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16/10/2015 22:02
Italy’s captain Simone Buti says underdogs Slovenia are hard nut to crack
2015 CEV Volleyball European Championship - Men

Sofia, Bulgaria, October 16, 2015. The first semi-final match of the 2015 men’s EuroVolley coming up on Saturday at Arena Armeec in Sofia is somehow special in its own. 2013 silver medallists Italy will be playing Slovenia, the real sensation of the tournament that in the quarterfinals recorded a dramatic tie-break victory over reigning world champions Poland. On top of this, Slovenia’s players are currently performing under the guidance of Italian Volleyball legend Andrea Giani who – up to last year’s World Championship – was a member of the Italian team’s coaching staff.

As for Italy, the Azzurri had a disappointing campaign at last year’s World Champs in Poland and earlier this summer did not make the very last stages of the World League after four of their players were sent back home on the eve of the Finals in Rio de Janeiro by former coach Mauro Berruto. However, they regrouped after Gian Lorenzo Blengini was put at the helm of the team and only a couple of weeks ago they secured their qualification to the 2016 Rio Olympics by finishing second at the World Cup in Japan.

Italy suffered a setback last Sunday in Turin where they did not capitalise on a 2:0 lead in their final match of the pool phase with France, eventually losing at the tie-break to ‘Les Bleus’. However, they clawed back vigorously recording two straight-set wins in the playoff and in the quarterfinal matches with Finland and Russia to make the final weekend of the 2015 men’s EuroVolley.

As for Slovenia, the gold medallists from this year’s European League – where they swept 12 matches in a row – finished only third in pool C in Varna but first beat The Netherlands 3:0 in the playoffs before upsetting world champions Poland in the quarterfinals to achieve their best ever result at the European Championship since the country’s independence in 1991.

“Slovenia is a team with many good players who have been performing in the Italian national league for a number of years already and we know them well,” says Italy’s coach Blengini. “However, next to their individual skills they have also developed a good team work. They serve extremely well, but they have many other strengths as well. They have been prepared very well for this competition and they did not beat Poland just by chance.”

The eventual winners of this match will vie for gold on Sunday against hosts Bulgaria or France.

Italy’s team captain Simone Buti is quite relaxed, even on the eve of this much anticipated semi-final. “We are happy with being here. To win against Russia as we did on Wednesday night is not something we could easily predict. We are aware that a tough semi-final is awaiting us. Slovenia have shown that they are a great team by beating Poland and it won’t be that easy for us to edge them. We need another classy performance in order to achieve this goal,” he continues.

So far Italy always got back on track and they did so also at the World Cup in Japan after losing to USA. “We play every match as if it was the last one, some kind of a final and this does not surprise anyone because at this stage of the competition every match is like a final,” Buti continues. “We have to enter the match completely focussed and push hard right from the start. Of course the outcome of the match depends also on your opponent; if they play at your same level, things get more complicated, whilst the mission becomes easier if you can impose your pace. We need to show that same attitude we had with Russia, playing for every ball because this is something that can eventually affect and demoralise our opponent.”

How does it feel to play a team which is mentored by a real legend of the sport? “Giani is a legend for all those who have been following Volleyball, including myself,” Buti stresses. “They have a good team with some very good players, including those who have been performing in our national league. It won’t be easy even though people may think differently because Slovenia never quite made it to this level before. They maybe don’t have the resume of Poland or Russia, but they are a tough team and they will pressure us for sure. We have to come out with all guns blazing, knowing that we have a difficult match ahead. As far as I am concerned, I am very motivated and determined to make the big final. This is the goal we all share: we want to be in the final and fight for the gold medal up to the last ball.”

Italy have won gold at the men’s EuroVolley six times, first in 1989 and then in 1993, 1995, 1999, 2003 and 2005. They also have four silver medals and one bronze on their resume. Back two years ago the Azzurri settled for silver after losing the final match to Russia in Copenhagen.  

For more information on the 2015 CEV Volleyball European Championship - Men visit eurovolley2015.net or click here. In social media, please use the competition’s official hashtag #EuroVolleyM.

News nr. 6 of 179
17/10/2015 19:16:00
Slovenia does it again! Italy is beaten, Giani’s boys go for European gold!
16/10/2015 21:22:00
Bulgaria’s home hero Vlado Nikolov continues dreaming…

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