Six teams progress to 2nd round of U21 World Champs qualifications
2017 FIVB U21 Men Volleyball World Championship - European Qualification
Luxembourg, January 8, 2017. On Sunday Bulgaria were the first team to secure their progression to the second round of European qualifications to this year’s FIVB Men’s U21 Volleyball World Championship. They did so by rallying to a 3-1 victory over Denmark to claim the top spot in Pool D. Germany achieved the same feat after taking two sets from their matchup with Romania which they eventually won at the tie-break. Belgium completed a clean sweep of their matches in Kastel Stari where they routed Latvia 3-0 to finish the tournament without conceding a set to their opponents. Later in the evening, Serbia made it three wins in a row as well to top the tables in Pool C. France and Latvia also qualified to the next round as the two second-placed teams with the best score.
Since two of the first-round pools – A and D – consisted of three teams only, the second best placed teams were 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)
Romania vs. Germany 2-3 (14-25, 20-25, 25-22, 25-18, 7-15)
Mission accomplished: Germany needed two sets to move on to the second round of qualifications to this year’s FIVB Men’s U21 Volleyball World Championship and the hosts easily achieved this goal. After that, Germany coach Johan Verstappen used the remainder of the game to provide his reserve players with an opportunity to show their skills. However, it was a wake-up call for Romania that found a way to improve their attack and reception against a “new” opponent and eventually drew level in the match. In front of a surprised crowd in Frankfurt, Germany responded by successfully completing 67% of their attempts in attack in the fifth set to cruise to a comprehensive 15-7 victory.
Best player of the match was Germany’s middle blocker Tobias Krick with 19 points, followed by Romania’s outside spiker and team captain Robert Adrian Aciobanitei who scored 17 times.
Johan Verstappen, Germany coach: “We had two superb sets at the beginning. I changed my team after we secured the ticket to the next round and this changed the course of the match Romania’s way, but I am happy that we responded in a great way by winning the last set and the match. We have shown that we were the best team here in Frankfurt and deserved the top spot in the pool.”
Bogdan Tanase, Romania coach: “Congratulations to Germany, the team deserved it!”
Pool B in Kastel Stari (CRO)
Latvia vs. Belgium 0-3 (21-25, 22-25, 16-25)
In what was some kind of a ‘big final’ of the tournament held in Kastel Stari this weekend, Belgium and Latvia battled for first place in the pool – and with it for a direct ticket to the next round of qualifications coming up in May. Both teams fought with a lot of determination and looked very motivated to go for a third straight win on Croatian soil but Belgium’s defence and discipline proved something Latvia could not match in the end. Belgium finished the tournament with a perfect record of three wins in as many matches and no sets lost.
Kris Eyckmans, Belgium coach said: “I am happy because we won the pool but even happier with the way we did it. Today we beat Latvia in a match we almost controlled from start to end. It’s a great feeling to leave Croatia without losing one single set. I am very proud of my team.”
Croatia vs. Turkey 0-3 (20-25, 15-25, 25-27)
The last match of the tournament held in Kastel Stari was going to determine the team finishing the competition in third place as both Turkey and hosts Croatia were still vying for their first victory. This was enough to motivate the respective players and provide some high-quality Volleyball actions to the audience in attendance. Turkey’s defence made the difference in the end, propelling the team to a 3-0 victory, leaving Croatia at the bottom of the charts in the pool.
Pool C in Viana do Castelo (POR)
Austria vs. The Netherlands 1-3 (25-23, 23-25, 18-25, 17-25)
After losing to Serbia and hosts Portugal earlier this weekend, the Netherlands claimed their first victory in the competition as they beat Austria 3-1. The first set was a close affair even though Austria had a small edge and by relying on their excellent team spirit they eventually took it by 25-23. The Austrians, however, made too many mistakes in the following set and thus they paved the way for a 25-23 Dutch win. Austria looked demoralised in set 3 where the young Dutch players coached by Claudio Gewehr scored time and again to cruise to a 25-18 win as Austria’s comeback came too late to change the course of the game. The same happened in the fourth set where the Dutchmen stayed in control from start to end to seal their 3-1 victory. Edin Ibrahimovic top scored for Austria in their losing effort with 24 points as Ivar de Waard paced the Netherlands with 19.
Claudio Gewehr, Netherlands coach: “It was a good match and we did just fine. The team was a bit tired and I had to make some changes but these worked really well. I am pleased with this victory. We enjoyed our stay in Portugal very much; the tournament was extremely well organised and all teams competing in this pool were of a high level.”
Serbia vs. Portugal 3-0 (25-23, 26-24, 25-17)
Serbia finished their campaign in Viana do Castelo on a high note, cruising to their third straight victory in as many matches this weekend to claim the top spot in the pool.
Portugal claimed a small lead early in the first set and the hosts stayed ahead up until the score of 19-18 in their favour. However, Serbia changed the course of the game and after many service errors on both sides of the net, Miran Kujundzic finished it off with an ace for 27-25. Serbia set the pace in set 2 until Portugal drew level at 12-all with two aces by Lourenço Martins. The hosts edged ahead at the second technical time-out by means of two spikes by Alexandre Pereira but shortly afterwards Serbia fought back and closed the set by 26-24. After two close and even sets, the third one was dominated by Serbia (25-17) with Portugal no longer able to pose a threat to their opponents. David Mehic and Miran Kujundzic top scored for Serbia with 15 and 14 points, as Bruno Cunha paced Portugal with 11.
Vladimir Vasovic, Serbia coach: “We are very happy since we achieved our goal and we did it in this beautiful city. Now we will start preparing for the next round of qualifications.”
Hugo Silva, Portugal coach: “Despite the result, if I draw the line, we can take many positives. Most probably only a few would have imagined we could be in contention for a spot in the next round until the last match and the hall would be as packed as it was this weekend. Our players are disappointed with the result since they wanted more, that’s normal. However, we have a young team and it is difficult to do any better against a team as strong as Serbia.”
Pool D in Sofia (BUL)
Bulgaria vs. Denmark 3-1 (23-25, 25-17, 25-20, 25-16)
Bulgaria claimed their second victory of the weekend at Hristo Botev sports hall in Sofia to secure first place in the pool. The match with Denmark was extremely close in the first set before Aleks Grozdanov and Gordan Lyutskanov claimed a small advantage for Bulgaria (21-19). Denmark’s Rasmus Mikelsons delighted the audience with an amazing defence action shortly afterwards, but this resulted in an ankle injury. Mikelsons had to leave the court but Denmark were nevertheless able to regroup and fight back thanks to the float serves of Nikolaj Hjorth. The Danes played with remarkable confidence through to the end of the set which they ultimately won by 25-23.
Grozdanov stole the show in the early stages of the second set with two blocks and one ace and after that Bulgaria rallied to a compelling 16-9 lead. Denmark made many unforced errors and the hosts increased their advantage to nine points at 19-10. Tsvetelin Tsvetanov made it 20-10 after a single block and the same player closed the second set with an ace at 25-17.
Bulgaria started set 3 in the same way, with good serving and blocking contributing to a six-point lead at 16-10. Iliyan Prespov finished an amazing attack to make it 19-12 and a few minutes later the ‘Young Lions’ celebrated their second set win of the day (25-20).
Tsvetanov scored two aces in a row at the beginning of the fourth set and Bulgaria soon led by 11-8. The hosts were able to hold on to their advantage up until the second technical time-out (16-13). Denmark made mistake after mistake and another ace by Tsvetanov finished it all off at 25-16 to secure Bulgaria’s spot in the next round of qualifications.
Plamen Shekerdzhiev, Bulgaria captain: “After the first set we reduced the number of unforced errors, started to make the right things and we absolutely deserved the victory. Now we will play Ukraine in the next stage. We lost the last match with that team 2-3 but my opinion is that we lost it by ourselves because we made as many as 52 unforced errors, so now we are motivated to take our revenge.”
Gordan Lyutskanov, Bulgaria middle blocker: “Maybe we underestimated the first set, but after that our coach gave us the right instructions. We started to play better and we won. I’m really happy with the first place in the pool because now we will play with Ukraine and we have really good chances to qualify for the World Championship. We are motivated to achieve our goal.”
Nikolaj Hjorth, Denmark outside spiker: “We delivered a good performance in the beginning, but in the other sets we made too many mistakes. They served really good and we had a lot of problems in side-out. I think the difference between us and these two teams we played here – Bulgaria and France – is the experience. We must play more matches on a high international level. They are big Volleyball nations, we are the underdogs, it’s clear, but we had our chances during the two matches. We can play at equal terms against the big teams, but we must work harder if we want to achieve something big in future.”
Oscar Møllgaard, Denmark captain: “In the first set we played really good. We had a lot of good serves and spikes, but in the second, third and fourth they put a lot of pressure on us with their serves. Generally, our level was not good enough – in attack and serve we obviously struggled. Only our middlemen did a really great job at blocking. I would like to single out Simon Øster Ellegaard Andersen who played a really good match.”
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