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11/08/2013 20:00
European teams still in contention for spot in World Grand Prix finals
2013 FIVB World Grand Prix

Luxembourg, August 11, 2013. The second week of preliminary action for the 2013 FIVB World Grand Prix came to a close on Sunday with China and Japan prolonging their winning streak to six consecutive matches. The European teams did nevertheless also perform well with Serbia, Italy, Turkey as well as Russia and Bulgaria all still in contention for a spot in the finals coming up in late August in Sapporo, Japan.
2011 European champions Serbia hosted Pool F in Beograd and they started their weekend with two straight-set wins as they comfortably downed the Netherlands and Algeria. On Sunday they eventually lost 2:3 (14-25, 25-22, 17-25, 25-23, and 12-15) to Olympic silver medalists USA as they played before 3,600 home fans for what was their first defeat since the start of this elite competition.

As they traveled to Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, Bulgaria caused a real sensation in Pool G beating 2008 and 2012 Olympic champions Brazil 3:1 (25-22, 25-21, 20-25, and 25-21) to follow up on their straight win over the hosts. Their weekend came to a close with a 2:3 defeat to the Dominican Republic but what they have accomplished so far in the competition is absolutely more than remarkable. “This was a great match. It’s something really big to achieve a win for the first time against the Olympic champions. This helps us get more experience and try to make it to the finals” said Bulgaria’s team captain Strashimira Filipova after their shocking victory over Brazil.

As they hosted Pool H in Plock, Poland lost two out of their three home games, both in straight sets to Germany and Japan. They had started out with a straight win over Kazakhstan but their next performances were rather disappointing. “Though we had problems today I hope we can keep the right focus and perform well next week in China” said Poland’s team captain Katarzyna Skowronska-Dolata. “We have to keep in mind that these are the first steps of a long-term process as we are building a team whose main goal will be to perform well at the European Championship”. Germany, on the other hand, brought home seven points from the weekend in Plock as they beat Poland and Kazakhstan after losing at the tie-break to Japan on Friday. “I am happy because my players fought for every ball but we know we still have to improve if we want to perform well at the European Championship” said Germany’s head coach, Italian-born Giovanni Guidetti, after his side lost to Olympic bronze medalists Japan.

After finishing third last year – the best among all European teams – Turkey is performing well and completed the second round played in Hong Kong with two wins over Argentina and rookie Czech Republic before losing at the tie-break to hosts China. “It is the third time we play China and the third time we make it to the tie-break. It is nevertheless very important for us to play strong teams like China to become more competitive and make it to the next level” said Turkey’s mentor Massimo Barbolini.

2006 and 2010 world champions Russia swept all of their matches in Ekaterinburg edging Italy 3:1 on the opening day. The Italians got back on track beating Cuba and Thailand in straight sets to remain in contention for a spot in the final stage of the World Grand Prix.  

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