Four teams stay unbeaten in Men’s U21 World Champs qualifiers
2017 FIVB U21 Men Volleyball World Championship - European Qualification
Luxembourg, January 7, 2017. The first round of European qualifications to the 2017 FIVB Men’s U21 Volleyball World Championship continued on Saturday with Belgium and Latvia keeping their immaculate record in Pool B as Estonia claimed a tie-break win over Romania in Pool A. Serbia fought for five sets against Austria before securing their second victory in Pool C as did Portugal in their matchup with the Netherlands. France did the same to edge Denmark in Pool D and remain in contention for second place in their group.
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)
Estonia vs. Romania 3-2 (25-17, 25-20, 15-25, 20-25, 15-13)
There will be a real final on Sunday in Frankfurt when hosts Germany play Romania. Romania lost to Estonia in five sets after a very bad start but still have a chance to qualify. The Estonian team bid farewell to the competition with a rather surprising victory. Best scorers were Dmitri Korotkov from Estonia and Adrian Aciobanitei from Romania with 20 and 23 points, respectively.
In the first set the Estonian players with the formidable setter Robert Viiber produced an outstanding start and cruised to 8-3 and 16-6 leads at the technical time-outs. In the second set the Romanians played better but the Estonians stayed strong in service and block. With three consecutive blocks in the middle of the set, the Baltic team practically determined its outcome. By taking more risks with their serve and showing a better blocking game the team from head coach Bogdan Tanase came back and won the third set. The Estonians lost control also in the fourth set when they produced more mistakes than their opponents. Romanian captain Adrian Aciobanitei pushed his team with some impressive attacks. The fifth set was very close, and Dmitri Korotkov cashed the third match point for his team after Estonia kept fighting for each and every ball.
Adrian Aciobanitei, Romania captain: “We made too many mistakes and didn’t believe in us. From the beginning of the third set we played better, in the fifth set we didn’t have much luck. We still have a chance to qualify, we must show tomorrow that we are a real team.”
Oliver Lüütsepp, Estonia coach: “In the first two sets we showed a good game. I think the Romanian team was not ready for us. After that, we lost our concentration and made a lot of mistakes. In the fifth set we fought for every ball; it was a good result for the last match played by this team in this age group.”
Pool B in Kastel Stari (CRO)
Croatia vs. Latvia 0-3 (15-25, 24-26, 12-25)
Latvia cruised to their second straight 3-0 victory in Kastel Stari as they outplayed hosts Croatia in almost every aspect of the game and there was no real chance for Croatia to win at least one set, let alone the match, even though the second one was a very close affair. Croatia paid a high price for their bad start to each of the three sets they contested. Croatia coach Marin Ivanić said: “I really have some regrets about the second set and the outcome of the match could have been different if we had won that one.” Latvia mentor Boriss Kolcins said: “I believe that this victory is the result of our better preparation for this tournament and match.”
Belgium vs. Turkey 3-0 (25-23, 25-18, 25-20)
The young Red Dragons fought for every single point even when leading by as many as six and with this attitude they cruised to a compelling 3-0 victory over Turkey. Belgium showed a rock-solid block and reception and even though the Turks did never give up, they could not find a solution to stand the quality of their opponent’s game. As a result, the match ended in a 3-0 win for Belgium. Kris Eyckmans, Belgium coach: “We knew this match was going to be a tough one and we had prepared accordingly. Our tactical plan proved to be the right one. We also knew that this match was going to be an important one.”
Pool C in Viana do Castelo (POR)
Serbia vs. Austria 3-2 (25-20, 26-24, 23-25, 20-25, 19-17)
Pre-favourite Serbia needed as many as five sets to edge Austria at the end of a real marathon match. Serbia are now one step away from progressing to the second round of European qualifications to this year’s FIVB Men’s U21 Volleyball World Championship. Serbia claimed a small early lead in the first set which they were able to hold on to (25-20). Austria started the second set looking very determined to make amends for their loss but Serbia regrouped to tie the score at 22-all before closing the set 26-24. Austria took control of the match in set 3, especially with the help of their block. Serbia reduced their deficit but this time they could not prevent Austria from cruising to a 25-23 win. This was an enormous boost of confidence for the Austrians who continued to play in the same way in set 4, thus calling for a tie-break (25-20). Though Serbia claimed a 13-11 lead there, Austria came back before Boris Busa made the difference for Serbia in the final moments, thus securing a dramatic 3-2 win (19-17). Austria’s Edin Ibrahimovic top scored in the match with 23 points, as many as those recorded by Miran Kujundzic who paced Serbia.
Vladimir Vasovic, Serbia coach: “Today is a very important day for us, since we won the match and that is all that really matters in this special day when people from Serbia celebrate Christmas.”
The Netherlands vs. Portugal 2-3 (29-31, 25-23, 23-25, 25-21, 18-20)
Portugal beat the Netherlands at the end of a truly dramatic match to shape up a ‘big final’ with Serbia on Sunday where a direct ticket to the next round of European qualifications to this year’s U21 World Championship will be at stake. Portugal enjoyed the support of almost 1,000 fans in a nail-biting game which ended well into overtime with the last two points scored by home star Lourenço Martins. The matchup between Portugal and the Netherlands was preceded by a minute’s silence to pay tribute to the former President of Portugal, Mario Soares, who had passed away earlier on Saturday.
The hosts started the match with two aces by Martins to claim an early lead but the Netherlands soon closed in, with the two teams exchanging the lead many times until Portugal emerged victorious at 31-29 after a thrilling final section of the opening set with yet another point scored by Martins. The second set was close too, but the Netherlands seemed to have learned their lesson and came out on top at 25-23 with the help of Fabian Plak and Ivar de Waard. Plak and home star Bruno Cunha engaged in some kind of a duel in the following set with the Portuguese captain having the upper hand in the end (25-23). Portugal cruised to an early lead in set 4 with three points contributed by Martins before the Netherlands reacted to force a Portuguese time-out. The Dutch team coached by Claudio Gewehr showed much focus in the key moments and were eventually rewarded with a 25-21 win. The tie-break was truly dramatic, with Portugal finally celebrating their 3-2 victory at 20-18. Bruno Cunha chipped in with a massive haul of 36 points, with Martins adding another 32 to the Portuguese count. Ivar de Waard top scored for the Netherlands with 27.
Lourenço Martins, player of Portugal: “It was a good match and we finally showed at what level our national team can perform. I am so happy that I can’t find the right words to express the way I feel. It was a victory of the entire team.”
Hugo Silva, Portugal coach: “It was a hard-fought victory, that a very strong team wanted so badly. We know that we do not have their same potential but we made up for this with a great team spirit; these young players have high ambitions and they always fight to reach their goals.”
Pool D in Sofia (BUL)
Denmark vs. France 2-3 (21-25, 25-13, 25-21, 20-25, 12-15)
After playing five sets with hosts Bulgaria on Friday, France played another five with Denmark, but this time around Les Bleus emerged victorious. Both teams started the match by making some mistakes before France claimed a three-point lead at 16-13; Remi Bassereau scored time and again and an ace by Thibaut Thoral finished the first set at 25-21 for France.
Denmark responded by cruising to a 5-1 lead in the second set which they extended to 10-4 after the first technical break. Simon Øster Ellegaard Andersen caused some real problems to the French receivers with his float serves and Denmark piled up a seven-point advantage which they further extended by the time the set came to an end at 25-13. France claimed an 8-6 lead in set 3 but Denmark responded by flipping the charts around shortly afterwards (16-14); some mistakes made by the French and good actions by the Danes paved the way for a 25-21 win for the Scandinavians.
France were with their back against the wall and after making some more mistakes early in the fourth set, they finally claimed a 16-12 lead, and after that played better and better with a block by Léo Meyer sealing their 25-20 win. The tie-break was a close battle with France leading 8-6 at the side switch and 12-9 afterwards, before a terrific single block by Thoral finished it all off at 15-12.
Barthelemy Chinenyeze, France captain: “We started the match really good and we won the opening set but in the second our concentration went down. We didn’t play that good in the second and in the third sets but we managed to improve our performance after that. Our dream is to qualify for the World Championship and we kept it alive after this win. Now our mission is really hard. If we finish second in the pool, in the next stage we will play against Poland. We lost 2-3 against them and it is the perfect moment to take a revenge.”
Oscar Møllgaard, Denmark captain: “In the second and in the third sets we served really good and we managed to put their receivers under pressure. Unfortunately, we couldn’t manage to serve at this same level until the end, we made some easy mistakes in the beginning of the fourth set and the tie-break and we lost. Tomorrow we will play Bulgaria. They are a strong team, but after the first two days and the results we have seen, I think all teams are really close and equal. I expect a lot of spectators in the hall. We played here in 2015 and we know what to expect. I hope we can show our best performance and win the match.”
Jørgen Breinholm Jørgensen, Denmark coach: “Maybe we played too carefully in the key moments. We should take more risks if we want to win matches like this one, especially in serve and attack. Bulgaria is a really strong team. They are different than France, physically they are much stronger, but also their mentality is different. It will be a tough game for sure.”
Click here for more info including detailed stats of the matches