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26/05/2017 22:58
Nine teams – plus the Netherlands – boast perfect record after day 3 of World Champs qualifications
2018 FIVB Volleyball World Championship - Men

Luxembourg, May 26, 2017. With the teams locking horns in Pool B enjoying a rest day, competition continued on Friday in another five qualifiers to the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship resulting in nine teams boasting a perfect record of three wins in as many matches. This applies to France and Germany in Pool A, Slovenia and Belgium in Pool C, Estonia and Russia in Pool D, Finland and Spain in Pool F while Serbia are slowly cementing their role of dominant force in Pool E. The winners of the six second-round qualifiers will progress straight to next year’s World Championship in Italy and Bulgaria, whereas the runners-up will have one last call with a third-round qualifier currently scheduled for mid-July.

Pool A in Lyon (FRA)

Germany vs. Iceland

As expected, Germany routed Iceland 3-0 (25-12, 25-12, 25-14) to secure their third straight victory in Lyon. Germany was much too strong for Iceland and in the first set, Philipp Collin scored as many four aces; Iceland responded with two monster blocks but too many faults from their side paved the way to a landslide 25-12 win for Germany. History repeated itself in the second set where Germany made some mistakes in the early stages (12-8) before accelerating the pace to cruise to a second 25-12 win. The third and last set was a pure formality for Germany. Head coach Andrea Giani seized the opportunity to use some of his second lines and opposite Jochen Schöps and outside hitter Ruben Schott did an excellent job, thus making up for the many service errors made by their side (seven during the third set, 13 in total). Totally drained, the young Icelandic team did not find any solutions and Germany comfortably sealed their 3-0 victory at 25-14.  

Alexander Stefansson, captain of Iceland: “We spent a lot of energy in yesterday’s game with Turkey. Something was missing in this match. However, we are enjoying our stay, we are very happy with our game and we have achieved some of our goals. Moreover, we had to play against really tough players, sometimes it’s a bit intimidating but it’s a great experience.”

Lukas Kampa, captain of Germany: “We did better today than yesterday and I am happy that everybody played a little role in this victory. With all my respect for Iceland because they tried their best, it’s difficult to get prepared for this kind of match. It’s such a big difference in the level of the opposition. The hardest part is to stay focussed, warm and not to get injured. But still on the court it’s nice to see that they are excited to play here. In a way it’s nice to have such a team in the tournament but we have different goals. Now we have some time to rest and we will need this energy for tomorrow’s match against Turkey.”

Turkey vs. France

After a close first set, France rallied past Turkey 3-0 (25-21, 25-18, 25-17) to secure their third straight victory in Lyon. 3,100 fans came together for a high-level match on Friday night. On Thursday Turkey team captain Arslan Eksi had warned that his team would find the right inspiration when playing the reigning European champions. The first set was indeed a close race with France emerging victorious only after their middle blocker Kevin Le Roux scored two aces (25-21). After a difficult start to the second set, France put on a show and even though Turkey tried to respond with their young, talented opposite Yigit Gülmezoglü, France comfortably claimed a 25-18 win. France looked solid as a rock in the third set too: young opposite Stephen Boyer drove the fans crazy with his amazing spikes and monster blocks, libero Jénia Grebennikov saved some powerful spikes with one hand and Kevin Le Roux (top scorer in the end with 10 points) hit each ball higher and harder. The audience deserved a standing ovation to Earvin Ngapeth after he joined the actions towards the end of the match – he has been out so far because of a recent injury.  

Josko Milenkoski, head coach of Turkey: “Today we tried our best but it was not enough. Before the match we knew who the favourite was. They played amazingly, especially in attack, where we could not stop them whereas we were quite close to France in all other aspects of the game. We must stay positive because it’s only our third match together.”

Laurent Tillie, head coach of France: “Turkey received very well. They were strong in the most difficult situations but we were excellent in attack. I wish I could have given more time on the court to Earvin Ngapeth but it’s difficult to know how ready he is after his injury. He needs to find his rhythm back before Sunday’s big match against Germany.”

Kevin Le Roux, middle blocker of France: “We know that with each day the level is getting higher. This starting six works pretty well. I have found back good feelings from the serving line too!”

Ukraine vs. Azerbaijan

Ukraine claimed their first victory in Lyon as they defeated Azerbaijan in three sets (25-13, 25-23, 25-20). The game was tight especially in the second set where the two teams delivered a good show for the joy of 1,100 fans in attendance.  The heavy defeat suffered by Ukraine against France the day before had left a certain taste of frustration. Against Azerbaijan, Ugis Krastins’ players were highly motivated and eventually celebrated their first victory in the tournament. Vasyl Tupchii was the top scorer of the match with 16 points. Ukraine dominated Azerbaijan in the first set (25-13) putting pressure with their service (this resulting in four aces) and a perfect performance from their leaders Vasyl Tupchii and Andrii Kutsmus. Azerbaijan did not accept such an easy loss and came back into the game in the second set. Dmitriy Obodnikov was on fire in attack (he produced five points) and outside hitter Vugar Bayramov concluded some important points but the spectacular set finally ended in the hands of Ukraine. The third set was closely contested but it became harder for Azerbaijan when, in the money time, Ukraine found two aces (they recorded 11 in the match) to celebrate a 3-0 victory (25-20).

Ugis Krastins, head coach of Ukraine: “We were calm all the way and we controlled the game from the beginning to the end. It was important to recover from the two first losses to Germany and France. Today we got back on our feet!”

Vasyl Tupchii, outside hitter of Ukraine, top scorer of the match with 16 points: “The two last sets were tight but thanks to some aces we avoided a fourth set that could have been really hard. We are really happy for this victory; the audience was perfect and I believe they enjoyed the game.”

Farid Jalalov, head coach of Azerbaijan: “We are disappointed. We failed completely in the first set, whereas the second and the third sets were within our reach but the players are physically and mentally tired. However this is not an excuse. There were good things yesterday against Germany, today against Ukraine, we could have done better.”

Pool C in Ljubljana (SLO)

The third day of the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship qualifier in Ljubljana provided the fans with a few more thrilling matches. Latvia claimed their first victory while Slovenia and Belgium didn’t allow any surprises although they both had to raise the level of their performance.

Georgia vs. Latvia

Latvia’s national team player Edvarts Buivids was satisfied with their first points in this tournament after a comprehensive 3-0 (25-9, 25-17, 25-14) victory against Georgia: “We did our best, although it was hard to concentrate with the other team not playing so well. We loosened up a bit at the beginning of the third set, but we pulled ourselves together and secured the victory,” said Buivids who top scored in the match by tallying up 16 points.

Slovenia vs. Portugal

Slovenia faced their toughest opponent so far and had to step up their game to claim another 3-0 (25-21, 25-20, 27-25) victory, this time over Portugal. “This match indicated how hard it is to play day after day and to stay focussed. I am happy that we won and even with some ups and downs in our performance we still managed to take another three points,” Tine Urnaut, Slovenia team captain and today’s top scorer (16 points) commented.

Israel vs. Belgium

Belgium delivered another solid performance for their third straight 3-0 (25-13, 25-18, 25-21) win in the tournament, this time against Israel. François Lecat, the best receiver and second best scorer (12 points, Sam Deroo piled up 14) said after the match: “Already before the tournament we knew that the toughest games would be against Portugal and Slovenia. However, we respect all our opponents. I believe we have a good team, with good players on the court and as well on the bench, so we can save some energy for the most important matches.”

Pool D in Tallinn (EST)

Romania vs. Kosovo

Kosovo men’s national team, which is taking their first steps on the international stage, can proudly say that they will not leave Tallinn empty-handed. The rookies from the Balkan country won the third set of their matchup with Romania 25-21, a historic result since this accounts for the first set Kosovo ever won in international competitions. The historic achievement came through a net touch by one of the Romanian players. Obviously the mood was good among the players from Kosovo. “Of course the set victory is very important to us. It is also good that while in the previous two matches we fell apart in the third set and lost it by wide margin, today we were more focussed,” Kosovo team captain Valon Nikqi said. Romanian team opposite Gabriel Cherbeleata said that despite the 3-1 (25-12, 25-15, 21-25, 25-15) victory, they can’t be satisfied with the outcome of the third set. “It should have been an easy game for us but we were too relaxed in the third set and made too many mistakes,” he commented.

Estonia vs. Montenegro

Despite the score being 3-0 (25-23, 27-25, 25-23) to Estonia, the match of the hosts against Montenegro was a real thriller. “We were struggling at the beginning but step by step we managed to gain confidence and play our game. On the other hand, in the third set we made a lot of stupid mistakes – both in our side-out and service – and let Montenegro come back into the game,” Estonian mentor Gheorghe Creţu said.
In the first set Montenegro led 15-11 and 23-22, in the second one 7-2 and again at 23-22, in the third one Estonia had the upper hand in the score after comfortably leading the way at 21-17. Estonian opposite Oliver Venno, who netted 19 points and was the best scorer of the match, said that key elements of the match was their good serve and block-defence. “Even if we did not get so many direct points, we had a lot of touches with our block,” he said.  
“The score could have been 3-0 to us but we could not finish the first and second sets in our favour. I feel that our team is not yet in top form. We play two, three very good rallies but then we can’t keep the same level for long. Estonia did it and this made the difference. On top of this, both Vojin Cacic and Marko Bojic have been injured recently,” Montenegro head coach Veljko Basic commented.

Hungary vs. Russia

Russia emulated Estonia to net their third straight victory in the pool when they defeated Hungary 3-0 (25-18, 25-17, 25-16). It was a fairly close game in the first set when Russia led only 20-18 but after that, the favourites netted five straight points. In the second set they run to 15-7 and in the third one to an 11-3 lead, thus easily sealing their 3-0 victory. “It is really difficult to play against Russia, especially in block-defence. We tried to push them with our serve because when their setter receives the ball close to the net, their success rate is 70 percent,” said Hungary head coach Juan Manuel Barrial. “However, I am really satisfied with our team’s attitude. It is clear that they want to improve in every situation and this is our way how to get better in the future,” he added.
Russian head coach Sergey Shlyapnikov was satisfied that he had the chance to give a lot of playing time to some of his younger players. “It is very important in the longer run because in the near future we will start the FIVB World League and we have to make sure that we have many players who can compete on a high level,” he said.

Pool E in Zagreb (CRO)

Norway vs. Denmark

Denmark claimed the ‘Scandinavian derby’ with Norway to open the programme of the third competition day in Zagreb. Norway, whose first libero Øystein Bergum suffered an injury in yesterday’s game with Belarus, decided to move Bjarne Nikolai Huus to that position. Norway kept the pace of their rivals up to the first technical time-out before Denmark broke away (12-7). Lars Fredrik Tvinde helped Norway close in at 21-23 but two more points secured the set for Denmark at 25-23. The close fight continued also in the second set where Norway this time broke away halfway through with four consecutive points to eventually level the game (25-18). Denmark fought back in the third set where they claimed an early lead and were able to hold on to it (25-16) before Norway responded setting the pace in the fourth set (8-5; 16-13). However, the ‘Vikings’ suffered a drop of concentration after the break and Denmark used this to their advantage to win the set and the match as well (25-23). Peter Trolle Bonnesen and Rune Fasteland top scored for Denmark and Norway, respectively with 22 and 15 points.

Peter Trolle Bonnesen, player of Denmark: “Matches with Norway are always special because we are neighbouring nations and we play against them with a special charge. These are important qualifications, and today’s match is a good comeback for us after yesterday’s loss in the match against Serbia.”

Rune Fasteland, player of Norway: “We played well, but in some moments we lacked quality and consistency, especially when it comes to our side-out where we lost quite a few points. The new libero played well but without the guy who got injured yesterday, we are not quite the same team.”  

Serbia vs. Switzerland

Serbia was the clear-cut favourite in the match featuring the two teams with a perfect record in the pool after two days. The Swiss players could put up a fight only in the early stages of the first set before Serbia broke away with good serving from Marko Ivović (16-6). Switzerland did not finalise their attacks even after a good pass and this resulted in a compelling 25-15 win for Serbia.
After such an easy ride, Serbia understandably suffered a drop of concentration and Switzerland used this to their advantage to claim an 8-6 lead. However, head coach Nikola Grbić was able to bring the Serbian team back to their level of play – which Switzerland could not match (25-18).
The third set was only a formality for Serbia, and their coach enjoyed this opportunity to mix the starting six and let the reserve players perform without affecting the final result (25-18). Marko Ivović and Luca Ulrich top scored in the end with 14 and seven points for Serbia and Switzerland.

Dragan Stanković, team captain of Serbia: “Yesterday we were not that good, especially from a psychological point of view. Today we played with an opponent who had two wins, so as many as we had, and we knew that we had to take this match very seriously, which is what we eventually did. There are two more matches from which we expect further victories to secure our participation in the World Championship.”

Jovan Djokić, player of Switzerland: “It was a strange feeling to play against Serbia, since my parents are from Belgrade. As a child I always wanted to play for Serbia. I do not think any team from this group can compete with them or challenge them. There are two games still remaining for us and I think we can win them. Our goal is to progress to the third round of qualifications.”

Croatia vs. Belarus

Belarus completed the programme of the third competition day in Zagreb with a 3-1 victory (25-14, 34-36, 25-16, 25-22) over hosts Croatia. In the early stages of the first set, Belarus put a lot of pressure with the serve and their defence was just outstanding; their success rate in attack stood at 94% and this resulted in a landslide 25-14 win after only 20 minutes of play. The course of the game changed in the second set where the score remained close from start to end; Artur Udrys and Ivan Raič set the pace for Belarus and Croatia, respectively and the hosts claimed a 16-13 lead, only to lose four points in a row shortly afterwards, primarily because of their own mistakes. After a very long fight, Croatia emerged victorious at 36-34. However, it looked like Croatia wasted too much energy in the second set as Belarus clearly won the third one – in an attempt to cement their chances to finish second in the tournament. Danijel Galić pushed Belarus with some strong serving in the early stages of the fourth set and even though the two teams exchanged the lead back and forth a few times, Belarus had the upper hand to take three important points from this game.
Ivan Raič, captain of Croatia and top scorer with 26 points: “We tried our best but it did not work. Due to commitments we all had towards our respective clubs, we started our preparations for this tournament very late. We are a young team and we are playing for the first time with this roster. We need time and I believe that we will achieve some good results in future.”
Siarhei Busel, captain of Belarus: “Today our service and defence worked well. However, we made too many unforced mistakes in the second set. Our block was not so good, but when we managed to stop Ivan Raič, we got control over the match.”

Pool F in Karlovy Vary (CZE)

Sweden vs. Finland

The third day of the World Championship qualifier in Karlovy started with a Nordic derby featuring Finland and Sweden. It soon became obvious which team was going to dominate and impose their rule. The heavy pre-favourites from Finland rallied to a compelling 3-0 (25-14, 25-19, 25-21) victory, thus making another step forward towards qualifying to the World Championship. “It was a typical game for us because our style is based on good defence and we are trying to fight for every ball. It was a good game for us,” Finnish superstar Olli-Pekka Ojansivu said.

Northern Ireland vs. Cyprus

The battle of the two weakest teams in the pool produced a clear victory for Cyprus over Northern Ireland (3-0; 25-20, 25-16, 25-22). The tournament in Karlovy Vary is an interesting experience for both teams as the captain of Northern Ireland Alan McKnight claimed: “We can take a lot from it. It’s fantastic experience.” The Cyprus side is hoping for one more success at this competition. “We are happy for this win. We have two more games and we will do our best to win them too,” player Ioannis Kontos said.

Spain vs. Czech Republic

Czech captain Ales Holubec and his teammates played Spain in the last match of the day. The game was a close fight from the very beginning and even though the Czechs were probably the favourites going into this match, the visitors deservedly won 3-2 (25-22, 20-25, 22-25, 25-21, 15-10). “We are extremely happy for this win. I think we deserved it because we did not give it up after losing the third set and we fought till the end. It was a great fight,” Spanish captain Jorge Fernandez Valcarcel said. This loss makes things a lot more challenging for the Czech Republic, who now have to win two matches out of two if they want to make it to the World Championship.

Click here for more info including detailed stats of the matches

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