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25/05/2017 23:04
‘Lange Mannen’ record third straight victory, all favourites win as Swiss sensation continues
2018 FIVB Volleyball World Championship - Men

Luxembourg, May 25, 2017. The Netherlands are in full swing – the ‘Lange Mannen’ have set their sights on qualification to the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship after celebrating their third straight victory on home soil in Koog aan de Zaan and will be trying to achieve their goal on Saturday and Sunday in Apeldoorn where the competition in Pool B will resume after a rest day. Elsewhere, top favourites France and Germany (Pool A), Belgium and Slovenia (Pool C), Russia and Estonia (Pool D), as well as Finland and Czech Republic (Pool F) boast a record of two wins in as many matches. Serbia have won two matches too in Pool E, where Switzerland are becoming the real sensation of the World Championship qualifiers after beating Denmark on Wednesday and hosts Croatia on Thursday.

Pool A in Lyon (FRA)

Azerbaijan vs. Germany

Germany claimed their second consecutive victory in Lyon as they rallied past Azerbaijan 3-0 (29-27, 25-18, 25-18). The audience appreciated the close fight which unfolded during the first set and the head coach of Germany, Andrea Giani seized the opportunity to try his second starting six. Even though Germany set the pace for most of the first set, the money time was more closely fought. Azerbaijan found more strength and managed to challenge Andrea Giani’s men with powerful spikes from their two outside hitters Vugar Bayramov and Rasul Ibragimov. Middle blocker Dmitriy Obodnikov (five points) did shine too but the Germans finally emerged victorious with Christian Fromm scoring the two last decisive points of the first set (29-27). On the German side, the starting six and players from the bench switched positions during the second set. The new group consisting of young players did it right: they looked focused, they showed their skills and produced two 25-18 wins to seal a 3-0 victory.

Farid Jalalov, head coach of Azerbaijan: “Our team is somehow still under construction. We came straight from the Islamic Solidarity Games, where we played the final with Iran and won the silver medal. Today we played our seventeenth game in one month. The players are quite tired and three of our top ones are absent here.”

Dmitriy Obodnikov, middle blocker of Azerbaijan: “We found the right solutions at the end of the first set but we are still a new team, and we need to learn how to play together. We are learning from every match.”

György Grozer, opposite of Germany: “It was a bit difficult to move after the power training we did this morning, but we need to work also mentally to shorten the moments where we lack focus. Our goal is to win this tournament. Andrea Giani is a really good surprise for me because it’s fantastic to work with him. He totally understands us. He was an incredible player and he did not forget that. He is a precious help for the young guys who played the two last sets of this match against Azerbaijan.”

Andrea Giani, head coach of Germany: “Today’s situation was interesting because even though we played fearing we could lose the first set, at the end we won it, so this is a good thing. It was important to give to all the members of the team the opportunity to feel the rhythm of the game. The starting six will always need the other guys to be ready to play.”

Iceland vs. Turkey

Iceland put up a fight and won the hearts of the French fans even though they ended up losing 3-0 to Turkey (25-18, 25-23, 25-17). After their harsh defeat to the reigning European champions from France the night before, the young players of Iceland found back some confidence for their second match in the competition. About 40 Icelandic supporters all dressed in blue and waving their flags, were in attendance as well. Iceland showed no hesitation in trying to pose a threat to Turkey even though their opponents quite easily won the first set (25-18). The second set was a dreamy one for the young players of Iceland but the last points left them with a certain taste of frustration. With eight monster blocks in only one set (13 in total), Iceland caused a lot of problems to Turkey. The set was really tight and Iceland were mostly leading the game, but Gökhan Gökgöz, top scorer of the match with 15 points, was the ‘executioner’ when he scored a winning pipe and offered a set point to his team just before the set ended with a fault from Iceland (25-23). After this, Turkey got back control of the game and easily triumphed in the third set as well (25-17).  

Josko Milenkoski, head coach of Turkey: “Iceland played pretty well and we did not. We tried four new players and it was a mess. The motivation was not high enough today. But still we take these three more points which are always important.”

Arslan Eksi, captain of Turkey: “We did not start well because we watched France vs. Iceland on TV yesterday evening and did not expect such a level from our opponent today. We were too relaxed, pretending it would be an easy game. One thing is for sure: we have to change everything tomorrow if we want to compete well against the reigning European champions.”

Rogerio Ponticelli, coach of Iceland: “We could have done something more during the second set. We excelled at blocking but it was a bit thanks to the Turkish hitters who tried to smash too deep. However, my players had great moments today and showed their value much more than they had done yesterday with France.”

Stefan Gunnar Thorsteinsson, libero of Iceland: “We had plans before the match but they changed the whole team so we didn’t know that much about these players. The challenge was to take at least one set, and we were not far from fulfilling it in the second set. It’s good to see our supporters here and even some French fans were cheering for us, it’s fantastic.”

France vs. Ukraine

France outclassed Ukraine with a compelling 3-0 victory (25-20, 25-8, 25-15). The 3,700 fans in attendance witnessed a very close first set with the two teams fighting for every rally but France seized the lead in the last part coming back from 17-19 to 25-20. The French trio comprising of Thibault Rossard (13 points), Julien Lyneel (10) and Trevor Clévenot (11) was impressive. On the other side of the net, Andrii Kutsmus was highly motivated and on fire during the first set but he could not keep that same level for the remainder of the match. Laurent Tillie’s men dominated the second round with middle blocker Kevin Le Roux standing out as a real master at the net (six points including four blocks). Ukraine suffered a lot in reception whereas France looked solid as a rock (73% of good reception). The hosts also scored three aces in each set and made only one direct fault during the second set, this resulting in a massive 25-8 score. Ukraine scored a bit more during the third and last set but carried by a raucous audience, the French did not slow down and comfortably claimed their second victory (25-15) in Lyon. 

Laurent Tillie, head coach of France: “In the first set Ukraine played really well, so we decided to target Andrii Kutsmus who was the leader of the team at that time. It worked and the whole team started to sink with him. We are satisfied with tonight’s performance. Our serve was strong, and the block as well. The atmosphere was incredible thanks to the crowd and the speaker, it was more than a Volleyball match, it was a show.”

Julien Lyneel, outside hitter of France: “Wow! The audience was amazing. The atmosphere was incredible. But Turkey is at a bit higher level, so it will be important to rest tonight and stay in a good shape for tomorrow.”

Ugis Krastins, head coach of Ukraine: “France came out with an amazing service tonight. To handle this service was our biggest problem. I am proud of the team since we came back in the third set, there were good rallies but the result is as it is…”

Andrii Kutsmus, outside hitter of Ukraine: “We can say that during the first set we were really performing at a high level, but the French were really strong in reception and attack. They are the reigning European champions and we could feel it during the second and the third sets. Today we could not handle their level but for sure we had a great experience.”
Pool B in Koog aan de Zaan (NED)

Luxembourg vs. Austria

The tournament in The Netherlands is being played in two cities. Koog aan de Zaan hosted the first three competition days, and after one rest day Apeldoorn will welcome the last two rounds in the pool. On the last day in Koog aan de Zaan, Austria booked a 3-0 victory over Luxembourg (26-24, 25-23, 25-20). Opposite Paul Buchegger claimed the top scorer’s honours with 17 points. Coach Michael Warm said after the match: “We took seven points from three matches and we are very happy with that. We are still in the race and Saturday we can play freely against The Netherlands, the favourite team in my opinion.”

Republic of Moldova vs. Slovakia

In the second match on Ascension Day, Slovakia was too strong for the Republic of Moldova (3-0; 25-9, 33-31, 25-23). By winning their second match in a row, Slovakia kept their chances for a World Championship ticket alive. Matej Patak was the big man for the Slovakians, scoring 16 points. “The Republic of Moldova gave all their best today, in contrast to yesterday against the Netherlands,” explained Miroslav Palgut, the Slovakian coach. “Thanks to good serving and blocking we managed to win this game. The match against Greece on Saturday will be very important for us, we have to win it.”

Greece vs. The Netherlands

In the fully packed Topsportcentrum in Koog aan de Zaan the home team of The Netherlands came out with all guns blazing against Greece, winning the first set at a canter (25-13). The second set was the decisive one in this match. Greece missed as many as eight set points in a row, and after that the Dutch took the lead for the first time in the set: 31-30. Right after this, the great substitute Robin Overbeeke finished it all off (32-30) before the ‘Lange Mannen’ stormed to a compelling 25-16 win in the third set. “This was an absolute team victory,” said head coach Gido Vermeulen. “Thanks to the fighting spirit of Wessel Keemink and Robin Overbeeke we won the second set. Now will we prepare for another final, i.e. the match with Austria coming up on Saturday.”

Pool C in Ljubljana (SLO)

On the second day of the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship qualifier in Ljubljana Belgium and Slovenia extended their winning streak and both claimed a second 3-0 victory. Portugal was also successful, but the Israeli team proved to be a tough opponent for them.

Belgium vs. Georgia

Belgium’s Red Dragons needed less than an hour to secure a 3-0 (25-18, 25-11, 25-10) victory against Georgia. “Georgia fought hard, and they tried to be a decent opponent, but the difference in quality is too big. I am always happy after games like this one. We won, all players are healthy and we can focus on what is next,” Belgium head coach Vital Heynen commented.

Latvia vs. Slovenia

In the second match of the day, the hosts from Slovenia emulated Belgium and outplayed the team of Latvia with a clear 3-0 (25-14, 25-14, 25-19) win. “In the first two sets we stuck to the tactics we had agreed upon, but later on our opponents raised the level of their game and kept the rhythm high. However, already in the middle of the third set, we took matters in our hands again and eventually claimed the victory,” Alen Pajenk, Slovenia’s middle blocker who was unstoppable in attack scoring six times out of seven attempts, said after the second win for his team.

Portugal vs. Israel

After scoring as many as 25 points, Portugal’s Valdir Sequeira was happy with the 3-1 win (25-19, 25-21, 24-26, 25-12) over Israel in the last game of the day, but he admitted there is still much room for improvement: “It was quite a strange game. We won two sets quite easily, but we relaxed too much in the third. We had a 10-point advantage, but we still lost and that is what we can’t afford in future. We have to keep going, to keep fighting. We can give and deliver much more than this.”

Pool D in Tallinn (EST)

Russia vs. Romania

Russia delivered an impressive performance in the opening match of the day in Tallinn, this resulting in a comprehensive 3-0 victory (25-18, 25-20, 25-21) over Romania. “Romania played really well, especially with their serve. We had to deal with it and I think we were able to do so quite okay. Taking everything into account, I am very satisfied with today’s result,” Russia head coach Sergey Shlyapnikov said. His Romanian counterpart Danut Pascu commented: “Russia were the favourites and we expected this kind of result. Despite this, it was a good game for us. It was close for most of the time and we lost mainly at the end of each set because Russia has very good and more experienced players. After losing to Estonia and Russia, we now will try to use the next matches to take as much experience as possible.”

Kosovo vs. Estonia

Estonia head coach Gheorghe Creţu changed the entire starting six for the second match of the tournament on home soil. The second lines were up to the task and stormed to an easy 3-0 (25-13, 25-15, 25-7) victory over rookies Kosovo. Middle blocker Timo Tammemaa scored 16 points, including four blocks, for an impressive 92% success rate. Renee Teppan contributed to this victory with 10 points. “We did not start in the best way when it comes to our concentration and focus but as the match progressed it became evident that our quality was just far better than Kosovo’s,” Estonia team setter Andres Toobal said. Valon Nikqi – captain of Kosovo – said that today’s game was very similar compared to yesterday’s matchup with Hungary. “We played better in the first two sets and in the third one our game totally fell apart,” Nikqi said.

Montenegro vs. Hungary

Montenegro and Hungary delivered a Volleyball marathon lasting for more than two hours with Montenegro eventually having the upper hand 3-2 (23-25, 25-13, 25-23, 26-28, 15-10). “We gave away the first set because of our own mistakes and that made the game much tougher for us but the most important thing is the victory we can celebrate now. This is important for our team spirit and also because we are still in the race when it comes to qualification to the World Championship,” Montenegro head coach Veljko Basic stated. In the fifth set the eventual winners had a rough start too. Hungary sprinted to a 5-1 lead but Milos Culafic had a superb service series. The opposite hit two aces and pulled Montenegro to a 7-5 lead. After that, Montenegro never trailed again. Culafic ended the game with 28 points – 11 (!) of these were aces. Hungary’s opposite Krisztian Padar answered with 25 points. Although they lost the match head coach Juan Manuel Barrial said this game was a big step forward for Hungarian Volleyball. “It is a good result because we gained a lot of confidence and now we just have to believe in ourselves and to the fact that it is possible for us to play against every team,” he said.

Pool E in Zagreb (CRO)

Denmark vs. Serbia

Serbia had to work hard to record their second 3-0 victory in Zagreb as Denmark put up a real fight (3-0; 25-23, 34-32, 25-19). The start of the match seemed to indicate an easy mission to accomplish for Serbia. However, after the initial nervousness, Denmark responded with Peter Trolle Bonnesen (15 points in the end) and Rasmus Breuning Nielsen (15 points) to take the lead at the second technical time-out of the first set (16-15). Serbia fought back flipping the charts around (20-17) but Denmark closed in at 23-24, before a service mistake from Philip Metin Özari sealed a 25-23 win for the players coached by Nikola Grbic.

Trolle Bonnesen helped Denmark rally to a 5-1 early lead in the second set and even though Serbia stormed back, the Danes were able to keep a margin of three to four points for most of the set. A pair of poorly played balls in attack by Denmark and good serving from Srečko Lisinac helped Serbia edge ahead at 21-18. Denmark fought back again and the two teams traded points for quite some time until the pre-favourites from Serbia claimed a hard-fought 34-32 victory.
Despite the unfortunate loss of the second set, the Danish team continued to play on a high level. On the other hand, Nikola Grbic mixed his starting six with a few second lines and this proved a good move as Serbia rallied to a 25-19 win to claim their second 3-0 victory in the tournament, with Aleksandar Atanasijević (14 points) and Nemanja Petrić (12 points) top scoring in the end for the Balkan team.
Srećko Lisinac, player of Serbia: “It is hard to play against a team that is worse than you and you do not have much information about. When a match is at such a level that an opponent has nothing to lose and plays hard in an attack without any fear of making mistakes, a small drop in concentration can tilt the set in the other direction. If we play like we did today, then everyone can disrupt our plans in this tournament. We cannot make too many mistakes in a row as we did. We came here to play the best we can and qualify for the World Championship.”  
Rasmus Breuning Nielsen, player of Denmark: “I am very happy with our performance today. We managed to come back after yesterday’s heavy defeat in the first match of the tournament. Serbia is a strong team and we were able to put up a fight. I believe that in the next three days we will win one or the other match if we play at that same level.”

Belarus vs. Norway

After some ups and downs, Belarus stormed to a 3-1 victory (25-19, 25-20, 20-25, 25-22) over Norway to improve their win-loss record in the tournament to 1-1. The first set was some kind of a routine for Belarus (25-19) but Artur Udrys and Pavel Kuklinski (top scorers in the end with 20 and 18 points, respectively) could not keep that same level in the second; Norway edged ahead but suffered a big blow with the injury of their libero Øystein Bergum by the score of 17-16. This disrupted their game and Belarus comfortably won the second set 25-20. Norway claimed a small advantage (16-14) at the second technical time-out of the third set before Belarus levelled the count at 16-all. The Scandinavians showed good defence but Belarus looked very motivated to not let the game slip from their hands and eventually doubled their lead in the match. Even though they put up a fight almost from start to end, especially with Vetle Hylland (16 points) and Mathias Loftesnes (14 points), Norway lost concentration towards the end of the fourth set – and Belarus eventually took three points from the match.

Vetle Hylland, player of Norway: “After the injury of our libero, it was difficult to continue the game because we have been preparing for this tournament only with him playing on that position. The second libero is most of all a defence player. Our middle blockers and opposite player therefore had to play a role in reception as well and I think they did quite well.”

Artur Udrys, player of Belarus: “We did not see all the teams, but I believe we can compete for the second place in this tournament. I am happy with our game, but we still lack the right chemistry on the court. We play better with each match and I believe that by the end of the tournament we will show our true level.”

Switzerland vs. Croatia

Switzerland are slowly becoming the real sensation of Pool E – after beating Denmark on Wednesday, they did it again, this time edging hosts Croatia 3-1 (26-28, 25-20, 25-18, 25-23). After the score remained close through to 11-all in the first set, Switzerland broke away (16-13) before Croatia closed in again. The home team’s mentor Ivan Rančić decided to replace Sandro Dukić with Ante Giljanović, and this helped Croatia flip the charts around. Leo Andrić set the pace for Croatia at this stage and a close fight continued until the home side had the upper hand at 28-26. Three mistakes by Croatia helped Switzerland claim a small lead in the second set and even though their coach made a number of changes, Croatia could never find back their rhythm. History repeated itself in the third set where Sébastien Steigmeier (top scorer with 23 points in the end) helped the visitors claim an early lead which they held on to until the end. Young setter Petar Višić delivered a good performance for Croatia in the early stages of the fourth set but Switzerland came back strong and eventually won the match 3-1.

Leo Andrić, player of Croatia: “We expected strong resistance. I know most of the players from the Swiss league so I knew they would fight. Yesterday they beat Denmark and that gave them a lot of confidence going into today’s match. Unfortunately, we were not good today, and even though we gave our best, this was not enough to win.”

Sébastien Steigmeier, player of Switzerland: “We did not expect to win, but we really wanted it and we showed it with our game. It was good that we did not give up after losing the first set and we came back strong, eventually taking three points from this game. I am especially happy for our staff, as they have been working really hard with us.”

Pool F in Karlovy Vary (CZE)

Finland vs. Northern Ireland

Finland opened the programme of the second competition day in Karlovy Vary with an easy 3-0 victory (25-8, 25-8, 25-9) over Northern Ireland to take the leadership in the pool. Niklas Seppänen, who top scored 14 points for Finland, commented: “The result is what we hoped for. You could see the difference between these two sides, and that we are the stronger team. So, I am happy we achieved our goal without any problems.” The atmosphere was great with many supporters from Finland in attendance. “The Finnish fans here are great. It feels like we are playing at home all the time. So, it’s a good start to this tournament,” the Finnish spiker said.

Czech Republic vs. Sweden

The Swedish team lost only at the tiebreak to Spain on Wednesday night and they wanted to cause some troubles also to the hosts. The team of the Czech Republic opened the tournament with a clear victory over Northern Ireland and the Czechs repeated that same performance also in their matchup with Sweden (25-19, 25-16, 25-20). Michal Finger, the Czech player who will be playing in Italy next season for GI Group MONZA, was satisfied with his team’s performance: “We wanted to play our Volleyball based on good serving combined with perfect defence and I think we were good at it but it could have been even better.”

Cyprus vs. Spain

In the last match of the day in Pool F, Spain beat Cyprus 3-0 (25-17, 25-14, 25-22). There was no surprise and the Spaniards gave no chance to their opponents. After yesterday’s dramatic battle with Sweden, the Spanish team didn’t lose a set so they could save up some energy. Their player Francisco José Ruiz commented the success: “For us it was an opportunity to improve the quality of our game because we know we are not on top level, so we tried to fix a few things.”

Click here for more info including detailed stats of the match

News nr. 12 of 25
26/05/2017 22:58:00
Nine teams – plus the Netherlands – boast perfect record after day 3 of World Champs qualifications
24/05/2017 23:21:00
Volleyball powers start quest for ticket to World Champs with compelling wins

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