Greece expects classy European campaign by its golden generation
News from the National Federations
Athens, Greece, July 13, 2012. Greece junior men’s national team is currently preparing for the final round of the 2012 CEV Volleyball European Championship that will run through August 25-September 2 in Gdynia (Poland) and Randers (Denmark) under the guidance of Stelios Kazazis, a real Volleyball legend there in Greece. The team is by many considered as one of the most promising groups in recent years and will be trying to finish on top of the charts at the European Championship.
These players got together for the first time back in March 2010 and were mentored up to April 2011 by Ioakim Dimitriadis. After playing some friendly matches with Turkey, the team joined the Balkan Youth Championships in July 2010 scoring there a series of great wins also over two real powerhouses like Serbia and Bulgaria to claim the gold medal in the end.
In September 2010 the management of the Hellenic Volleyball Federation was re-shaped after an elective General Assembly but head coach Dimitriadis remained at the helm of the group thereby being able to continue his good work. Embarking on a quest to qualify for the final round of the 2011 Youth European Championship, Greece played a series of friendly matches with Bulgaria, Spain, Tunisia and Portugal, and the “white and blue guys” eventually booked their pass for the tournament taking place in Ankara by finishing second in their qualifying round, losing only to their opponents from Russia but sweeping all remaining matches with the Czech Republic, Austria, Denmark and Portugal in straight sets.
These young players got back from Ankara after finishing sixth at the European Champs thereby qualifying for the EYOF (European Youth Olympic Festival) as well as for the FIVB Youth World Championship in Argentina. Before taking up this challenge, the Greek boys spent some time in Rio de Janeiro playing there three friendly matches with the local national team, losing twice in 3 sets before claiming the last matchup at the tie-break. Taking the right momentum from that camp, Greece opened its World campaign with three wins in straight sets over Russia, China and Tunisia but things got a little more complicated in the second phase where Greece lost four matches – 1:3 to France, 0:3 to Bulgaria, Spain and Argentina – thereby ending the tournament in seventh place after beating again China in straight sets in Bahia Blanca.
Moving up to the junior division, the group finished first in the second-round qualifier for the 2012 CEV European Championship held in Bar (Montenegro); Greece was leading 2:0 in the top match against Italy but eventually lost that game 2:3, but four wins in a row – with Finland, Montenegro, Sweden and Belarus – contributed the much desired pass for the final round scheduled for late August in Poland and Denmark.
After completion of the first stage of the preparations with the group, head coach Stelios Kazazis says: “These players are very talented and I guess they will probably join the senior national team very soon. However, in the past we have already seen some promising players not fulfilling the expectations here in Greece but this time we don’t want to dissipate this potential. Most of these guys participated in the last edition of the national league and this was a valuable experience for their improvement. If they can turn their talent into a great professional career, this is something depending on their will and quality of their training. You cannot achieve everything just because you are talented. They still have to work a lot and use their brain, everything is up to them”.
George Manolopoulos, a Board member of the Hellenic Volleyball Federation who has been closely following the development of this group, recalls they have played 54 international matches since they got together in March 2010. “This number is impressive; no Greek national team has played that much internationally in the past ten years. 47 out of these 54 matches were played since the management board of the Hellenic Volleyball Federation changed in September 2010 and if you consider the financial constraints we’re being confronted with, you can realize that pretty much is due to the work performed by our President Achilleas Mavromatis and his staff”.