached a five-point advantage, which was more than enough to secure a comfortable 2:0 in sets (25-20).
Slovenia continued in the same fashion in the beginning of the third set, but Macedonia wouldn’t give up and as a result of their effort got a two-point lead at 20:18. However, Slovenia was confident and similarly to what had happened in the first set they were too strong in the decisive points. The match ended with a well-deserved straight victory for Slovenia (25-23).
Zarko Ristoski, head coach of Macedonia: “I wish to congratulate Serbia for their qualification to the World Championship. Overall, I am happy with our performance in this tournament. We were close in every match, but we have to gain more experience.”
Nikola Gjorgiev, team captain of Macedonia: “Clearly, we are lacking experience. I think 7 out of 9 sets in this tournament we lost by two points of difference. That is something we must improve on for the future.”
Luka Slabe, head coach of Slovenia: “This match was very important to us. We needed a 3:0 victory for many reasons. As for Macedonia, they played in the same manner as the previous two matches. They are a good team, but in the finishing stages they lose their focus. However, they are young and have a bright future ahead.”
Tine Urnaut, team captain of Slovenia: “We needed this victory after yesterday’s loss. I am happy with the result, but not so much with our performance today. However, we showed that we are mentally strong and that’s good.”

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