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16/06/2013 21:00
Croatia completes memorable home campaign with third win
2013 CEV Volleyball European League - Men

Rovinj, Croatia, June 16, 2013. Though they joined the competition at the last moment – for Portugal got the right to play the FIVB World League – the players of Croatia men’s national team look very motivated to display a good performance in this year’s European League and on Sunday they finished the first round of play in Pool C with a third consecutive win, this time against Belarus (3:1; 21-18, 19-21, 21-13, and 21-15). With this result they keep first place in the standing of the group asserting their ambition to make it to the final four that is scheduled for mid July in Turkey.
Belarus delivered a good performance in the first couple of sets but then Croatia stepped up and by pressuring their opponents in all fundamentals cruised to a well-deserved 3:1 victory. Belarus started out strong – especially in blocking – and did also exploit some errors by the hosts. However, Croatia got back on track right before the money time with their superstar Ivan Raic who helped draw level at 18. 20-year old Fran Peterlin stood out from the serving zone and eventually Croatia cashed the first set at 21-18. Things developed more or less the same way in the second set with the score evened at 18 there as well but this time it was Belarus that got the upper hand. Croatia unleashed their full potential in set 3 with Raic, Matija Sablijak and Darko Nojic anchoring the home side but well supported by the other players included in the starting six. They left no chance to Belarus (21-13) and stretched momentum to the fourth set where they moved up 15:11 and practically closed the door to any possible comeback by their opponents.
“The first couple of sets were very tough but starting from the third we showed what we are capable of. We started serving better and we also calmed down a bit. We did even force Belarus to replace two of their starting players. This is a great victory for us for before this tournament we did consider Belarus as the real favorite for first place in the Pool” Darko Nojic said after the game.  

In the other match of the day Turkey claimed their second victory of the weekend by besting Israel 3:1 (21-13, 21-16, 15-21, and 21-14). Three Turkish players finished the game in double digits, namely Metin Toy (15), Kadir Cin (11) and Halil Ibrahim Yücel (10). Tamir Hershko and Guy Ben Gal registered 14 and 12 points respectively for Israel. The hosts of the final four needed 75 minutes of play to score their second win in Rovinj. Israel could not match the power of Turkey in serving and blocking. Turkey got to the front right from the start of the first and second set going up 10:5 and 11:6 respectively and never looked back for a comfortable 2:0 lead. However, things did suddenly change in the third set where Israel served strong to move up 10:5 and as Turkey’s game fell apart, they cruised straight to the final 21-15 that called for a fourth set. There Turkey was able to restore their supremacy and deservedly won the match 3:1.

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