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24/09/2016 23:48
Road to #EuroVolleyM – Germany and Czech Republic claim Final Round spots
2017 CEV Volleyball European Championship - Men

Luxembourg, September 24, 2016. Another 11 matches were played on Saturday for the second stage of the qualifying process to the 2017 CEV Volleyball European Championship – Men. Germany became the first team to secure their progression to the Final Round and they did so by recording their fifth straight win in Pool A – with Spain securing second place in that same group to move on to the third and last round of qualifications. Later in the afternoon Germany were emulated by the Czech Republic – their mix of young and experienced players has also produced five wins in as many matches they have contested so far in Pool F, enough to book a ticket to Poland, the country that will be hosting the EuroVolley Finals next year. Slovakia and Latvia are in contention for first place in Pool D – as are the Netherlands and Turkey in Pool E and Finland and Portugal in Pool B. Belgium currently lead the way in Pool C but will need a 3-0 or 3-1 victory over the Republic of Moldova on Sunday to progress to the Final Round after the setback they suffered on Saturday when losing 0-3 to Greece. 

Pool A

Germany vs. Switzerland 3-0 (25-20, 25-14, 25-18)

Germany cruised to a 3-0 victory in their matchup with Switzerland to secure their qualification to the 2017 EuroVolley Finals. Switzerland tried to put up a fight but Germany looked dominant in all aspects of the game. The Germans claimed an early lead in each of the three sets and were always able to hold on to it. Even though they relaxed towards the end, this did not have any major impact on the final score. Switzerland made fewer mistakes in the third set and showed solid blocks and good serves to keep the score a little tighter. However, in the end Germany sealed a 3-0 victory to celebrate their progression to the EuroVolley Final Round that will be taking place next year in Poland.

Christian Fromm, outside spiker of Germany: “We did a good job today. We were focussed on our goal, and controlled the match from start to end. We are very happy with qualifying to the Final Round of the European Championship.”

Vital Heynen, head coach of Germany: “We needed to take two sets to qualify and we made it happen. All of my players were much focussed and after taking the two sets we needed, we managed to control the match through to the end. Congratulations to my players and to my assistants. It was not an easy thing to win five matches in a row.”  

Sébastien Steigmeier, player of Switzerland: “Germany were the better team and deservedly claimed the victory. We have a young team and a group that is willing to improve. These two weeks we have been working on this and we are happy with the way we have been playing in this tournament.”

Dario Bettello, head coach of Switzerland: “Today we played a tough game. We played at a similar level than Germany in some aspects, like for instance at blocking. This was a good challenge for us, but we could not compete with them in other aspects of the game. Tomorrow we will try to improve our performance, as much as we have done for the past couple of weeks.” 

Montenegro vs. Spain 1-3 (18-25, 25-20, 17-25, 15-25)

The matchup starring hosts Spain and Montenegro was going to determine the team finishing second in the pool and progressing to the third round of qualifications. The local crowd in Las Palmas pushed the Spaniards at the beginning of the match and they claimed an early advantage. Slobodan Boskan stopped the match with time-outs as Spain were 4-0 and 11-5 up, but their gap increased slowly but surely. Spain were unstoppable and spike after spike they won the first set by 25-18. The second set was a lot closer with Montenegro improving their performance, especially at blocking, to restore equality in the match.

Both teams could sense the pressure but the Spaniards were able to cope with it to claim a four-point lead in set 3. The hosts were able to hold on to it even though Montenegro surged back towards the end of the set. The Spaniards got an extra boost of confidence and cruised to an impressive 8-1 lead in the fourth set which paved the way to their 3-1 triumph in front of an ecstatic home crowd.

Andres J. Villena, player of Spain and top scorer of the match 24 points: “This was a match that we knew we had to win 3-0 or 3-1 to secure second place in the pool. We started with much energy, thinking about the hard work we had put into our preparations for about a month. We played very good Volleyball, without mistakes. Montenegro could not play their game. We were very focussed on achieving our goal and of course we are happy with the victory.”  

Fernando Muñoz, head coach of Spain: “The fact that we play at home made the difference. My team has been working really hard for the last couple of weeks. This time around we were a lot more consistent than last week. Tonight, we played our best match in the tournament. I thought that Montenegro were physically and technically better than us, but we controlled them tactically and they could not find their rhythm.”  

Slobodan Boskan, head coach of Montenegro: “Congratulations to Spain. They played very good, whereas we could not find our rhythm.”

Pool B

Denmark vs. Sweden 2-3 (31-29, 19-25, 20-25, 25-18, 12-15)

Sweden claimed a very exciting five-sets match against Denmark in Pool B in Helsinki. Fredrik Gustavsson scored 16 points for the eventual winners of the Scandinavian derby.

The first set was very even and long. It was still tied at 29-29, but after that Sweden made a net fault to make it 30-29 for their opponents and an ace by Aske Morkeberg Sørensen sealed the set for Denmark 31-29 as he used his team’s fifth set ball. Sweden opposite Marcus Nilsson scored eight points for his side in set two and did lead his team to quite an easy 25-19 win. The Swedish block took five points, Denmark none.
Denmark were leading at the beginning of set three, but Sweden played very convincingly at the end of the set. Fredrik Gustavsson was the key player for Sweden at this stage, scoring five points of his own. Denmark came back in set four and maintained their good level throughout the whole period as they were paced by Peter Trolle Bonnesen with eight points.
The tie-break was tied at 10-10, but after that Sweden took control and won the last set 15-12.

Johan Isacsson, head coach of Sweden: “We made too many service errors in the first set. I knew that this would be a hard game. We were struggling with our own game and also with the motivation for today’s match. I think our opposite players made a better job than Denmark’s. It always feels good to beat Denmark.”

Mikael Trolle, head coach of Denmark: “Head coach Johan Isacsson has made a really good job with his team. I think that both teams did not play as well as they can. We changed three guys from yesterday’s match. We love to play this kind of matches.”

Portugal vs. Finland 1-3 (22-25, 25-23, 17-25, 15-25)

On Saturday afternoon Finland made it one step closer to qualifying to the Final Round of the 2017 EuroVolley by edging Portugal 3-1 in Helsinki in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 4,328 spectators.

The first set was a close fight from the first to the last rally. The hosts sealed their win with strong attacks to take it by 25-22. Portugal made a lot of errors even though their outside spiker Alex Ferreira was the best scorer of the set with as many as nine markers.

Portugal came back in set two taking control of the game after a close start. Finland trailed by a couple of points all the way to the end of the set. Alex Ferreira scored six more points – he would finish the match with 27.

In set 3 the climax was reached at 14-14 when Finland took six points in a row thanks to opposite Olli-Pekka Ojansivu hitting hard jump serves. Ojansivu finished the set on a personal tally of six points.

Finland wrapped up the match with a strong performance in set four. Portugal were able to score only 15 points. Antti Siltala was the key player of Finland in the last two sets bringing fresh energy after joining actions from the bench.

Tuomas Sammelvuo, head coach of Finland: “It is always difficult to play against Portugal. They have good, fast attacks. We put quite a lot of pressure with our serve. I am happy especially with the third set when our players started to play better after a slow start.”

Hugo Silva, head coach of Portugal: “Finland served very well and our reception just fell apart. Tomorrow we have another important match that we want to win.”

Pool C

Greece vs. Belgium 3-0 (25-19, 25-22, 25-21)

The match was a last chance for Greece to secure their progression to the third round of qualifications and to stay in contention also for a spot in the Finals. Belgium, on the other hand, were hoping to claim their fifth straight victory in the pool to secure their participation in next year’s Final Round in Poland. Dominique Baeyens was willing to bid farewell in the best way as starting from January 2017 he will be replaced by Vital Heynen at the helm of the Red Dragons – but it just did not happen. By winning 3-0 Greece made sure they will finish at least second in the pool whereas the Red Dragons will have to beat Moldova 3-0 or 3-1 on Sunday to secure first place and with it a ticket to the Final Round.

The match soon turned into an uphill climb for the Red Dragons and even 5,000 fans in attendance at Lotto Arena could not help Belgium compensate for their slow start. Mitar Tzourits scored 10 points for Greece in the opening set, ‘destroying’ the Belgian block and together with Rafail Koumentakis and Andreas-Dimitrios Fragkos he contributed to a 20-13 lead, which was too much to make up for even for Hendrik Tuerlinckx and his teammates.

Greece claimed an early 7-2 lead in the second set and at this stage Baeyens replaced his setter and opposite – Matthias Valkiers and Jolan Cox joined the actions for Stijn D’Hulst and Tuerlinckx. The Red Dragons closed in at 9-10 after an attack by Sam Deroo and a block by Valkiers, but the 211cm tall Tzourits continued his personal show – as did also Andreas Andreadis and Georgios Petreas. Belgium closed in again at 22-24 with the help of Cox and Francois Lecat but too many mistakes by the home side and another stellar performance by Tzourits – who scored eight times in the second set – doubled the Greek lead in the match.

Greece put a lot of pressure on Belgium also in set 3 and even some more substitutions asked by Baeyens did not produce the desired results – though Cox, Simon Van de Voorde and Tomas Rousseaux tried their best to change the course of the game.

Dominique Baeyens, head coach of Belgium: “We could not change the course of the game because Greece’s power was too much to stand for us today. However, we still have the opportunity to secure our qualification tomorrow, that is clear. Before the start of this qualification round I would have put my signature to find myself in this kind of situation.”

Sotirios Drikos, head coach of Greece: “Today our block and defence worked just fine and of course Tzourits played a great match. It is important to qualify to the European Championship, but we have to wait and see who our opponent will be in the third round.”

Pool D

Israel vs. Slovakia 0-3 (21-25, 19-25, 18-25)

This matchup was extremely important for Slovakia as they were fighting for first place in the pool. They needed to take three points in order to stay in contention for the top position in the group – something they were battling for with Latvia. As for Israel, they could play with no pressure since they – as well as hosts Croatia – were already out of contention for a spot in the next stage of the European Championship qualifications.

Slovakia came out with all guns blazing, making almost no mistakes at all. Though they had some small problems in reception, setter Branislav Skladany could find in Stefan Chrtiansky and Milan Bencz two players who would close most of the rallies – and they eventually recorded 13 and 19 points respectively at the end of the match. Israel fought for every ball but they could not make up for their early deficit in the opening set. The Israelis improved the quality of their performance in the second set, but Slovakia responded the same way, thus doubling their lead in the match. Slovakia’s start was not as convincing in set 3 and Israel had a small opportunity to change the course of the game. They claimed a 10-8 lead but after that they started making mistakes, whilst Slovakia improved their efficiency and put more and more pressure on the opponent, eventually taking the set 25-18 and the match by 3-0. Viacheslav Batchkala and Tamir Hershko top scored in the end for Israel with 11 and 10 points in their losing effort.

Omri Shwartz-Shmoel, libero of Israel: “It was our last game in this qualification round. We tried to present ourselves in the best way, but our best player was injured. We are satisfied with what we did in these two tournaments. We did something really big by winning both matches with Croatia, a team that has a high reputation and whose roster includes many good players.”

Miroslav Palgut, head coach of Slovakia: “We can be satisfied with this game. We claimed another victory and we took it in three sets; most important are the three points we could take from this match. Everything now is in our hands, no matter what happens in today’s match between Croatia and Latvia. We have to win against Croatia tomorrow.”

Latvia vs. Croatia 3-1 (25-23, 20-25, 25-14, 27-25)

Croatia were no longer in contention for a spot in the next round whereas Latvia wanted to further cement their position in the pool, so they started the match with their usual starting six. Croatia head coach, Igor Simuncic, on the other hand decided to make some changes, with Mario Mocic and Ivan Raic replacing Inoslav Krnic and Igor Omrcen as setter and opposite.

Croatia had nothing to lose and so the hosts put a lot of pressure on their opponents who responded with strong serving – something they have relied on since the beginning of the tournament – but taking many risks, they also made a number of mistakes. With Ivan Mihalj standing behind the service line, Croatia scored five straight points for 15-10 and the hosts stayed ahead (16-12) also at the second technical time-out. Latvia put more pressure and closed in at 20-18 before four straight mistakes made by Croatia propelled a Latvian lead at 22-20. The set eventually changed its course and ended in a 25-23 win for Latvia.

Croatia looked motivated to claim at least one victory in this round of qualifications and they fought for every point. Latvia, however, did not slow their pace down and after making some substitutions, they were able to keep the score tight. Mihalj served again a few times to claim a 16-10 lead for Croatia at the second technical time-out; Mocic orchestrated the offensive game of the home team very well and with the help of Raic and youngster Petar Dirlic, Croatia eventually took the second set by 25-20.

By dropping this set, Latvia most probably lost also the opportunity to finish first in Pool D. However, they remained very much focussed, securing an 8-6 lead in set 3 and holding on to a three, four-point advantage. Croatia’s reception was not solid enough to stand a chance and the hosts ended up trailing 16-9 at the second technical time-out. Filip Sestan joined the game for Croatia but his contribution did not prevent Latvia from securing a 2-1 edge in the match.

Latvia dominated the early stages of the fourth set with their serving – something to which Croatia did not find an effective answer. Setter Artis Caics provided opposite Edvarts Buivids with many opportunities to score – and he eventually finished the match on 20 points. Croatia scored five points in a row with Hrvoje Zelenika standing behind the service line for 12-all but after a very close race, Latvia eventually emerged victorious at 27-25 to seal their 3-1 victory.
Ivan Raic, player of Croatia: “It was a very close match and this time we showed that we can play at a high level but after the second set our concentration went down, and as a result we looked a lot more nervous. Today we could sense a better atmosphere and as a result, we did perform at a higher level. One or two balls decided about the eventual winner of this match.”
Edvarts Buivids, player of Latvia: “We thought that today more pressure would be on Croatia as they were playing at home. It was quite easy for us to play, and our substitutes supported us all the time. I am satisfied with my performance. I joined the match from the bench and played very good, almost at the same level as our first opposite Hermans Egleskalns.”

Pool E

Belarus vs. The Netherlands 2-3 (25-20, 25-18, 18-25, 23-25, 13-15)

The Netherlands came from behind to claim their fifth straight victory in Pool E. However, Belarus quickly took control of the first set and claimed a two-point lead (8-6) at the first technical time-out. The Dutch tried to turn the match, but didn’t come closer than 17-17. Belarus looked absolutely dominant and comfortably won the first set (25-20). Belarus kept the same pace also in the second set where the Dutch made a lot of mistakes and were not up to their usual level. Belarus secured an impressive advantage at the second technical time-out (16-9) but the Dutch seemed to have found their confidence back when Thijs ter Horst replaced Jeroen Rauwerdink. However, it was not enough to turn the match to their advantage.  Pavel Audochanka spiked for 25-18 to double the Belarusian lead in the match. The ‘Lange Mannen’ played a way more aggressive in the third set and this resulted in an 18-13 lead for the Oranjes. Belarus came closer during the second half of the set, but the Netherlands never really lost control and eventually won the set (25-18). The start of the fourth set was a close affair, but the hosts were able to edge ahead at 14-9. From that moment Belarus put more pressure on the Oranjes, but the home favourites did not lose composure. A kill block by Robbert Andringa and Michaël Parkinson ended the set in their favour (25-23). The fifth set was a real thriller. Belarus took a fairly commanding lead (10-6), but the Dutch fought back and won the set (15-13) and with that the match by 3-2.

Gido Vermeulen, head coach of the Netherlands: “We didn’t start that good, because we didn’t play with the right attitude. It went much better when I replaced a few players by some new, young boys. We won the fifth set because we had a little bit of luck on our side and by working and fighting as hard as we could.”

Aliaksandr Sinhayevski, head coach of Belarus: “We knew that we didn’t have many chances to win this match, but we played our own game and that’s really worthy. I’m disappointed that we lost the fifth set, because we were leading at the beginning. Now we have to recover and we look forward to our last game tomorrow.”

Turkey vs. Austria 3-0 (25-18, 26-24, 25-19)

Turkey downed Austria in three sets to remain in contention for first place in the pool. Everything will be decided on Sunday with the ‘final match’ against the Netherlands.

Turkey claimed a 16-13 lead at the second technical time-out of the opening set. The team didn’t give that advantage away and comfortably won the set by 25-18. The course of the match changed at the beginning of the second set. Austria put their opponent under pressure and Turkey didn’t find a good answer. However, in the second half of the set the Turkish team fought their way back (22-21) and won the set (26-24) with a great serve by their captain Ulas Kiyak. Austria caught a good start to the third set. The team of head coach Michael Warm took a 7-3 advantage after a spike by Nicolai Grabmüller. However, they couldn’t keep the lead for long and let the game slip away – with Turkey pocketing a 3-0 win in the end (25-19).

Michael Warm, head coach of Austria: “We made too many stupid mistakes. We had our chances, but we did not use them. Turkey were a strong opponent, because they made good decisions. Besides that, they were very stable at the end of the third set.”  

Emanuele Zanini, head coach of Turkey: “It was a difficult match, mostly from a tactical standpoint. We have to find the ‘key’ to success in every match. That ‘key’ today were the substitutes, because they were very important to claim this good result. The match against The Netherlands tomorrow will be very difficult and emotional. We will play as if it was a very important final.”

Pool F

Estonia vs. Former Y.R. of Macedonia 1-3 (25-13, 21-25, 23-25, 16-25)

Estonia and the Former Y.R. of Macedonia opened the programme of Pool F on Saturday afternoon in Jablonec nad Nisou – and this was a remake of the gold medal match from this year’s European League which Estonia had won by 3-0. The Former Y.R. of Macedonia started slowly, but after that swept three sets in a row to remain in contention for second place in the pool – and with it also for progression to the third and last round of the qualification process.

Estonia changed rhythm after the first technical time-out of the opening set and after that they did not provide their opponent with any chance to stay in the game. The Estonian players served strong and with a 70% success rate in attack plus five kill blocks they easily won the first set by 25-13.

The Former Y.R. of Macedonia tried to forget this sloppy start and so they did. Estonia, on the other hand, slowed their pace down as they had done in Friday’s match with Romania – and this proved crucial as the Former Y.R. of Macedonia improved their serving and reception to restore equality in the match. The third set was the most exciting one – and by a mile. The Former Y.R. of Macedonia played good but Estonia did not want to surrender. However, an Estonian mistake in reception provided the European League silver medallists with set ball which they immediately cashed. The fourth set was a ‘solo performance’ by the Former Y.R. of Macedonia as they did lead from start to end – eventually pocketing a valuable 3-1 victory.

Kert Toobal, team captain of Estonia: “Well, after the first set we lost control and as a result we ended up losing the match as well. We started making mistakes and it became very difficult to play, since in such situations it’s hard to control the emotions, you easily get angry and pissed. We tried to change this negative trend but it did not work. This was not our game, we had to play like a team, so today was not our day and we are really disappointed.”

Gheorghe Cretu, head coach of Estonia: “We had a lot of ups and downs in this tournament, and the biggest problem was that after making one or two mistakes we started doubting about our skills. It is very difficult to win when you make as many as 25 unforced mistakes and even though we lost a very close match yesterday, today we couldn’t manage some difficult situations, which is very important to be successful in this kind of tournaments.”

Nikola Gjorgiev, team captain of the Former Y.R. of Macedonia: “It was a very good team effort from all players which was the main difference between yesterday’s and today’s match. It is obvious that the Czechs are stronger than us, but yesterday we were just acting like individual players, today we were rather team players. Now we are back in the game, we hope that the Czech Republic will make things easier for us – if they win another two matches this weekend, we still can finish second in the pool.”

Nikolay Jeliazkov, head coach of the Former Y.R. of Macedonia: “After Romania beat Estonia yesterday, we realised we could still finish second in the pool and this provided us with an extra boost of energy and motivation. We did the best we could today. We made some changes and it worked just fine. It is an important victory for us. Tomorrow is a new day, we hope to fight in the best way with Romania and to finish second in the group.”

Romania vs. Czech Republic 1-3 (22-25, 29-31, 25-21, 21-25)

The Czech Republic claimed on Saturday afternoon their fifth straight win in Pool F to secure their qualification to the 2017 EuroVolley Final Round. The Czechs were the heavy favourites going into this match but the game was a pretty close affair. Though Romania put a lot of pressure on the home side, they could only win the third set before the Czechs celebrated yet another victory together with their passionate crowd.

Romania caught a promising start to the match and claimed a three-point lead. The Czech coach, 2007 European champion Miguel Angel Falasca, made some substitutions – with setter Filip Habr and outside spiker Petr Michalek the home side changed the course of the game and took the first set by 25-22. The Czechs secured an early three-point lead in the second set but towards the end of the set they made a few mistakes and found themselves under pressure. Romania served strong but a dramatic final rush ended in a Czech party at 31-29. Though they trailed early on, Romania were able to come back in the third set and by minimising the number of unforced errors, they broke through and took their first set win. However, in the fourth set the Czechs fought back showing a very good performance even though their coach had almost entirely changed the starting six. At first it looked like Romania could complete another U-turn but this time around the hosts remained focussed and by taking the fourth set and a 3-1 victory they secured their qualification to the EuroVolley Finals.

Laurentiu Lica, team captain of Romania: “I think we could have played much better, especially as the Czech Republic played with some of their younger players. Of course they deserved to win because they showed that they can win even with their second lines. The most important game for us is tomorrow against the Former Y.R. of Macedonia and we hope we can play our best Volleyball.”

Danut Pascu, head coach of Romania: “It was a good show also because of the great atmosphere in the hall. All players fought for every ball so I am satisfied with our game. The Czech team is more experienced than us and they deserved to win today.”

Aleš Holubec, team captain of the Czech Republic: “It wasn’t an easy group and we are very happy with the victory and our qualification but tomorrow we want to win again and deliver a good show for our fans because they deserve that. We are also very happy with our team, we needed young talents like Donovan Džavoronok, because what he has been showing is truly incredible for someone who is still so amazingly young. However, it is not only about him, the whole team works just perfectly and also big thanks to our coach who brought some new things, tactics and so on.”

Miguel Angel Falasca, head coach of the Czech Republic: “We are very happy that we fulfilled our goal which was obviously to finish first in the pool. I am also proud of all players, we have some young talents which is great because they are helping a lot and they can also learn from the older members of the group. We are not finished yet, tomorrow there is another match and we want to win it as well in front of these great fans.”

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