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27/05/2017 23:43
Serbia qualify to 2018 Worlds, while it comes down to the wire in all other pools
2018 FIVB Volleyball World Championship - Men

Luxembourg, May 27, 2017.  Serbia claimed on Saturday their fourth straight 3-0 victory and with no-one able to catch their total of 12 points in Pool E their place at the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship is confirmed.  Pool A has Germany and France tied on 12 points, and they will face off Sunday to decide who tops the pool and who will go to the 3rd Round of qualifications.  The same goes for Slovenia and Belgium in Pool C and Russia and Estonia in Pool D.  In Pool B the Netherlands require just two sets from their match against Slovakia, and the same can be said for Finland in Pool F as they face the Czech Republic.

What is for sure is that tomorrows matches are not to be missed!

Pool A in Lyon (FRA)

Iceland vs. Ukraine

Ukraine was simply too strong for Iceland and even though the young Icelandic team did their best offering a real lesson in terms of team spirit and collective effort, Ukraine needed only 68 minutes of play to win 3-0 (25-12, 25-19, 25-15) with Volodymyr Tevkun top scoring with 17 points including four aces and two blocks. Ukraine’s high quality in service (13 aces including five during the first set) paved the way to a landslide 25-12 win in the opening set. The second set was tighter. Iceland played with a lot of energy to keep the score close up to 8-9. After that, Ukraine showed their physical dominance to seal a 25-19 win. Ukraine was too strong for Iceland in the third and last set too, which ended by the score of 25-15. Since the beginning of the competition, about forty Icelandic fans have not stopped cheering for their team and once again they accounted for a nice atmosphere at the Palais des Sports in Lyon. 

Benedikt Baldur Tryggvason, outside hitter of Iceland: “It was maybe a bit ambitious to try to win a set against a very physical team like Ukraine. But we have an amazing team spirit, so anything can happen. We were really close to winning a set against Turkey yesterday. They showed us respect and we are really happy because we may be not technically or physically as strong as they are but we are willing to fight for every ball and it has been a wonderful experience playing here.”

Rogerio Ponticelli, head coach of Iceland: “It is tough for us to play against such a team, they have a tough service and they are really physical in attack too, which is something we are not used to it in Iceland. Tomorrow there will be an interesting match against Azerbaijan because we are in the same situation. We know very little about them, but it is an opportunity to seize. We will try to win one set, then a second one and maybe the match.” 

Ugis Krastins, head coach of Ukraine: “We didn’t play a perfect game but I am happy with the players’ attitude, they kept the concentration high all the time. We lost two games with our starting six, so now everyone will be having some playing time. Tomorrow against Turkey it will be a tough game, yesterday they played a really good game against France; we were even surprised and did not expect that level from them.” 

France vs. Azerbaijan

Laurent Tillie mobilised his whole team to land a 3-0 victory over Azerbaijan (25-16, 25-17, 25-15). The French troops appeared full of promising new players in front of an apparently weaker Azerbaijani team. In the first set Les Bleus seized the advantage in the early stages and kept their heads until the end of the set (25-16). On the Azerbaijan side, the two main attackers were struggling to find solutions in front of an imposing French block. Young French opposite Stephen Boyer, top scored with 19 points - 15 attacks, one ace and three blocks.

Azerbaijan could not alter the flow of the match in the second set (25-17).  Full of young energy, the French machine did not slow down during the third set dominating from the service line (eight aces in total). With this fourth victory, France insures at worst the possibility to participate to the third round of qualifications, at best, a qualifying ticket for the Worlds. A victory against Germany remains the only condition to go directly to Italy and Bulgaria.

Lauren Tillie, head coach of France: “That is where we wanted to land. Four times 3-0 and turn-over now we are only waiting for tomorrow’s match against Germany. We will play a strong German team and for sure they will play a strong French team.”

Stephen Boyer, top scorer of the match, opposite of France: “I had perfect sets, and that’s why I performed at such level, but the whole team performed really well. We managed to save precious rest time before tomorrow’s match.”

Dmitriy Obodnikov, middle blocker of Azerbaijan: “We were not impressed by the French audience; on the contrary they gave us lot of motivation and even cheered for us when spectacular points occurred. Tomorrow we are playing against Iceland, and we know them well thanks to the preparation tournament we played in Luxembourg in January. We must seize the opportunity.”

Turkey vs. Germany

Germany confirmed their chances in the European qualification tournament with an epic 3-0 victory over Turkey (25-17, 25-20, 25-23). The first set was fairly one-sided, won 25-17 by Germany, but the second one was a true arm wrestle going both ways at various times. Turkey tried their best and briefly took the lead in the middle of the set and kept it until the second technical time-out. Then captain Arslan Eksi and his teammates made more and more mistakes when it mattered and offered the set to Germany (25-20). Josko Milenkoski’s men lead the major part of the third set but in the end, Germany was the winner of the final sprint. Thanks to numerous faults from the Turkish side, Andrea Giani’s men completed an incredible comeback from 19-23 to 25-23.

 

The last point was secured by György Grozer, top scorer of the match with 17 points including two aces. The “final” will be played in the last match of the competition opposing Germany and France who are the two unbeaten teams of the tournament to date.

Josko Milenkoski, head coach of Turkey said: “Tomorrow’s match won’t be so important because today we lost our chances to qualify. But it’s not a huge deception. We came here with young players as we have a busy summer but our real target this season is the European Championship.”

Andrea Giani, head coach of Germany said: “It’s good to be qualified as a minimum for the next round but our goal is to win tomorrow’s match and be qualified directly to the Finals. As I tell the players the two most important points are: side-out and defence. There is no specific tactic for tomorrow’s match; every player will have to challenge his opponent on the other side of the net. It also works for the coaches, as I know Laurent Tillie for a long time and tomorrow will be a challenge between us too.”

Lukas Kampa, captain and setter of Germany said: “We controlled the match when we defended well. I am happy that we won the third set because it was maybe the first time we had some problems here and we managed to come back and keep the game short. It’s a good exercise because for sure tomorrow we will face complicated situations. This match is decisive for the qualification and France showed here that they are confident and they have a strong team. I think that we are prepared too, let’s see how it goes tomorrow.”

Pool B in Apeldoorn (NED)

 Luxembourg vs. Republic of Moldova

Moldova celebrated on Saturday their first victory in Pool B at Omnisport Apeldoorn, where they played against the other team that had not won a match up until now, Luxembourg. Thanks to a 3-2 (25-23, 22-25, 25-16, 22-15, 15-12) win of the Moldavian squad, the team of coach Artur Romascan climbed from the last position to the fifth place in Pool B. “Luxembourg is more our level, today we had a chance to win and took it,” said team captain Dmitrii Bahov directly after the match. “Tomorrow against Austria we will fight and try to deliver our best game, we will see how far this will take us.”

The Netherlands vs. Austria 

The Netherlands are very close to qualifying for the 2018 World Championship, as they booked their fourth win in a row. However, it was not as convincing as the first three wins, since it took five sets to decide who the stronger team was. The opening set went to the home team (25-22), but Austria took over the lead by winning sets 2 (25-22) and 3 (25-23).

“In the first set, we were able to manage that pressure, but we had no answer to their service pressure in the second and third stage of the match,” winning Dutch coach Gido Vermeulen stated afterwards.

Luckily for the home crowd, by the hand of the experienced substitutes Kay van Dijk and Jeroen Rauwerdink, the Dutch regained control of the match in the fourth (25-22) and accelerated on to take the deciding set (15-8), much to the delight of the attending 1,200 spectators.
 
Slovakia vs. Greece 

Everything will be decided on the closing day of the World Championship qualifier in Apeldoorn, after Slovakia won the last match of Day 4 against Greece 3-2 (22-25, 20-25, 25-21, 25-19, 15-12). In the first two sets, Greece was the better side, but after that Slovakia seemed to have more power and energy left. “It was a difficult win,” stated Slovakian coach Miroslav Palgut afterwards. “We had a very good attack in the opening set, but Greece had a great defence. This tournament is very heavy, with five matches in six days. Tomorrow we will have our chances against the Netherlands, we will see.” The Dutch need to win two sets off Slovakia in order to qualify for the World Championship. If Slovakia wins with 3-0, they will go to the WC 2018 directly; if Slovakia rally to a 3-1 victory, the team progressing to the World Champs will be decided on the match point quotient.

Pool C in Ljubljana (SLO)

Portugal vs. Georgia

Portugal claimed their second victory of the tournament, this time against Georgia. However, Georgia are still aiming to take a win of at least one set in the competition, but today in their match against Portugal they didn’t manage to fulfil their goal. The Portuguese delivered another solid performance and are looking for the final third place in the Pool. “I am satisfied with our performance today. We did our job, we did what everybody expected. It was quite an easy match for us to be honest,” setter Miguel Tavares Rodrigues commented after his team won 25-19, 25-16, 25-14.

Israel vs. Slovenia

Slovenia proved to be too strong an opponent for Israel, even though Slobodan Kovač decided to offer the opportunity to his players from the bench to perform before the home crowd. One of them was Alen Šket, who collected as many as 20 points as his team won 3-0 (25-11, 25-14, 25-10), and said after the game: “We played on a really high level. We served well and played well in defence and with our counterattacks too. Israel didn’t have any chance to win today. But this match is now behind us and we are already focused on tomorrow’s game. We hope many people will come to Stožice to support us.”



Belgium vs. Latvia

Belgium were hoping for a clean and easy win, but Latvia played better than expected and pushed the score to be a ‘close’ 3-0 (25-16, 25-21, 25-21). Top scorer Bram Van den Dries from the winning team said: “Latvia was good today, but we didn’t play as well as we wanted. We had the lead, but then we took things a little too easy and had some problems in reception. It’s important that we won 3-0, so that we can go fresh into the match against Slovenia tomorrow, for that is the most important game of this week for us.”

Slovenia will now face Belgium in a direct clash for a ticket to the 2018 World Championship in Italy and Bulgaria.

Pool D in Tallinn (EST)

Montenegro vs. Romania

It was a battle of two tired teams which Romania came through to take 3-1 (25-23, 21-25, 25-21, 25-21). Marian Iulian Bala, the Romanian outside hitter and top scorer of the match with 20 points, said: “We really wanted to win this game. We knew that we are in the same level as Montenegro, and we are familiar with some of their players who have been playing in our national league. In the end, we were a little bit better in block and service, also our transition game worked better than before in this tournament.”
Vojin Ćaćić, captain of Montenegro explained that it was a strange game from his team’s perspective. “Today it was a difficult game for us. We gave everything in the previous three matches and we didn’t have much power left in our tanks but we hope to finish the tournament on a positive note tomorrow.”

Hungary vs. Estonia

The hosts knew that they needed two sets from this game to secure at least second place in the pool but after a fairly even beginning, Hungary grabbed the initiative and won the first set by 25-20. “In the first set our game was a little bit rusty. Maybe we were a little bit hobbled by the fact that we knew what we had to do to secure second place. But from the second set our game started to flow,” Estonia outside hitter Andrus Raadik said.

Estonia won the following sets 25-15, 25-20, 25-14 and grabbed a 3-1 victory. Captain Kert Toobal said after the match: “We have achieved our first goal what was to take at least second place but it didn’t come easily. In the first set Hungary played really well and yesterday Montenegro was strong throughout the match too.”

Opposite Krisztián Pádár who gathered 19 points for Hungary said that they were really good in the first set but after that they couldn’t finish their attacks.


Russia vs. Kosovo

In the last match of the day in Tallinn it was really a battle of David vs. Goliath. On one side of the net was numerous European, World and Olympic medallists Russia and on the other side Kosovo, whose men’s national team are making their first appearance on the international stage.

Alas, no miracles happened and Russia needed only 55 minutes to achieve a 3-0 (25-8, 25-8, 25-9) victory with a success rate in attack of 76 percent.

“We all knew who was going to win this match because Russia is one of the best teams in the world. Nevertheless, it was a huge experience for us to play against them,” Kosovo team captain Valon Nikqi said.

Pool E in Zagreb (CRO) 

Serbia vs. Norway 

Serbia lived up to the expectations rallying to a 3-0 victory (25-12, 25-14, 25-12) over Norway, their fourth such result in Zagreb. Norway started the match quite relaxed as they had nothing to lose and Serbia broke away on a serving series of Marko Ivović which lasted for eight rallies (25-12). The course of the game did not change in the second set either with Dražen Luburić (12 points in the end) being the most prolific player for the Serbian team (25-14). Serbia changed their starting six in set three but this did not have any impact on their dominance, with Norway scoring only 12 points and Serbia comfortably sealing another 3-0 victory. 
 
Dražen Luburić, player of Serbia: “I think we have developed the character of a team that imposes its own rhythm, and it is good that we do not depend on what other teams do when playing tournaments like this. We depend on ourselves in such games. At these qualifications we have got one of the easiest groups, at least on paper.” 

Kare Helvik Morken, captain of Norway: “We started the game wanting to learn something because we knew we could not beat them. The head coach gave to all players the chance to play in order to gain experience from such strong and competitive opponents. We wanted to play better but the team of Serbia was just too strong for us.” 

Following the other results from today, Serbia can no longer be caught at the top of their pool and so are directly qualified to the Finals next summer.

Denmark vs. Croatia 

Denmark and Croatia had each one victory before this game and therefore the result of this matchup was likely to decide which side would finish the tournament in fourth place. The score remained close from start to end of the opening set with Marko Sedlaček eventually securing a 27-25 win for the hosts. History repeated itself in the second set (11-11) before Denmark broke away (18-15) and even some substitutions from the Croatian coach could not avoid a 25-22 win for the visitors. The third set was a close affair too, and after Denmark failed to cash two set balls, it went well into overtime before the Danes emerged victorious at 29-27. Croatia changed their starting six for the fourth set but Denmark rallied to a 17-13 lead before they suffered some kind of blackout, and Croatia used this to their advantage (27-25). The tie-break, however, was really one-sided with Denmark sprinting to a 4-0 lead and capitalising on it to eventually seal a 3-2 victory (15-9). 

Marko Sedlaček, player of Croatia: “We are a new and young team and that is reflected in the ups and downs we have had in our performance. We sometimes lose five points in a row and after that make five phenomenal actions. I am sure we will be a great team in future, and by working with consistency and playing many international matches we will achieve good results.” 
 
Axel Jacobsen, captain of Denmark: “My team was very confident and we expected a good result. We wanted to win 3-1, but in the fourth set we did too many unforced mistakes. This is the fourth day of the tournament and tiredness is felt. In the fifth set, we played great and strong, and that secured our victory in the end.” 

Switzerland vs. Belarus

In a match likely to determine second position in the standing of the tournament, and with it a place in the third round of qualifications for the World Championship, it was Belarus who came out of the fifth set on top (15-10). The Belarusians from the beginning showed their quality, but the Swiss team was united and tried everything to halt the Belarus pressure on the service.  The Swiss were also struggling to realise their attacks and the first set belonged to Belarus (25-19). Switzerland started the second bravely, not showing any fear in front of the strong Belarusians. Only after 13-13 you could see a difference in the quality of the teams, when Pavel Audochanka served for eight times in a row for Belarus and from here they took another set 25-21.
 
The Swiss game is clever, and when it’s needed they play smart and look for ways to turn the course of the match. Sébastien Steigmeier came on to serve by the score of 22-18 for Switzerland and from here they took the set (25-22). The match entered the fourth set and was balanced but at the end of the period the Belarusian players were going from one mistake to another and a fifth set was needed to decide a winner. Back to the same flow of the first two sets, the physical alignment of Belarus in combination with their quality gave them the victory 3-2.

Luca Ulrich from Switzerland said: “First of all, this tournament is for us a great experience. We are a young team and we know each other from the Swiss league. The new staff is great and we have excellent communication with them. We had no luck at the end of the game, but I believe we will go ahead with this same approach in the future.”

Aleh Khmialeuski from Belarus said: “It was a tough match, the fourth in a row and we all felt tired. We have left all our strength on the court today. Tomorrow’s match with Denmark is important and we must win if we want to go to the third round of qualifications.”

Pool F in Karlovy Vary (CZE)

Northern Ireland vs. Sweden

 
The Swedish side claimed a 3-0 (25-15, 25-13, 25-21) victory despite their coach Johan Isacsson claiming they had a problem with motivation: “It’s the fourth day, and looking at it I think we had a problem with motivation because we are already out of the qualification. I think we had a hard schedule – first Spain, then Czech Republic and then Finland – three hard games in a row. We played five sets against Spain and gave the fifth set away and that followed us into the next games. But it’s a good tournament, and we are now here to learn.”

Cyprus vs. Czech Republic

After a surprising loss to Spain, there was a little satisfaction for the Czech squad. They needed to win badly over Cyprus to keep calm and have a hope of proceeding to the next stage. They did just that as they strode to a 3-0 victory (26-24, 25-12, 25-17) making all of the supporters happy.  After the match, Czech outside hitter Donovan Dzavoronok said: “I think that we entered the first set not well, even though we were winning, but it was not good. After that, we improved our play and we believed that if we focused only on our play, it would be enough to beat them.” The Czechs must now win over Finland and get all three points to claim the much-desired ticket to the World Championship.

Finland vs. Spain

The battle of the two unbeaten teams was the evening match. Finland, with their supporters, faced the Spaniards who were greatly motivated after winning against the Czech Republic the previous day. The Spanish team had the chance of taking over the leadership of the pool if they were to win. It was an impressive game with both sides fighting for each point. At the end, it was the Finnish team who took the victory 3-1 (25-19, 21-25, 25-19, 25-22).

The Finnish captain commented on the victory: “We are very happy that we won this match. We knew it was crucial to win because Spain beat the Czech Republic yesterday so we knew that they are strong too. But we focused on our game and we made it. Now we look forward to the final day of the tournament. We want to win the last match.”

Click here for more info including detailed stats of the matches 



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