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22/05/2017 10:39
Estonia vie for top two finish in World Championship qualifier
2018 FIVB Volleyball World Championship - Men

Tallinn, Estonia, May 22, 2017. Starting from Wednesday, the recently renovated Kalev sports hall in Tallinn will be hosting the matches on schedule for the Pool D qualifier to the 2018 FIVB Men’s Volleyball World Championship. The fans can look forward to five days of thrilling matches, which will decide which one of the six participating teams – Estonia, Hungary, Kosovo, Montenegro, Romania and Russia – will directly qualify to next year’s global Volleyball party and who will chase the ticket in the third and last qualification round held later this summer.

This past weekend Estonia finished their preparations with four friendly matches. On Friday and Saturday, they defeated Spain by 3-0 and 3-1. On Sunday, the national team was split into two parts. The ‘second unit’ gave a good fight against Spain but lost the decisive set by 11-15. The last match of the preparation phase was against Russia. Estonia had their chances but the gold medallists from the 2012 London Olympics had the upper hand towards the end of each set, this resulting in a 3-0 victory for Russia (25-22, 25-20, 25-21). “I am very satisfied with our game. There were little nuances where we should have been more patient and therefore the result might have been better but all in all the team gained a tremendous experience from playing against such a strong opponent,” Estonia coach Gheorghe Creţu said.

This means that the preparations have ended and now it is time to play for points. “I am satisfied with the team’s technical and physical shape. Now it is important that the players can keep the good condition,” Creţu added.

Estonia will play the national teams of Hungary, Kosovo, Montenegro, Romania and Russia in Pool D. The winner of the group directly qualifies to the 2018 FIVB Men’s World Championship, whereas the runners-up will move on to the third and last stage of the qualification process. “In this home tournament our goal is clear. We have to finish at least second,” Estonian team captain Kert Toobal said. The hosts will start the tournament on Wednesday against Romania.

Russia is obviously the heavy favourite in the pool. One of the team’s superstars, Maxim Mikhailov stated after Sunday’s match with Estonia that he is happy with the result but the team has still some work to do. “If we want to win the group we have to play better. We have a lot of young players in the team so it takes some time before we achieve a full understanding of each other,” he said. Mikhailov also praised the Estonian team with whom they will meet again on the last day of the tournament in Tallinn. “Estonia has a good team, their players participate in strong national leagues and they play at home,” he continued.

Russia will start the tournament against Montenegro. Russia coach Sergey Shlyapnikov stressed that in the remaining days they will focus on video analysis of their opponents. “The first game of the tournament is very important and we are focussing on that a lot. After that, we will gather information on our opponents by following the matches they play,” he concluded.

Click here for a detailed match programme

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