Bulgaria cruise to epic victory over France in U21 World Champs qualifier
2017 FIVB U21 Men Volleyball World Championship - European Qualification
Luxembourg, January 6, 2017. As many as four first-round European qualifiers to the 2017 FIVB Men’s U21 Volleyball World Championship are taking place this weekend across as many venues. Bulgaria started proceedings in Sofia with an epic 3-2 victory over France to make it a step forward in their quest for a spot in the next stage of the competition. The first placed teams of each pool plus the two second-placed teams with the best score will progress to the second round of qualifications scheduled for May 2017. Since two of the first-round pools – A and D – consist of three teams only, the second best placed teams will be determined after discarding the results of the matches with the team finishing last in each one of the pools of four.
Pool A in Frankfurt (GER)
Germany vs. Estonia 3-0 (25-23, 25-17, 25-16)
Germany celebrated a perfect start to their home qualifier as they beat Estonia in straight sets. It was still a close race at the beginning. The German players produced an outstanding start and cruised to an 8-2 lead at the first technical time-out, but Estonia fought bravely back to draw level. The difference in the end was made by German middle blocker Tobias Krick who was the best scorer with 17 points (including seven blocks) and an almost unreal attack success rate of 83% (10/12). His spikes finished the opening set at 25-23 and set the tone for what was going to follow in the remainder of the match.
The spectators in attendance witnessed an easy victory for the German Team in the second (25-17) and third (25-16) sets, while Estonia never found a way to solve their problems in attack and reception.
Oliver Lüütsepp, Estonia coach: “Germany have a very good team, but we had our chance to win at least one set. My team can play better and we have to improve our attack.”
Johan Verstappen, Germany coach: “This game was a must-win for us. We had a good start, but we made too many mistakes after that. I think my players took it too easy and lost their concentration. It was much better in the second and third sets and we demonstrated our quality by playing with a well working block-defence system.”
Pool B in Kastel Stari (CRO)
Belgium vs. Croatia 3-0 (25-15, 25-20, 25-20)
Croatia were not able to capitalise on the home-court advantage in the first match they contested on Friday in Kastel Stari. Belgium came out with all guns blazing in each of the three sets they played, claiming each time an early lead they were able to hold on to, thus cruising to a speedy 3-0 victory. Croatia coach Marin Ivanić commented: “Our lack of discipline in defence cost us this match. We will now analyse this game as carefully as possible and prepare for the next one.”
Turkey vs. Latvia 0-3 (20-25, 22-25, 22-25)
The national teams of Latvia and Turkey provided the audience in attendance at Gradska Dvorana with a nice display of fine Volleyball skills. There were many long rallies and both teams looked equally determined and motivated to cruise to their first win in the competition, but Latvia eventually emerged victorious by three sets to none.
Pool C in Viana do Castelo (POR)
The Netherlands vs. Serbia 0-3 (12-25, 22-25, 19-25)
Serbia opened the tournament in Viana do Castelo with an impressive performance, beating the Netherlands in three sets to confirm their status as the pre-favourite team in the pool. The two teams studied each other for a while in the opening set, before Serbia claimed a lead that they kept on extending with their effective attacks and blocks for a landslide 25-12 win. The Netherlands showed much more determination in the following set, leading the way almost from start to end, before Serbia improved their defence and reception, ultimately sealing their second set victory at 25-22. Serbia seemed to have received an extra boost of confidence from this successful comeback and as a result played even more aggressively in set 3 which they ultimately won by 25-19. David Mehić top scored for Serbia with 15 points as Ivar de Waard paced the Oranjes with 12 in their losing effort.
Vladimir Vasovic, Serbia coach: “It is a very important victory especially since this comes from the first match of the tournament. We played really good against the Netherlands and we will now immediately start preparing for tomorrow’s match with Austria. It will be a new day and a new match.”
Portugal vs. Austria 3-1 (25-19, 25-21, 23-25, 25-13)
Portugal opened their home campaign in Viana do Castelo with a 3-1 victory over Austria. The hosts caught a very promising start to the match as they claimed a comfortable lead to the delight of the large audience in attendance. Austria tried to cut their deficit down but Portugal’s blocks and attacks were good enough to finish the opening set at 25-19. Portugal started the second set at a slower pace but returned to be unstoppable towards the end, thus doubling their lead in the match (25-21). After trailing in the early stages, Portugal came back strong in set 3 but in the end Austria scored three straight points to go for a 25-23 win and stay alive in the match. Portugal dominated the fourth set, easily cruising to a compelling 20-9 lead before three aces by Lourenço Martins finished the match off at 25-13.
Martins top scored for Portugal with 24 points as Bruno Cunha added 22 to the tally of the home team. Edin Ibrahimovic paced Austria in their losing effort with 20.
Bruno Cunha, Portugal team captain: “It is a good result, which we claimed playing a difficult opponent. We hope to win against the Netherlands tomorrow to provide this great audience with one more reason to be happy with.”
Hugo Silva, Portugal coach: “We have a young team with four players from the youth division and sometimes these seem to have problems with coping with the pressure. The matches against Serbia, the best team in the pool, and the Netherlands will be very difficult. Because Serbia served really good, the Netherlands were not able to show their best game earlier today in the first match of the tournament.”
Pool D in Sofia (BUL)
France vs. Bulgaria 2-3 (21-25, 25-20, 26-24, 19-25, 12-15)
Bulgaria started their home campaign at Hristo Botev hall in Sofia with a 3-2 victory (25-21, 20-25, 24-26, 25-19, 15-12) over France, arguably their closest and most dangerous competitor in the pool.
After a close start, Bulgaria claimed a three-point advantage at the second technical time-out of the opening set (16-13) before they extended their lead even further (19-14) and quite comfortably secured a 25-21 win. France stepped up their efforts in the second set and helped by some Bulgarian mistakes they did lead almost from start to end to wrap it up at 25-20 with a spike by their middle blocker Mathieu Manusauaki.
Remi Bassereau put some pressure on Bulgaria’s receivers with his serves in the early stages of set 3 and as a result, France cruised to a compelling 11-3 lead. After this poor start to the set, the hosts started playing better and better closing in at 18-19. Three powerful attacks and one block by Bulgaria team captain Plamen Shekerdzhiev made it 24-all but France closed the set in their favour with a spike by Barthelemy Chinenyeze and an ace by Bassereau.
The course of the game changed completely in the fourth set where Shekerdzhiev and Tsvetelin Tsvetanov contributed to a 9-3 Bulgarian advantage; the ‘Young Lions’ coached by Nikolay Jeliazkov continued to play extremely good, especially in defence, thus creating many opportunities to score (25-19).
The tie-break turned into an epic battle with Bulgaria leading 8-7 at the side switch. Chinenyeze delivered an amazing defence action as the game resumed but he ended up injuring himself, dislocating his ankle. He left the court and yet France scored three times in a row. Bulgaria’s middle blockers Aleks Grozdanov and Gordan Lyutskanov restored equality at 10-all before an amazing single block by Iliyan Prespov made it 13-11 for the home side. The battle continued until Lyutskanov scored once more for 15-12 to spark the celebrations in the Bulgarian camp.
Aleks Grozdanov, middle blocker of Team Bulgaria: “It was a good match against a really strong team. Maybe in the end we won also thanks to the support of the great fans in attendance. Some five months ago we played France in Plovdiv at the European Championship and we did win that match in five sets too. I’m happy with the result and now we must prepare for our second matchup with Denmark. We will try to win that one as well and to finish first in the pool.”
Nikolay Jeliazkov, head coach of Bulgaria: “Our main goal is to finish first in the pool, so I’m satisfied and happy with this victory. The guys showed great spirit and beat one very strong opponent. Denmark is not an easy opponent for us. They have good players but tomorrow we will have the opportunity to watch their match against France and to get some extra information. The second place in the pool is not an option for us, because if we finish second, in the second round of qualifications we will go to play against the reigning European and World champions Poland. This will be like some kind of “Mission Impossible 5”, so we want the first place and we must defeat Denmark to get there.”
Jocelyn Trillon, head coach of France: “Since five months we keep losing 2-3. It’s disappointing because we led 2-1 but we made some unforced errors in the end. My team had too many ups and downs during the whole match. We didn’t manage to play at the same level from start to end, so that was the key. Now we should rest and defeat Denmark. We don’t have a lot of information about them, but surely it will be tough.”
Thibaut Thoral, player of France: “We were in a good position but unfortunately we didn’t manage to win. In the tie-break our captain got injured and it was really hard because he is a good player and maybe he would have helped us in some key moments. Now we should try and defeat Denmark to finish at least second in the pool.”
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