Ankara, Turkey, January 6, 2016. The stakes were high for both Germany and Croatia as both teams needed a win to have a chance of qualifying for the semi-finals of the women’s European Olympic Qualifier being held at Baskent Hall in Ankara. Germany controlled the entire game to cruise to a quick 3-0 victory (25-16, 25-14, 25-17). In the second match of the day the Netherlands kept their dreams of a semi-final spot alive as well after downing the hosts, Turkey in straight sets 3-0 (25-14, 25-10, 25-21). With the result, Turkey are still in first position in Pool A with two wins and six points. Germany are in second position with two wins and five points and the Netherlands are third with one win and four points. On Thursday the Netherlands face Croatia, who are last with no wins or points, in a duel that can secure the Dutch team a semi-final spot if they win their last match in the pool.
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Germany vs. Croatia 3-0 (25-16, 25-14, 25-17)
In the warm up you could see the motivation from both teams. Thanks to good serves from Maren Brinker Germany took an early lead going into the first technical time-out (8-3). During the whole of first set Germany kept the upper hand, slowly extending their lead (16-7). With a strong Heike Beier and captain Margareta Kozuch leading the way, Germany finished the first set off at 25-16.
The second set started with high service pressure of Margareta Kozuch who led her team to a comfortable 7-1 advantage. The concentration in the German team was kept at a high level throughout, as they knew each point could count. Working hard in defence and keeping the pressure in attack high, Germany extended their lead to 18-10 and eventually also took the set 25-14.
Croatia started the third set much stronger with Mia Jerkov hammering down several points in a row (5-1). Croatia started playing considerably better volleyball and forced Germany into making more mistakes. Though the German girls were strong in their minds, they never gave up and climbed back to 11-11, forcing coach Miroslav Aksentijevic to ask for a time-out. With the exceptional passing of Mareen Apitz the German team took the lead into the second technical time-out (16-13), and then Heike Beier's high service pressure became too high for Croatia. The set came to a close at 25-17 for Germany.
Croatia coach Miroslav Aksentijevic: “We did not open the match as well as we should and we did not create anything in the transition. I think we fell apart in the beginning of the match and because Germany kept high pressure on us, we were unable to rise to the occasion.”
“This is not our normal level of volleyball. Now it’s my job to motivate the team for the last match against the Netherlands on Thursday.”
After a long doping check Mareen Apitz came back while the Netherlands against Turkey was on, with a small heart she said: “Sure I am happy about our win, that’s the work we had to do here today, but at this moment I am a bit disappointed if I look at the scoreboard for the game going on now. Our victory might not have helped much, so now I cross my fingers and hope Turkey still wins this game.”
Turkey vs The Netherlands 0-3 (14-25, 10-25, 21-25)
With Turkey already secure on a spot in the semi-finals, all the pressure was on the Netherlands who needed a win to keep their semi-final and Olympic hopes alive. The Dutch knew that a win would have their destiny in their own hands in the last pool match against Croatia.
The opposite situations of the teams were reflected as the action broke loose in a packed and boiling Baskent Hall. The Netherlands were off to a flying start and were ahead 16-8 at the second technical time-out due to world class reception. Turkey’s Kübra Akman and Eda Erdem Dündar had been the two best blocking players in the tournament, but Dutch setter Laura Dijkema split their otherwise waterproof blocking into atoms clearing the way for a 25-14 win.
The Dutch storm continued in the second set where the Oranjes spent as much time with their hands over the head in the block as they did celebrating a points won. It was 8-2 at the first technical timeout. Turkey managed to reduce the damage a little after a marathon rally, but the Netherlands were still on top at the second technical time-out, 16-9. Libero Debby Stam-Pilon kept sweeping the floor and she did not let any of the Turks’ attacks get in contact with the flooring. The Netherlands won the set at a canter, 25-10.
The third set looked like becoming a replay of the two previous ones. The Netherlands had the initiative and were in control from the beginning (8-2). The many home fans managed to cheer some spirit into their heroines and Turkey were not as big a shadow of themselves in the third set as in the first two, only behind 16-12 at the second technical time-out. However, they could not prevent Giovanni Guidetti’s team from winning set three as well 25-21.
The Netherlands coach Giovanni Guidetti: “We are still alive. This team can still continue to surprise me. I knew they would do their very best as this match was about win or go home.”
“I asked to see a different look in my players’ eyes today. I wanted them to jump for every point. I asked them to be crazy, because a win like this demands that you are a bit crazy in every point. The team did incredible things. To make such a result in such an arena is amazing. We want to keep playing in this tournament - that is the message we sent today.”
Turkey coach Ferhat Akbas: “We came into the match with a good rhythm having won the first two matches in the pool. You have to take tournaments like these day by day. Today, we forgot how we won the two first matches as we simply had an off day. Now we have to forget this match and start to focus on the important semi-final the day after tomorrow.”