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15/01/2017 22:51
Ten teams make it to #EuroVolleyU19M Finals after exciting round of qualifications
2017 CEV U19 Volleyball European Championship - Men

Luxembourg, January 15, 2017. The much-anticipated second round of qualifications to the 2017 CEV U19 Volleyball European Championship – Men finished on Sunday with 10 teams eventually securing their progression to the Final Round taking place in late April in Györ (Hungary) and Puchov (Slovakia). Poland, Russia, Turkey, France, Romania, Italy and Bulgaria completed a clean sweep by recording three victories in as many matches they contested in their respective pools as Finland topped the charts in Pool H, the only one to feature three teams. Czech Republic and Belgium also booked a ticket to the Finals after finishing as the two second-placed teams with the best score across all pools. 46 points (!) scored by their outstanding opposite Linus Weber in the matchup with Italy were not enough for Germany to progress to the final stage of the competition. 

Pool A in Spała (POL)  

Sweden will not be leaving Spała without a victory, after Sunday’s three-setter (25-22, 25-19, 25-17) against Latvia, who in turn lost the chance for a second place in the group and consequently to qualify to the Finals taking place in Hungary and Slovakia. Sweden’s Daniel Gruvaeus excelled in the charts as the top scorer (19) and spiker (15) of the match.

The Czech Republic proved to be the most demanding opponent for Poland in the tournament. Poland’s southern neighbours started the weekend with an unexpected loss to Latvia and thus entered Sunday’s game with focus and intensity. Coach Maciej Zendeł’s players – on the other hand – had been aware that two sets were all they needed to qualify for the Final Round and were quite slow to find their usual pace. Set 3 was of key importance for the hosts, whose game had ups and downs, but they showed enough mental strength in the end and overcame the Czech Republic 25-22. The rivals, however, were far from surrendering their ambition and won the next set 25-20 in an aggressive style. The tiebreaker showed the Polish players’ determination and passion (to the point where a red card was in order), giving them a deserved third win in the tournament (3-2; 19-25, 25-20, 25-22, 20-25, 15-13).

Pool B in Argos (GRE)

Russia thrashed Greece 3-0 (25-23, 25-15, 25-23) to finish Pool B undefeated and qualify directly to the final phase of the competition. “This was our goal - to go to the finals,” said Russia coach Andrey Nozdrin after the win. “We are very tired but very satisfied. I have to say the Greek fans of Argos were amazing.” Russia’s blocking party produced 15 stuffs to Greece’s two, as the five-time European U19 champions were led by Stanislav Antonov and Vladislav Spiridonov who scored 15 points each.

Earlier in the day Spain had scored their first win in the pool, a 3-0 (25-15, 25-19, 33-31) over Israel to finish second in the pool, though that was not enough to see them through to the finals as one of the best two second-ranked teams. “I am satisfied from this win, because yesterday we didn’t play well,” said Spain coach Benjamin Vicedo. “We got four points in the pool, but we had hoped to have gained something more against Greece the previous night.” Spain were led by Alvaro Gimeno Rubio, who scored 18 points, as they came back from 21-24 down and survived a total of eight set balls in the third to finish the game in three.

Pool C in Balikesir (TUR)

Turkey finished their campaign on home soil in style, rallying to an emphatic 3-0 victory over Serbia (25-20, 26-24, 25-18) to secure their progression to the Final Round. Turkey set the pace from start to end of the opening set even though they also made some mistakes – as Serbia did. Their show continued in the second set as well (8-7, 16-13) with their star player Adis Lagumdzija helping them secure a hard-fought 26-24 win. Serbia came out strong in set three but halfway through Ali Deniz Yilmaz made the difference for Turkey with his serves and attacks. Turkey edged ahead after the second technical time-out and never looked back to rally to a 3-0 victory.

Nikola Meljanac, team captain of Serbia: “We wanted to play aggressively but could not do so in the end. We wanted to finish the tournament with a victory but could not manage it.”
Bosko Macuzic, head coach of Serbia: “We tried to our best but our reception and defence were not good. Turkey have a strong team and that is why we lost the match. It was a good tournament for us and Turkey showed their hospitality in an impeccable way.”

Onur Cukur, team captain of Turkey: “We expected this match to be the toughest one in the tournament but actually it went very easy. Our focus is not on these matches but already on the Final Round in April. We will be trying our best to finish first there as well.”
Ali Ümit Hizal, head coach of Turkey: “This team is kind of unique in our Volleyball history because for the first time we have guys that are so tall and technically very skilled. This team can count not only on 12 players, almost on 24 and their aim is to make it to the Olympics one day. This year we have a busy schedule with the European Championship and EYOF. We want to play in all these competitions and in three years, some of these guys can make it to the senior team and play hopefully at the Olympics in Tokyo. I am very happy to be working with them and with our results so far.”

The Netherlands finished their campaign in Balikesir with a 3-1 victory over Montenegro (25-10, 15-25, 25-19, 25-23) to bid farewell to the competition in emphatic style. The first set was one-sided with Montenegro making many mistakes. Things changed in the second where Montenegro cruised to an 8-3 lead and eventually emerged victorious after showing solid defence and an overall good performance. The Netherlands responded by taking set three and by leading the way in the fourth as well, finally shaping up a 3-1 victory.

Dutch team captain Noah van Dam said: “It was tough, especially in the fourth set but we managed to win. We are happy with this victory and next time we hope to be able to play for a spot in the Final Round.”
Dutch coach Arnold van Ree said: “Today my players were a bit tired but it was a high-level game. Montenegro had problems for two days but they kept on fighting. The first set was somehow easy but after that, we played very bad and they came back. This is a lesson to take from this match. Next time we hope to be better organised and to have a shot at the Final Round of the championship.”

Stefan Radevic, team captain of Montenegro: “We played better today than the last couple of days but unfortunately it was not enough to win. We did our best and we fought until the end. This tournament was not so good for us because we could not win a match. The organisation, on the other hand, was perfect.”
Zoran Vukcevic, head coach of Montenegro: “We were better today than on Friday and Saturday, we played a good game. I wish we could finish the tournament with a victory but we could not succeed in doing so.”

Pool D in St. Jean d’Illac (FRA)

In Pool D, the fight for second place lived up to everyone’s expectations but Estonia eventually cruised to a 3-1 victory (27-25, 23-25, 25-17, 25-21) over Switzerland, with Albert Hurt making the difference for the Baltic team with 24 points. Switzerland regrouped in the second set, and by taking it, they cancelled any chances for Estonia to finish as one of the best second placed teams across all pools. Estonia claimed an early 4-0 lead in the third set and the Swiss players were never able to come back. The young Estonian boys continued their run in the fourth and ultimately claimed a 3-1 victory. At the end of the match, Urmas Tali, the Estonian head coach, commented: “Both teams play at a good level, even if there were too many mistakes. Technically, it was difficult for both teams and I think we won with our heads. I am indeed disappointed not to go further in the competition but it is always important to play this kind of high-level matches to learn more and more.”

Later in the evening, France confirmed their supremacy on home soil by finishing with three straight victories in as many matches, take first place in the pool and qualify to the Final Round of #EuroVolleyU19M. On Sunday, France routed Slovenia in three sets (25-19, 25-19, 25-21).  The start of the opening set was a close race until the second technical time-out when France set the pace. The young ‘Bleus’ claimed an early five-point lead in the second set that they were able to hold onto through to the end. The hosts nevertheless suffered a drop of concentration in the third set, with Slovenia taking an 8-3 lead and the visitors stayed in front until the second technical time-out. An ace and a double block by Rémi Bassereau (top scorer with 13 points) put the French back into the game and the hosts eventually finished it 3-0 to book a ticket to Hungary and Slovakia. “I am very happy as we knew it was going to be a tough third set but the boys stayed focussed and showed patience to win point by point,” commented French coach Slimane Belmadi. “The atmosphere was so great here, it really helped as well.”

Pool E in Ploiesti (ROU)

Romania completed their triumphal march at the home tournament in Ploiesti by recording a 3-0 victory over Portugal (25-17, 25-19, 25-19) to qualify for this year’s U19 European Championship in Hungary and Slovakia. At the end of a very exciting match where both teams showed a lot of determination and fighting spirit, Romania claimed their third win in Ploiesti besting Portugal in three sets. Romania broke away in the score right from the start of the opening set, moving the charts to 21-9 in their favour and finishing it off at 25-17. The spectators in attendance witnessed many great actions also in the second set but Romania’s team spirit made the difference closing the set at 25-19. Romania controlled set three right from the go and after cruising to a 21-17 lead, they probably thought they had already seized the night. Portugal used their chance to attempt a comeback but Romania remained focussed to finish it all off at 25-19.

Stelian Ghitun, head coach of Romania: “We qualify for the Finals of this age-group European Championship for the second time in a row. We aim to get a very good result from the Final Round and we are hoping to qualify to the World Championship as well.”

Pool F in Friedrichshafen (GER) 

Drama in Friedrichshafen: 750 fans witnessed an incredible match between Italy and Germany, where the hosts lost a five-set thriller 2-3 (16-25, 25-21, 22-25, 25-22, 12-15). German opposite Linus Weber scored 46 points (!) and was by far the best player on court. “I am proud of my guys. They played an incredible game against a strong team from Italy. Our problem was the service in the first set, where we did not serve strong enough. We won two games and had one close loss, but it was unfortunately not enough to qualify for the European Championship,” said Germany coach Matus Kalny. Mario Barbiero, Italy coach said: “Germany is a very strong team with an incredible opposite. My guys had to give everything to win the game, but we are happy that we made it to the Final Round.”  

The day started with the match between the still winless teams from Ukraine and Croatia that had no more chance of claiming a ticket to the Final Round. The Croatian players eventually secured third place in Pool F with a 3-2 (25-20, 13-25, 18-25, 27-25, 15-11) victory over their opponents. The spectators saw a great Croatian comeback in the fourth set from 20-23 down, as too many service mistakes (22) cost the Ukraine the set and the game. “As I said on Friday, it was our goal to go home with a victory and I am very happy that we achieved it. I think we were a little bit lucky in the fourth set, but we did our best today. We were able to improve our performance with every game and I saw that the team started to believe in their strength. To work on the psychological side will be very important for this team in future,” said Croatia assistant coach Sandro Venier. Best players of the game were Yaroslav Savkiv (Ukraine) and Tino Hanžić (Croatia) who scored 20 points each. 

Pool G in Sofia (BUL)

Bulgaria finished their home campaign in Sofia in style with a 3-0 victory (25-23, 26-24, 25-23) over Belarus to secure their participation in the Final Round. Actually, the visitors rallied to a five-point lead at 18-13 but the hosts managed to make a great come back. Asparuh Asparuhov was on fire in attack, and Dobrin Vasilev surprised the Belarusians with clever float serving – so the young ‘Lions’ eventually won the first set 25-23. Things changed in the second set. Bulgaria had a four-point lead at 22-18, but the hosts made some unforced errors and Belarus managed to claim two set points at 24-22 in their favour. Vasilev’s powerful spike put Bulgaria back on track and after good serving by Asparuhov, Belarus made two errors in a row, thus paving the way to a 26-24 win for the home team. Belarus started better and set the tempo for most of the third set (5-0, 17-13) but the hosts showed great character and finished it all off at 25-22, with their captain Konstantin Nechev putting the ice on the cake with an ace and a phenomenal single block.

Konstantin Nechev, captain of Bulgaria: “We felt a little bit tired, but we showed a lot of character. Our goal was to defeat them in three sets and we managed to achieve this. Our biggest strength is the collective. We are six players on the field but we played like one and we had one big dream – to qualify for our first European Championship, which is something we wanted so badly. We can say: Mission accomplished!”  
Hristo Georgiev, coach of Bulgaria: “To win a match like this one you must show character! My players did it today! We won our pool and the next step is the European Championship. We must work harder, because there we will face many strong teams but I love to work with these young guys and I’m confident in our chances!”

Pool H in Amstetten (AUT)

In the last match contested at Johann-Pölz-Arena in Amstetten, Finland thrashed hosts Austria in three sets (25-16, 25-19, 25-15), thus securing their qualification to the Final Round of this year’s U19 Men’s European Championship. Finland literally rose to the occasion and played even better than they had done on Saturday when routing Norway, showing they currently have a physical and technical edge over Austria. ”We are very happy that we could reach our goal, something that we had set four years ago with this age group. I noticed this morning already that my team was in a very good shape, also from a mental standpoint. Service, blocking, full-court defence, everything worked very well today,” Finland head coach Pertti Honkanen said.

After this clear defeat, the members of Team Austria were obviously very disappointed: “Today the lack of practice because of illnesses and injuries in the last weeks became evident. On top of this, today we committed too many service errors”, Austria coach Sebastian Tatra summarised his feelings.

Click here for more info including detailed stats of the matches

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