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05/01/2014 23:30
Bulgaria claims opening set of final match in Opava to clinch World Champs ticket
2014 FIVB Volleyball World Championship - Men

Opava, Czech Republic, January 5, 2014. Bulgaria got the right to participate in the Final Round of the 2014 FIVB Men’s Volleyball World Championship though the players around superstar Tsvetan Sokolov lost their last game of the World Champs qualifier – Pool I in Opava to the home heroes of the Czech Republic (2:3; 25-22, 18-25, 22-25, 25-18, and 12-15). This way Bulgaria finished the tournament with seven points, enough to claim first place in the Pool while the Czechs settled for third place behind the Netherlands that on Sunday did their job routing Cyprus in straight sets (25-21, 25-15, and 25-23) before waiting for the final showdown starring the Czechs and Bulgaria.
Bulgaria had traveled to Opava as pre-favorite of the Pool and after scoring two straight wins on Friday and Saturday their position was very favorable going into the final round of action. However, it was down to the Netherlands and Cyprus to open the program of the last day and the “Oranjes” needed to win in straight sets to stand a chance to make it to the World Champs. They achieved their goal even though they were pushed to their limits by underdogs Cyprus in the first and third set. The players from Cyprus played bravely and even could lead the way in the first set (21:19) before the Netherlands cruised to the final 25-21. The second set was firmly controlled by the Dutchmen (25-15) who could also win a close third section of the game (25-23).

The chances for the home heroes to make the Worlds were only theoretical while Bulgaria only needed to win one set to make sure they would finish the tournament on top of the charts. They achieved their goal (25-22) and after that relaxed a bit, with the Czechs sweeping the second and third (25-18, 25-22). Bulgaria fought back in the fourth and called for a tie-break where the Czechs had a bit more luck and cashed a 3:2 victory (15-12) to delight more than 3,100 fans in attendance in Opava.
“We had come here to qualify for the World Champs and we have achieved our goal, so we are happy with the result” said the Italian mentor of Team Bulgaria Camillo Placì.
“Congratulations to Bulgaria on their ticket to the Worlds” added Czech mentor Zdenek Smejkal. “I am satisfied with what my team did tonight. The situation was not easy and I am proud that they reacted this way even though in the end we did not qualify for the Worlds.”

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