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16/09/2016 23:10
Road to #EuroVolleyM - Six second-round qualifiers underway
2017 CEV Volleyball European Championship - Men

Luxembourg, September 16, 2016. The second stage of the qualifications to the 2017 CEV Volleyball European Championship – Men continued on Friday with six tournaments being contested across Europe. The eventual winners of the double round robin tournaments on schedule in each pool will progress to the 2017 EuroVolley Finals in Poland. Latvia caused the first little sensation on Friday afternoon when thrashing Croatia in three sets to open procedures in Pool D in Poprad and Portugal did the same in Denmark by cruising to a straight-sets victory in their much anticipated matchup with pre-favourites Finland in Pool B. As for the two tournaments that started on Thursday already, the Netherlands and Czech Republic boast a perfect record of two wins in as many matches following Friday’s victories over Turkey and the Former Y.R. of Macedonia in Pools E and F, respectively. 

Pool A

Spain vs. Germany 0-3 (23-25, 23-25, 16-25)

Germany opened the programme of Pool A in Podgorica with a classy performance to beat Spain in three sets.

Vital Heynen, coach of Germany: “The first two sets were really tight, we kind of played point for point. Even if from the result it looks like it was an easy victory for us, it's not the case with this match. This was a pretty difficult game and for sure the two that will follow this weekend will be just as challenging too.”

Montenegro vs. Switzerland 3-0 (25-21, 25-23, 25-18)

In the second match of the first competition day in Pool A, hosts Montenegro delighted a partisan home crowd celebrating their first victory in the pool with a 3-0 in their matchup with Switzerland.
Slobodan Boskan, coach of Montenegro: “First of all I have to congratulate my boys for they deservedly won this match. We started pretty nervous, which partly disrupted our game plan. In the first two sets it was pretty tight, we played point for point, but when we got in that rhythm, we stayed concentrated and eventually showed a much more stable performance, which made sure that the third set and with it also the match would finish in the best way for us.”

Pool B

Portugal vs. Finland 3-0 (25-23, 25-23, 25-20)

Going into the match as the clear-cut favourites, Finland started the first set as expected and claimed a well-deserved lead with intelligent setting by Eemi Tervaportti. However, the Portuguese fought back, levelled the score at 21-21 and cashed their first set point with an ace by Miguel Tavares Rodrigues (25-23).

Both teams seemed to heavily rely on their serve in order to win this match. Portugal apparently had the best cards to play, also thanks to the contribution brought by Miguel Tavares Rodrigues. Trailing 16-21, Rodrigues got the serve, executed it clinically and turned the set around to secure a Portuguese lead at 23-21. A service mistake by Finland’s Olli-Pekka Ojansivu closed the set 25-23 to Portugal.

The many Finnish fans in attendance at Humlehøjhallen in Sønderborg tried their best to ‘disturb’ Portugal’s hard hitter Marco Evan Ferreira, but the 202cm opposite kept his temper and a steady scoring streak helping Portugal win the third set 25-20. The match point was converted by, who else, Miguel Tavares Rodrigues.

Miguel Tavares Rodrigues, setter of Portugal: “The whole team played fantastic. We have been practicing very well for this tournament and all of the guys are in good shape. We started off badly in both the first and the second set, but we managed to come together as a team and win. No doubt that the serve was an important weapon in achieving this result.

“Finland were the heavy favourites today, and I am very happy that we managed to beat them. We know our value, and we knew we had a chance of winning. This is the perfect start in order to achieve our dream of reaching the Final Round in Poland next year.”  

Tuomas Sammelvuo, head coach of Finland: “I think Portugal came very well prepared for this match. They managed to keep calm in the crucial moments whereas we lost our concentration – both me and the players. Congratulations to Portugal, they played great. There are no excuses from our side. We have a great team and need to be able to handle the big moments and this we did not do today.

“Today’s loss only gives us more energy and will to improve and win the remaining matches in the tournament. It was only the first match, and we will start focussing on the next one right away.”

Denmark vs. Sweden 0-3 (19-25, 22-25, 19-25)

Back in 1864 Denmark suffered a historic defeat to Prussia in an area close to Sønderborg, the city where the first Pool B tournament is taking place, and again on Friday the Danes had to leave the battleground with a loss, 3-0 to neighbours and arch-rivals Sweden.

Denmark’s suffering started after the first set was even halfway through. After that the Danes began having difficulties converting their attacks into points. Sweden took advantage of that and slowly but surely added numbers to their score until reaching the magic mark of 25 points, six ahead of Denmark’s 19.

Denmark started the second set with thunder in their hands (8-3). But time after time Sweden’s team captain Marcus Nilsson showed his immense qualities in the crucial moments and opened the way for his team to the set win 25-22 – set point of course created and executed by Nilsson’s own hand.

Besides Marcus Nilsson, Sweden managed to keep their game steady and stable and unlike the two first sets, the Swedes were ahead all the way in the third as they won comfortably 25-19.

‘Man of the Match’ Marcus Nilsson (18 points) said: “It is always cool playing against Denmark. You just give a little bit extra in these matches. The intensity is good and we really enjoyed it. We started the first set quite bad, but after we got rid of the initial pressure, the entire team performed really well tonight. We managed to stick to our game plan and our way of playing. We have success in playing stable and as a result we did not get stressed.

“I think everybody had Finland as the clear favourites in the pool. But with their loss to Portugal earlier this afternoon the battle for first place is suddenly more open. It will be some exciting days ahead.”

Top scorer of Denmark, Mads Ditlevsen (15 points), said: “I am disappointed with our performance today. I do not think we played as well as we know we can. We did not manage to put the kind of pressure on Sweden with our service as we had hoped for. We would have liked to give the many spectators a better match and result. This is a great atmosphere and it will mean the world to us to give the fans a win tomorrow against Portugal.”  

Pool C

Republic of Moldova vs. Ukraine 2-3 (25-17, 16-25, 22-25, 25-22, 8-15)

Moldova gave them a run for their money, but Ukraine opened play in Pool C with a 3-2 win to stay in the race for a spot in the finals of the competition or a ticket to Round 3 of the qualifiers.

Although Moldova took their opponents by surprise in the first set, Ukraine quickly minimised their unforced errors to take the next two, giving the impression of a quick turnaround in the works. However, Moldova pressured with their service in the fourth and took advantage of more unforced errors from Ukraine to force a tie-break. Still, the Ukrainians stepped up in the fifth building up a quick lead for a comfortable 15-8 final score, as Ian Iereshchenko led the scoring with 24 points.

“It’s a good result, though not as great as we would have liked, as we have a difficult match to follow - still it’s a good start,” said Ukraine’s libero Pylyp Harmash after the game.

Greece vs. Belgium 0-3 (17-25, 23-25, 22-25)

Belgium made a huge step towards fulfilling their goal of a first-place finish in Pool C of the 2017 CEV Volleyball European Championship - Men qualifiers and securing a direct ticket to the Final Round when they swept Greece 3-0 (25-17, 25-23, 25-22) in Kozani on Friday night.

The home side failed to get inspiration from the 2,000-strong partisan crowd and actually never really threatened Belgium at any point during the match. The visitors immediately took the lead at the start of the first set and only once thereafter trailed Greece.

Greece did try to come back into the game in the second set, closing in on 23-22 and 24-23, but a triple block from Belgium's Sam Deroo, Pieter Coolman and Hendrik Tuerlinckx on a back row attack of Mitar Tzourits brought it to a close.

Again in the third set Greece attempted to stay alive in the game and led by two at the second technical time-out, but Belgium rallied with four straight points to claim back the lead and finish off the game.

In the end it was lack of patience and nervousness on the Greek side that allowed Belgium to take advantage of the hosts’ 30 unforced errors (to their own mere eight) and reach a fairly straightforward win on the back of their outstanding blocking.

Even coach Dominique Baeyens was surprised at the extent of his team’s win: “It was the best result we could have had and I really never expected it,” he said.

His counterpart Sotirios Drikos, on the other hand was very realistic: “Our goal remains very clear. Second place in the pool and a chance to play for a berth in the finals through Round 3 of the qualifiers.”

Pool D

Latvia vs. Croatia 3-0 (25-19, 25-21, 25-19)  

Latvia started the opening match in Poprad by setting the pace early on and with the help of their major star, opposite Hermans Egleskalns, they claimed a comfortable lead. The score stood at 16-9 for the Baltic team when Romans Sauss went to serve. Croatia closed in at 18-15 following a nice bock by Marko Sedlaček, but it was not enough to compensate for their slow start and Latvia won the first set 25-18. The first half of the second set was close, but Latvia served, blocked and attacked better and better as the match progressed, this resulting in a 25-21 win. Latvia dictated the tempo of the match also in the third set. An ace and a powerful spike by Egleskalns moved the score to 14-7 for the team in blue shirts, thus paving the way to a compelling 25-19 that sealed a 3-0 win for Latvia to start their campaign in Poprad on a high note.  
Igor Simuncic, head coach of Croatia: “We knew that Latvia can play at the same level as Slovakia or can reach the same quality we can attain when we are in our best shape. We expected a very difficult match and so it was. Latvia showed more technical skills than our team and I have to congratulate them, because they played better than us today. From what I saw today, I think they will be in the race for first place until the end of the second round robin tournament in this pool.”

Inoslav Krnič, setter of Croatia: “The reason of our loss is clear. Latvia played better than us in every aspect of the game and they deserved to win. We had some chances in the second set, but we didn’t use them. Our serve was poor today, we struggled and on the contrary, the other team served really well. It was tough to play without serving as we had to. The game was special for me, because I spent a nice time here in Slovakia with my former club and I met a lot of friends. I wanted to present myself in a good way, but unfortunately it did not happen. It was only the first match, tomorrow is a new day and we will try to win and stay in contention for a spot in the Final Round.”
Raimonds Vilde, head coach of Latvia: "One of the keys to success was our good serve. We are not so tall, so this should be one of our main weapons. The second key was the good discipline of our setter: he played according to our game plan. I am very happy with the result, because we have some new players in the team and I was worried about their psychological stability, but we managed to cope with the situation. We hope to continue in the same way.” 
Deniss Petrovs, captain of Latvia: “We are very happy win the victory, especially in three sets. We will have more rest and we can now focus on the next match. We played well and we executed what the coach wanted from us. I can’t say that we showed something special, we just played our Volleyball minimising the number of mistakes. It was our game and we are now focussing on tomorrow.” 

Slovakia vs. Israel 3-0 (26-24, 25-18, 25-13)

Slovakia claimed an early 4-1 lead but the course of the game changed afterwards with Israel edging ahead (13-10) after a nice block by Tamir Hershko. Israel controlled the set until the score stood at 19-16 in their favour. However, Milan Bencz’s serves and the blocks killed by Marek Mikula helped Slovakia claimed the lead back at 22-21 and the hosts eventually won the opening set 26-24. Slovakia started to play better, and they improved especially in attack to lead 7-5 in the second set. Israel levelled the score at 13-13, but Slovakia’s block was just outstanding in the final stages to contribute to a 25-18 win. The third set was entirely controlled by the home side which opened procedures with an 8-0 run to finish it all off at 25-13. Milan Bencz and Matej Patak scored 15 points each for Slovakia in their winning effort.
Miroslav Palgut, coach of Slovakia: “We were a little bit nervous in the first set. Israel played very well at blocking and caused us problems with their serve. We were able to win a close first set and after that the match was in our hands. I told my players to remain patient, because I knew that quality is on our side. The last set was some kind of an exhibition from our side, but we now have to concentrate on our next opponent, Latvia.”
Emanuel Kohut, captain of Slovakia: “We have three points and we did not lose a set, so we are happy. I think the first set was a bit rocky because we were nervous. However, we managed to win the first set and after that we controlled the match with ease. Especially our opposite Milan Bencz played very well today, but actually every player from our team did so.”
Grzegorz Rys, coach of Israel: “The first set was very important to us, we were very close to winning it, but unfortunately we made a few mistakes. After that we couldn’t keep our normal level, we made more mistakes than usual and finally we lost. It is very difficult to play against a team like Slovakia. They have very experienced players, they play in the World League and quality is on their side. We need more experience and more matches against strong teams.”

Pool E

Turkey vs. The Netherlands 2-3 (16-25, 25-18, 26-24, 23-25, 6-15)

Turkey asked for an early time-out when trailing 2-5 in the opening set. However, this did not produce the desired effects with the Netherlands leading 8-4 at the first technical time-out. The Dutch widened their lead to 16-11 at the second mandatory break and easily cruised to a 25-16 win.
Turkey claimed an early 3-1 lead in the second set as the Dutch made some mistakes but the hosts found themselves having a very narrow advantage at the first technical time-out (8-7). After the break Turkey stretched their lead to 10-7 and 16-12 and some breaks asked by the Dutch coach could not prevent the hosts from securing a 25-18 win.
The third set was a close race from start to end, and it was impossible to separate the two teams – until finally Turkey prevailed at 26-24.
Turkey seemed to control the match as they claimed 8-5 and 16-13 leads at the first and second technical time-outs of the fourth set, but the Netherlands fought back to level the score at 18-all and they eventually cashed their first set point for 25-23, thus calling for a tie-break.
The Dutch players put a lot of pressure on Turkey from the early stages of the deciding fifth set and this resulted in a terrific 8-2 lead for the Netherlands. Turkey could not compensate for such disastrous start to the tie-break and the Netherlands comfortably cruised to a 15-6 win to celebrate their second straight victory in the pool.

Jasper Diefenbach, player of the Netherlands: “It was a good match, where we started in the best way to win the first set with ease. The crowd were supporting Turkey making a lot of noise but we did a good job. They responded well by taking the second and third sets. In the fourth set, we used some of our second lines and they made the difference, putting up a real fight. Tomorrow we will play Austria and I hope we will win again.”

Gido Vermeulen, coach of The Netherlands: “We started out pretty well, playing very aggressive in the first set. However, we lost control in the second set where Turkey responded playing the same way. We played great towards the end of the fourth set, where with our outstanding performance we changed the course of the match.”  

Mustafa Koc, player of Turkey: “We had a chance to win but we did not use it. We made some easy mistakes and as a result we ended up losing the match.”

Emanuele Zanini, coach of Turkey: “This was a good match. We tried our best but it was not enough in the end. Our opponents played better whilst we made mistakes and unfortunately we lost. Now we have to focus on tomorrow’s match with Belarus.”

Austria vs. Belarus 1-3 (17-25, 19-25, 25-23, 21-25)

The two teams fought with everything they had for their first win in the competition with Belarus claiming an 8-6 lead in the first set before they extended it to 16-11 later on. The Austrian coaching staff stopped the game a couple of times in an effort to change the course of the match but Belarus were able to hold on to their advantage (19-13) and eventually won the opening set 25-17.
Austria caught a promising start to the second set but Belarus edged ahead at the first technical time-out (8-7). Austria’s coach Michael Warm stopped the game again with his side trailing 7-10 and he got the desired results as his side fought back to level the score at 11-all. It did not last long, however, as Austria soon trailed by three points at 17-14 and Belarus did not look back anymore to claim this set as well (25-19).
Austria were with their back against the wall with Belarus leading 8-2 in the third set but they were able to fight their way back; they still trailed by four points at the second technical time-out but they completed a fabulous comeback to take the set 25-23.
Belarus scored two consecutive points at the beginning of the fourth set and claimed an 8-4 lead which they were able to hold on to through the end (16-13, 25-21) to secure their first victory in this round of European qualifiers.

Kiryl Krasneuski, player of Belarus: “We played Austria back in June and we lost a very close match. However, this time we were a lot better prepared than we were some months ago. We watched videos of the previous match with them and analysed their tactics and way of playing as thoroughly as possible. We also worked on ironing out the mistakes we made in that same match. All these factors combined together helped us win tonight.”

Peter Wohlfahrtstätter, player of Austria: “The first and second sets were tough for us but in the third we pushed hard to come back and could take it. We were close to winning the fourth set as well but in the end it did not work for us. They were better at the end of the set and this made the difference.”

Pool F

Czech Republic vs. Former Y.R. of Macedonia 3-1 (25-17, 25-18, 23-25, 27-25)

The Czech Republic opened the second competition day in Pool F with a 3-1 victory over the Former Y.R. of Macedonia. Donovan Dzavoronok was the best scorer of the match with 19 points, while Michal Finger contributed 18 points to the Czech victory. Nikola Gjorgiev top scored for the Former Y.R. of Macedonia with 19 points and Aleksandar Ljaftov was next with 12 points for the losing side.

After scoring a series of seven consecutive points right before the second technical time-out of the first set, the Czech Republic opened a 16-9 gap. The Former Y.R. of Macedonia attempted a comeback but the powerful attacks and blocks of Czech opposite, Michal Finger were too much to stand (25-17).

In the second set, the Czech Republic jumped ahead and led 16-12 with their amazing outside spiker Donovan Dzavoronok ‘bombarding’ the receivers of the Former Y.R. of Macedonia to pave the way towards a 25-18 win.

The third set brought a lot of ups and downs for both teams. The Czech Republic was leading up until 8-7, before their opponents claimed a 16-15 lead at the second technical time-out. The Czech Republic didn’t use their opportunities to level the score again and were confronted with a gap of five points (17-21). The Czechs scored twice, but still lost the set (23-25).

The fourth set was dominated by the Czech Republic up until the second technical time-out    (16-9) when the course of the game suddenly changed as the Former Y.R. of Macedonia closed in with the help of Gjorgiev and Ljaftov whose attacks made it 24-all. The Czech Republic responded with Dzavoronok on fire and they eventually brought the set and the match to an end at 27-25.

Miguel Angel Falasca, coach of the Czech Republic: “We are happy with the victory. It’s important that we keep on winning. In the end it was a tough match.”

Nikolay Jeliazkov, coach of the Former Y.R. of Macedonia: “Today we played better without feeling any pressure. The problem was that in key moments of the match our serve was not good tactically and our block did not work either.”

Estonia vs. Romania 3-1 (19-25, 28-26, 25-18, 25-23)

Estonia regrouped after their straight-sets loss to the Czech Republic on Thursday to edge hosts Romania 3-1 in their second match of the pool. Estonian outside spiker Robert Täht had a prolific scoring night with 20 points. Renee Teppan contributed with 17 points to the Estonian victory. Laurentiu Lica notched 19 points for Romania, followed by Mihai Gheorghita, who finished the match with 11 markers.

Romania got off to a promising start in a first set which was as tight as you like. Neither team at any moment broke away by more than one point, until opposite Lica unleashed his powerful attacks to give Romania a serious advantage at 21-15. Romania put their opponents under pressure and finally took the opening set by 25-19.

In the second set both teams offered a high-level Volleyball show to the spectators. The battle was very tight through the second technical time-out, after which Romania’s reception could not cope well with the incoming serves and the better efforts of Estonian outside spiker Täht and his teammates. Middle blocker Ardo Kreek scored with a powerful hit for 21-20. Romania levelled the score with a good block by Gheorghita but the unstoppable Täht helped the 2016 European League gold medallists restore the balance in the match (28-26).   
Estonia’s momentum led to an 8-5 lead in the third set, which practically pre-decided the final outcome of the set.  Estonia imposed their quality and it was Täht again who put the ball on the floor for the final 25-18.

Estonia rushed to an 8-4 lead at the beginning of the fourth set. However, Romania managed to close in with a better structured defence of their young outside spiker Adrian Aciobanitei, even edging ahead at 21-20. Estonia nevertheless came back soon after with Keith Pupart and Teppan scoring before the guys from the Baltic country finished it all off at 25-23. 

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