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Gianlu33

Men's Volleyball FIVB World Championship 2018

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Federer91    183

No surprises so far in these qualifications. Waiting for France - Germany and Belgium - Slovenia for the deciding matches

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VolleyRuller96    105
5 minutes ago, Federer91 said:

No surprises so far in these qualifications. Waiting for France - Germany and Belgium - Slovenia for the deciding matches

Well,generally I'd agree, but Austria still having decent chances of qualifying is a pretty big thing IMO ;)

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Tokyoyo    0

Very important win for the Netherlands against Greece, 3-0! Still need two victories for qualification for the World Championships.

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VolleyRuller96    105

‘Lange Mannen’ make it three wins in a row, all favourites win as Swiss sensation continues 

 

 

Luxembourg, May 25, 2017. The Netherlands are in full swing – the ‘Lange Mannen’ have set their sights on qualification to the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship after celebrating their third straight victory on home soil in Koog aan de Zaan and will be trying to achieve their goal on Saturday and Sunday in Apeldoorn where the competition in Pool B will resume after a rest day. Elsewhere, top favourites France and Germany (Pool A), Belgium and Slovenia (Pool C), Russia and Estonia (Pool D), as well as Finland and Czech Republic (Pool F) boast a record of two wins in as many matches. Serbia have won two matches too in Pool E, where Switzerland are becoming the real sensation of the World Championship qualifiers after beating Denmark on Wednesday and hosts Croatia on Thursday. 

Pool A in Lyon (FRA) 

Azerbaijan vs. Germany 

Germany claimed their second consecutive victory in Lyon as they rallied past Azerbaijan 3-0 (29-27, 25-18, 25-18). The audience appreciated the close fight which unfolded during the first set and the head coach of Germany, Andrea Giani seized the opportunity to try his second starting six. Even though Germany set the pace for most of the first set, the money time was more closely fought. Azerbaijan found more strength and managed to challenge Andrea Giani’s men with powerful spikes from their two outside hitters Vugar Bayramov and Rasul Ibragimov. Middle blocker Dmitriy Obodnikov (five points) did shine too but the Germans finally emerged victorious with Christian Fromm scoring the two last decisive points of the first set (29-27). On the German side, the starting six and players from the bench switched positions during the second set. The new group consisting of young players did it right: they looked focused, they showed their skills and produced two 25-18 wins to seal a 3-0 victory. 

Farid Jalalov, head coach of Azerbaijan: “Our team is somehow still under construction. We came straight from the Islamic Solidarity Games, where we played the final with Iran and won the silver medal. Today we played our seventeenth game in one month. The players are quite tired and three of our top ones are absent here.” 

Dmitriy Obodnikov, middle blocker of Azerbaijan: “We found the right solutions at the end of the first set but we are still a new team, and we need to learn how to play together. We are learning from every match.” 

György Grozer, opposite of Germany: “It was a bit difficult to move after the power training we did this morning, but we need to work also mentally to shorten the moments where we lack focus. Our goal is to win this tournament. Andrea Giani is a really good surprise for me because it’s fantastic to work with him. He totally understands us. He was an incredible player and he did not forget that. He is a precious help for the young guys who played the two last sets of this match against Azerbaijan.” 

Andrea Giani, head coach of Germany: “Today’s situation was interesting because even though we played fearing we could lose the first set, at the end we won it, so this is a good thing. It was important to give to all the members of the team the opportunity to feel the rhythm of the game. The starting six will always need the other guys to be ready to play.”

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Iceland vs. Turkey 

Iceland put up a fight and won the hearts of the French fans even though they ended up losing 3-0 to Turkey (25-18, 25-23, 25-17). After their harsh defeat to the reigning European champions from France the night before, the young players of Iceland found back some confidence for their second match in the competition. About 40 Icelandic supporters all dressed in blue and waving their flags, were in attendance as well. Iceland showed no hesitation in trying to pose a threat to Turkey even though their opponents quite easily won the first set (25-18). The second set was a dreamy one for the young players of Iceland but the last points left them with a certain taste of frustration. With eight monster blocks in only one set (13 in total), Iceland caused a lot of problems to Turkey. The set was really tight and Iceland were mostly leading the game, but Gökhan Gökgöz, top scorer of the match with 15 points, was the ‘executioner’ when he scored a winning pipe and offered a set point to his team just before the set ended with a fault from Iceland (25-23). After this, Turkey got back control of the game and easily triumphed in the third set as well (25-17).  

Josko Milenkoski, head coach of Turkey: “Iceland played pretty well and we did not. We tried four new players and it was a mess. The motivation was not high enough today. But still we take these three more points which are always important.”

Arslan Eksi, captain of Turkey: “We did not start well because we watched France vs. Iceland on TV yesterday evening and did not expect such a level from our opponent today. We were too relaxed, pretending it would be an easy game. One thing is for sure: we have to change everything tomorrow if we want to compete well against the reigning European champions.”

Rogerio Ponticelli, coach of Iceland: “We could have done something more during the second set. We excelled at blocking but it was a bit thanks to the Turkish hitters who tried to smash too deep. However, my players had great moments today and showed their value much more than they had done yesterday with France.” 

Stefan Gunnar Thorsteinsson, libero of Iceland: “We had plans before the match but they changed the whole team so we didn’t know that much about these players. The challenge was to take at least one set, and we were not far from fulfilling it in the second set. It’s good to see our supporters here and even some French fans were cheering for us, it’s fantastic.”

France vs. Ukraine 

Pool B in Koog aan de Zaan (NED) 

Luxembourg vs. Austria

The tournament in The Netherlands is being played in two cities. Koog aan de Zaan hosted the first three competition days, and after one rest day Apeldoorn will welcome the last two rounds in the pool. On the last day in Koog aan de Zaan, Austria booked a 3-0 victory over Luxembourg (26-24, 25-23, 25-20). Opposite Paul Buchegger claimed the top scorer’s honours with 17 points. Coach Michael Warm said after the match: “We took seven points from three matches and we are very happy with that. We are still in the race and Saturday we can play freely against The Netherlands, the favourite team in my opinion.”

Republic of Moldova vs. Slovakia

In the second match on Ascension Day, Slovakia was too strong for the Republic of Moldova (3-0; 25-9, 33-31, 25-23). By winning their second match in a row, Slovakia kept their chances for a World Championship ticket alive. Matej Patak was the big man for the Slovakians, scoring 16 points. “The Republic of Moldova gave all their best today, in contrast to yesterday against the Netherlands,” explained Miroslav Palgut, the Slovakian coach. “Thanks to good serving and blocking we managed to win this game. The match against Greece on Saturday will be very important for us, we have to win it.”

Greece vs. The Netherlands

In the fully packed Topsportcentrum in Koog aan de Zaan the home team of The Netherlands came out with all guns blazing against Greece, winning the first set at a canter (25-13). The second set was the decisive one in this match. Greece missed as many as eight set points in a row, and after that the Dutch took the lead for the first time in the set: 31-30. Right after this, the great substitute Robin Overbeeke finished it all off (32-30) before the ‘Lange Mannen’ stormed to a compelling 25-16 win in the third set. “This was an absolute team victory,” said head coach Gido Vermeulen. “Thanks to the fighting spirit of Wessel Keemink and Robin Overbeeke we won the second set. Now will we prepare for another final, i.e. the match with Austria coming up on Saturday.” 

Pool C in Ljubljana (SLO) 

On the second day of the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship qualifier in Ljubljana Belgium and Slovenia extended their winning streak and both claimed a second 3-0 victory. Portugal was also successful, but the Israeli team proved to be a tough opponent for them. 

Belgium vs. Georgia 

Belgium’s Red Dragons needed less than an hour to secure a 3-0 (25-18, 25-11, 25-10) victory against Georgia. “Georgia fought hard, and they tried to be a decent opponent, but the difference in quality is too big. I am always happy after games like this one. We won, all players are healthy and we can focus on what is next,” Belgium head coach Vital Heynen commented.

Latvia vs. Slovenia 

In the second match of the day, the hosts from Slovenia emulated Belgium and outplayed the team of Latvia with a clear 3-0 (25-14, 25-14, 25-19) win. “In the first two sets we stuck to the tactics we had agreed upon, but later on our opponents raised the level of their game and kept the rhythm high. However, already in the middle of the third set, we took matters in our hands again and eventually claimed the victory,” Alen Pajenk, Slovenia’s middle blocker who was unstoppable in attack scoring six times out of seven attempts, said after the second win for his team. 

Portugal vs. Israel

After scoring as many as 25 points, Portugal’s Valdir Sequeira was happy with the 3-1 win (25-19, 25-21, 24-26, 25-12) over Israel in the last game of the day, but he admitted there is still much room for improvement: “It was quite a strange game. We won two sets quite easily, but we relaxed too much in the third. We had a 10-point advantage, but we still lost and that is what we can’t afford in future. We have to keep going, to keep fighting. We can give and deliver much more than this.” 

Pool D in Tallinn (EST) 

Russia vs. Romania

Russia delivered an impressive performance in the opening match of the day in Tallinn, this resulting in a comprehensive 3-0 victory (25-18, 25-20, 25-21) over Romania. “Romania played really well, especially with their serve. We had to deal with it and I think we were able to do so quite okay. Taking everything into account, I am very satisfied with today’s result,” Russia head coach Sergey Shlyapnikov said. His Romanian counterpart Danut Pascu commented: “Russia were the favourites and we expected this kind of result. Despite this, it was a good game for us. It was close for most of the time and we lost mainly at the end of each set because Russia has very good and more experienced players. After losing to Estonia and Russia, we now will try to use the next matches to take as much experience as possible.” 

Kosovo vs. Estonia

Estonia head coach Gheorghe Creţu changed the entire starting six for the second match of the tournament on home soil. The second lines were up to the task and stormed to an easy 3-0 (25-13, 25-15, 25-7) victory over rookies Kosovo. Middle blocker Timo Tammemaa scored 16 points, including four blocks, for an impressive 92% success rate. Renee Teppan contributed to this victory with 10 points. “We did not start in the best way when it comes to our concentration and focus but as the match progressed it became evident that our quality was just far better than Kosovo’s,” Estonia team setter Andres Toobal said. Valon Nikqi – captain of Kosovo – said that today’s game was very similar compared to yesterday’s matchup with Hungary. “We played better in the first two sets and in the third one our game totally fell apart,” Nikqi said.

Montenegro vs. Hungary

Montenegro and Hungary delivered a Volleyball marathon lasting for more than two hours with Montenegro eventually having the upper hand 3-2 (23-25, 25-13, 25-23, 26-28, 15-10). “We gave away the first set because of our own mistakes and that made the game much tougher for us but the most important thing is the victory we can celebrate now. This is important for our team spirit and also because we are still in the race when it comes to qualification to the World Championship,” Montenegro head coach Veljko Basic stated. In the fifth set the eventual winners had a rough start too. Hungary sprinted to a 5-1 lead but Milos Culafic had a superb service series. The opposite hit two aces and pulled Montenegro to a 7-5 lead. After that, Montenegro never trailed again. Culafic ended the game with 28 points – 11 (!) of these were aces. Hungary’s opposite Krisztian Padar answered with 25 points. Although they lost the match head coach Juan Manuel Barrial said this game was a big step forward for Hungarian Volleyball. “It is a good result because we gained a lot of confidence and now we just have to believe in ourselves and to the fact that it is possible for us to play against every team,” he said.

Pool E in Zagreb (CRO)

Denmark vs. Serbia

Serbia had to work hard to record their second 3-0 victory in Zagreb as Denmark put up a real fight (3-0; 25-23, 34-32, 25-19). The start of the match seemed to indicate an easy mission to accomplish for Serbia. However, after the initial nervousness, Denmark responded with Peter Trolle Bonnesen (15 points in the end) and Rasmus Breuning Nielsen (15 points) to take the lead at the second technical time-out of the first set (16-15). Serbia fought back flipping the charts around (20-17) but Denmark closed in at 23-24, before a service mistake from Philip Metin Özari sealed a 25-23 win for the players coached by Nikola Grbic. 

Trolle Bonnesen helped Denmark rally to a 5-1 early lead in the second set and even though Serbia stormed back, the Danes were able to keep a margin of three to four points for most of the set. A pair of poorly played balls in attack by Denmark and good serving from Srečko Lisinac helped Serbia edge ahead at 21-18. Denmark fought back again and the two teams traded points for quite some time until the pre-favourites from Serbia claimed a hard-fought 34-32 victory.
Despite the unfortunate loss of the second set, the Danish team continued to play on a high level. On the other hand, Nikola Grbic mixed his starting six with a few second lines and this proved a good move as Serbia rallied to a 25-19 win to claim their second 3-0 victory in the tournament, with Aleksandar Atanasijević (14 points) and Nemanja Petrić (12 points) top scoring in the end for the Balkan team. 
Srećko Lisinac, player of Serbia: “It is hard to play against a team that is worse than you and you do not have much information about. When a match is at such a level that an opponent has nothing to lose and plays hard in an attack without any fear of making mistakes, a small drop in concentration can tilt the set in the other direction. If we play like we did today, then everyone can disrupt our plans in this tournament. We cannot make too many mistakes in a row as we did. We came here to play the best we can and qualify for the World Championship.”  
Rasmus Breuning Nielsen, player of Denmark: “I am very happy with our performance today. We managed to come back after yesterday’s heavy defeat in the first match of the tournament. Serbia is a strong team and we were able to put up a fight. I believe that in the next three days we will win one or the other match if we play at that same level.” 

Belarus vs. Norway 

After some ups and downs, Belarus stormed to a 3-1 victory (25-19, 25-20, 20-25, 25-22) over Norway to improve their win-loss record in the tournament to 1-1. The first set was some kind of a routine for Belarus (25-19) but Artur Udrys and Pavel Kuklinski (top scorers in the end with 20 and 18 points, respectively) could not keep that same level in the second; Norway edged ahead but suffered a big blow with the injury of their libero Øystein Bergum by the score of 17-16. This disrupted their game and Belarus comfortably won the second set 25-20. Norway claimed a small advantage (16-14) at the second technical time-out of the third set before Belarus levelled the count at 16-all. The Scandinavians showed good defence but Belarus looked very motivated to not let the game slip from their hands and eventually doubled their lead in the match. Even though they put up a fight almost from start to end, especially with Vetle Hylland (16 points) and Mathias Loftesnes (14 points), Norway lost concentration towards the end of the fourth set – and Belarus eventually took three points from the match. 

Vetle Hylland, player of Norway: “After the injury of our libero, it was difficult to continue the game because we have been preparing for this tournament only with him playing on that position. The second libero is most of all a defence player. Our middle blockers and opposite player therefore had to play a role in reception as well and I think they did quite well.” 

Artur Udrys, player of Belarus: “We did not see all the teams, but I believe we can compete for the second place in this tournament. I am happy with our game, but we still lack the right chemistry on the court. We play better with each match and I believe that by the end of the tournament we will show our true level.” 

Switzerland vs. Croatia 

Switzerland are slowly becoming the real sensation of Pool E – after beating Denmark on Wednesday, they did it again, this time edging hosts Croatia 3-1 (26-28, 25-20, 25-18, 25-23). After the score remained close through to 11-all in the first set, Switzerland broke away (16-13) before Croatia closed in again. The home team’s mentor Ivan Rančić decided to replace Sandro Dukić with Ante Giljanović, and this helped Croatia flip the charts around. Leo Andrić set the pace for Croatia at this stage and a close fight continued until the home side had the upper hand at 28-26. Three mistakes by Croatia helped Switzerland claim a small lead in the second set and even though their coach made a number of changes, Croatia could never find back their rhythm. History repeated itself in the third set where Sébastien Steigmeier (top scorer with 23 points in the end) helped the visitors claim an early lead which they held on to until the end. Young setter Petar Višić delivered a good performance for Croatia in the early stages of the fourth set but Switzerland came back strong and eventually won the match 3-1. 

Leo Andrić, player of Croatia: “We expected strong resistance. I know most of the players from the Swiss league so I knew they would fight. Yesterday they beat Denmark and that gave them a lot of confidence going into today’s match. Unfortunately, we were not good today, and even though we gave our best, this was not enough to win.” 

Sébastien Steigmeier, player of Switzerland: “We did not expect to win, but we really wanted it and we showed it with our game. It was good that we did not give up after losing the first set and we came back strong, eventually taking three points from this game. I am especially happy for our staff, as they have been working really hard with us.” 

Pool F in Karlovy Vary (CZE) 

Finland vs. Northern Ireland 

Finland opened the programme of the second competition day in Karlovy Vary with an easy 3-0 victory (25-8, 25-8, 25-9) over Northern Ireland to take the leadership in the pool. Niklas Seppänen, who top scored 14 points for Finland, commented: “The result is what we hoped for. You could see the difference between these two sides, and that we are the stronger team. So, I am happy we achieved our goal without any problems.” The atmosphere was great with many supporters from Finland in attendance. “The Finnish fans here are great. It feels like we are playing at home all the time. So, it’s a good start to this tournament,” the Finnish spiker said.

Czech Republic vs. Sweden 

The Swedish team lost only at the tiebreak to Spain on Wednesday night and they wanted to cause some troubles also to the hosts. The team of the Czech Republic opened the tournament with a clear victory over Northern Ireland and the Czechs repeated that same performance also in their matchup with Sweden (25-19, 25-16, 25-20). Michal Finger, the Czech player who will be playing in Italy next season for GI Group MONZA, was satisfied with his team’s performance: “We wanted to play our Volleyball based on good serving combined with perfect defence and I think we were good at it but it could have been even better.” 

Cyprus vs. Spain 

In the last match of the day in Pool F, Spain beat Cyprus 3-0 (25-17, 25-14, 25-22). There was no surprise and the Spaniards gave no chance to their opponents. After yesterday’s dramatic battle with Sweden, the Spanish team didn’t lose a set so they could save up some energy. Their player Francisco José Ruiz commented the success: “For us it was an opportunity to improve the quality of our game because we know we are not on top level, so we tried to fix a few things.”

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VolleyRuller96    105

Eight teams – plus the Netherlands – boast perfect record after day 3 of World Champs qualifications 

 

 

 

Luxembourg, May 26, 2017. With the teams locking horns in Pool B enjoying a rest day, competition continued on Friday in another five qualifiers to the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship resulting in eight teams boasting a perfect record of three wins in as many matches. This applies to France and Germany in Pool A, Slovenia and Belgium in Pool C, Estonia and Russia in Pool D, while Serbia and Finland are slowly cementing their role of dominant forces in Pool E and F, respectively. The winners of the six second-round qualifiers will progress straight to next year’s World Championship in Italy and Bulgaria, whereas the runners-up will have one last call with a third-round qualifier currently scheduled for mid-July. 

Pool A in Lyon (FRA) 


Germany vs. Iceland 

As expected, Germany routed Iceland 3-0 (25-12, 25-12, 25-14) to secure their third straight victory in Lyon. Germany was much too strong for Iceland and in the first set, Philipp Collin scored as many four aces; Iceland responded with two monster blocks but too many faults from their side paved the way to a landslide 25-12 win for Germany. History repeated itself in the second set where Germany made some mistakes in the early stages (12-8) before accelerating the pace to cruise to a second 25-12 win. The third and last set was a pure formality for Germany. Head coach Andrea Giani seized the opportunity to use some of his second lines and opposite Jochen Schöps and outside hitter Ruben Schott did an excellent job, thus making up for the many service errors made by their side (seven during the third set, 13 in total). Totally drained, the young Icelandic team did not find any solutions and Germany comfortably sealed their 3-0 victory at 25-14.  

Alexander Stefansson, captain of Iceland: “We spent a lot of energy in yesterday’s game with Turkey. Something was missing in this match. However, we are enjoying our stay, we are very happy with our game and we have achieved some of our goals. Moreover, we had to play against really tough players, sometimes it’s a bit intimidating but it’s a great experience.” 

Lukas Kampa, captain of Germany: “We did better today than yesterday and I am happy that everybody played a little role in this victory. With all my respect for Iceland because they tried their best, it’s difficult to get prepared for this kind of match. It’s such a big difference in the level of the opposition. The hardest part is to stay focussed, warm and not to get injured. But still on the court it’s nice to see that they are excited to play here. In a way it’s nice to have such a team in the tournament but we have different goals. Now we have some time to rest and we will need this energy for tomorrow’s match against Turkey.” 

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Turkey vs. France

After a close first set, France rallied past Turkey 3-0 (25-21, 25-18, 25-17) to secure their third straight victory in Lyon. 3,100 fans came together for a high-level match on Friday night. On Thursday Turkey team captain Arslan Eksi had warned that his team would find the right inspiration when playing the reigning European champions. The first set was indeed a close race with France emerging victorious only after their middle blocker Kevin Le Roux scored two aces (25-21). After a difficult start to the second set, France put on a show and even though Turkey tried to respond with their young, talented opposite Yigit Gülmezoglü, France comfortably claimed a 25-18 win. France looked solid as a rock in the third set too: young opposite Stephen Boyer drove the fans crazy with his amazing spikes and monster blocks, libero Jénia Grebennikov saved some powerful spikes with one hand and Kevin Le Roux (top scorer in the end with 10 points) hit each ball higher and harder. The audience deserved a standing ovation to Earvin Ngapeth after he joined the actions towards the end of the match – he has been out so far because of a recent injury.  

Josko Milenkoski, head coach of Turkey: “Today we tried our best but it was not enough. Before the match we knew who the favourite was. They played amazingly, especially in attack, where we could not stop them whereas we were quite close to France in all other aspects of the game. We must stay positive because it’s only our third match together.” 

Laurent Tillie, head coach of France: “Turkey received very well. They were strong in the most difficult situations but we were excellent in attack. I wish I could have given more time on the court to Earvin Ngapeth but it’s difficult to know how ready he is after his injury. He needs to find his rhythm back before Sunday’s big match against Germany.”

Kevin Le Roux, middle blocker of France: “We know that with each day the level is getting higher. This starting six works pretty well. I have found back good feelings from the serving line too!” 

Ukraine vs. Azerbaijan 

Ukraine claimed their first victory in Lyon as they defeated Azerbaijan in three sets (25-13, 25-23, 25-20). The game was tight especially in the second set where the two teams delivered a good show for the joy of 1,100 fans in attendance.  The heavy defeat suffered by Ukraine against France the day before had left a certain taste of frustration. Against Azerbaijan, Ugis Krastins’ players were highly motivated and eventually celebrated their first victory in the tournament. Vasyl Tupchii was the top scorer of the match with 16 points. Ukraine dominated Azerbaijan in the first set (25-13) putting pressure with their service (this resulting in four aces) and a perfect performance from their leaders Vasyl Tupchii and Andrii Kutsmus. Azerbaijan did not accept such an easy loss and came back into the game in the second set. Dmitriy Obodnikov was on fire in attack (he produced five points) and outside hitter Vugar Bayramov concluded some important points but the spectacular set finally ended in the hands of Ukraine. The third set was closely contested but it became harder for Azerbaijan when, in the money time, Ukraine found two aces (they recorded 11 in the match) to celebrate a 3-0 victory (25-20). 

Ugis Krastins, head coach of Ukraine: “We were calm all the way and we controlled the game from the beginning to the end. It was important to recover from the two first losses to Germany and France. Today we got back on our feet!” 

Vasyl Tupchii, outside hitter of Ukraine, top scorer of the match with 16 points: “The two last sets were tight but thanks to some aces we avoided a fourth set that could have been really hard. We are really happy for this victory; the audience was perfect and I believe they enjoyed the game.” 

Farid Jalalov, head coach of Azerbaijan: “We are disappointed. We failed completely in the first set, whereas the second and the third sets were within our reach but the players are physically and mentally tired. However this is not an excuse. There were good things yesterday against Germany, today against Ukraine, we could have done better.”

Pool C in Ljubljana (SLO) 

The third day of the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship qualifier in Ljubljana provided the fans with a few more thrilling matches. Latvia claimed their first victory while Slovenia and Belgium didn’t allow any surprises although they both had to raise the level of their performance.

Georgia vs. Latvia 

Latvia’s national team player Edvarts Buivids was satisfied with their first points in this tournament after a comprehensive 3-0 (25-9, 25-17, 25-14) victory against Georgia: “We did our best, although it was hard to concentrate with the other team not playing so well. We loosened up a bit at the beginning of the third set, but we pulled ourselves together and secured the victory,” said Buivids who top scored in the match by tallying up 16 points.

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Slovenia vs. Portugal 

Slovenia faced their toughest opponent so far and had to step up their game to claim another 3-0 (25-21, 25-20, 27-25) victory, this time over Portugal. “This match indicated how hard it is to play day after day and to stay focussed. I am happy that we won and even with some ups and downs in our performance we still managed to take another three points,” Tine Urnaut, Slovenia team captain and today’s top scorer (16 points) commented.

Israel vs. Belgium 

Belgium delivered another solid performance for their third straight 3-0 (25-13, 25-18, 25-21) win in the tournament, this time against Israel. François Lecat, the best receiver and second best scorer (12 points, Sam Deroo piled up 14) said after the match: “Already before the tournament we knew that the toughest games would be against Portugal and Slovenia. However, we respect all our opponents. I believe we have a good team, with good players on the court and as well on the bench, so we can save some energy for the most important matches.”

Pool D in Tallinn (EST) 

Romania vs. Kosovo

Kosovo men’s national team, which is taking their first steps on the international stage, can proudly say that they will not leave Tallinn empty-handed. The rookies from the Balkan country won the third set of their matchup with Romania 25-21, a historic result since this accounts for the first set Kosovo ever won in international competitions. The historic achievement came through a net touch by one of the Romanian players. Obviously the mood was good among the players from Kosovo. “Of course the set victory is very important to us. It is also good that while in the previous two matches we fell apart in the third set and lost it by wide margin, today we were more focussed,” Kosovo team captain Valon Nikqi said. Romanian team opposite Gabriel Cherbeleata said that despite the 3-1 (25-12, 25-15, 21-25, 25-15) victory, they can’t be satisfied with the outcome of the third set. “It should have been an easy game for us but we were too relaxed in the third set and made too many mistakes,” he commented.

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Estonia vs. Montenegro

Despite the score being 3-0 (25-23, 27-25, 25-23) to Estonia, the match of the hosts against Montenegro was a real thriller. “We were struggling at the beginning but step by step we managed to gain confidence and play our game. On the other hand, in the third set we made a lot of stupid mistakes – both in our side-out and service – and let Montenegro come back into the game,” Estonian mentor Gheorghe Creţu said. 
In the first set Montenegro led 15-11 and 23-22, in the second one 7-2 and again at 23-22, in the third one Estonia had the upper hand in the score after comfortably leading the way at 21-17. Estonian opposite Oliver Venno, who netted 19 points and was the best scorer of the match, said that key elements of the match was their good serve and block-defence. “Even if we did not get so many direct points, we had a lot of touches with our block,” he said.  
“The score could have been 3-0 to us but we could not finish the first and second sets in our favour. I feel that our team is not yet in top form. We play two, three very good rallies but then we can’t keep the same level for long. Estonia did it and this made the difference. On top of this, both Vojin Cacic and Marko Bojic have been injured recently,” Montenegro head coach Veljko Basic commented. 

Hungary vs. Russia

Russia emulated Estonia to net their third straight victory in the pool when they defeated Hungary 3-0 (25-18, 25-17, 25-16). It was a fairly close game in the first set when Russia led only 20-18 but after that, the favourites netted five straight points. In the second set they run to 15-7 and in the third one to an 11-3 lead, thus easily sealing their 3-0 victory. “It is really difficult to play against Russia, especially in block-defence. We tried to push them with our serve because when their setter receives the ball close to the net, their success rate is 70 percent,” said Hungary head coach Juan Manuel Barrial. “However, I am really satisfied with our team’s attitude. It is clear that they want to improve in every situation and this is our way how to get better in the future,” he added. 
Russian head coach Sergey Shlyapnikov was satisfied that he had the chance to give a lot of playing time to some of his younger players. “It is very important in the longer run because in the near future we will start the FIVB World League and we have to make sure that we have many players who can compete on a high level,” he said.

Pool E in Zagreb (CRO) 

Norway vs. Denmark 

Denmark claimed the ‘Scandinavian derby’ with Norway to open the programme of the third competition day in Zagreb. Norway, whose first libero Øystein Bergum suffered an injury in yesterday’s game with Belarus, decided to move Bjarne Nikolai Huus to that position. Norway kept the pace of their rivals up to the first technical time-out before Denmark broke away (12-7). Lars Fredrik Tvinde helped Norway close in at 21-23 but two more points secured the set for Denmark at 25-23. The close fight continued also in the second set where Norway this time broke away halfway through with four consecutive points to eventually level the game (25-18). Denmark fought back in the third set where they claimed an early lead and were able to hold on to it (25-16) before Norway responded setting the pace in the fourth set (8-5; 16-13). However, the ‘Vikings’ suffered a drop of concentration after the break and Denmark used this to their advantage to win the set and the match as well (25-23). Peter Trolle Bonnesen and Rune Fasteland top scored for Denmark and Norway, respectively with 22 and 15 points. 

Peter Trolle Bonnesen, player of Denmark: “Matches with Norway are always special because we are neighbouring nations and we play against them with a special charge. These are important qualifications, and today’s match is a good comeback for us after yesterday’s loss in the match against Serbia.” 

Rune Fasteland, player of Norway: “We played well, but in some moments we lacked quality and consistency, especially when it comes to our side-out where we lost quite a few points. The new libero played well but without the guy who got injured yesterday, we are not quite the same team.”  

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Serbia vs. Switzerland 

Serbia was the clear-cut favourite in the match featuring the two teams with a perfect record in the pool after two days. The Swiss players could put up a fight only in the early stages of the first set before Serbia broke away with good serving from Marko Ivović (16-6). Switzerland did not finalise their attacks even after a good pass and this resulted in a compelling 25-15 win for Serbia. 
After such an easy ride, Serbia understandably suffered a drop of concentration and Switzerland used this to their advantage to claim an 8-6 lead. However, head coach Nikola Grbić was able to bring the Serbian team back to their level of play – which Switzerland could not match (25-18). 
The third set was only a formality for Serbia, and their coach enjoyed this opportunity to mix the starting six and let the reserve players perform without affecting the final result (25-18). Marko Ivović and Luca Ulrich top scored in the end with 14 and seven points for Serbia and Switzerland. 

Dragan Stanković, team captain of Serbia: “Yesterday we were not that good, especially from a psychological point of view. Today we played with an opponent who had two wins, so as many as we had, and we knew that we had to take this match very seriously, which is what we eventually did. There are two more matches from which we expect further victories to secure our participation in the World Championship.” 

Jovan Djokić, player of Switzerland: “It was a strange feeling to play against Serbia, since my parents are from Belgrade. As a child I always wanted to play for Serbia. I do not think any team from this group can compete with them or challenge them. There are two games still remaining for us and I think we can win them. Our goal is to progress to the third round of qualifications.” 

Croatia vs. Belarus 

Belarus completed the programme of the third competition day in Zagreb with a 3-1 victory (25-14, 34-36, 25-16, 25-22) over hosts Croatia. In the early stages of the first set, Belarus put a lot of pressure with the serve and their defence was just outstanding; their success rate in attack stood at 94% and this resulted in a landslide 25-14 win after only 20 minutes of play. The course of the game changed in the second set where the score remained close from start to end; Artur Udrys and Ivan Raič set the pace for Belarus and Croatia, respectively and the hosts claimed a 16-13 lead, only to lose four points in a row shortly afterwards, primarily because of their own mistakes. After a very long fight, Croatia emerged victorious at 36-34. However, it looked like Croatia wasted too much energy in the second set as Belarus clearly won the third one – in an attempt to cement their chances to finish second in the tournament. Danijel Galić pushed Belarus with some strong serving in the early stages of the fourth set and even though the two teams exchanged the lead back and forth a few times, Belarus had the upper hand to take three important points from this game. 
 
Ivan Raič, captain of Croatia and top scorer with 26 points: “We tried our best but it did not work. Due to commitments we all had towards our respective clubs, we started our preparations for this tournament very late. We are a young team and we are playing for the first time with this roster. We need time and I believe that we will achieve some good results in future.” 
 
Siarhei Busel, captain of Belarus: “Today our service and defence worked well. However, we made too many unforced mistakes in the second set. Our block was not so good, but when we managed to stop Ivan Raič, we got control over the match.” 

Pool F in Karlovy Vary (CZE) 

Sweden vs. Finland 

The third day of the World Championship qualifier in Karlovy started with a Nordic derby featuring Finland and Sweden. It soon became obvious which team was going to dominate and impose their rule. The heavy pre-favourites from Finland rallied to a compelling 3-0 (25-14, 25-19, 25-21) victory, thus making another step forward towards qualifying to the World Championship. “It was a typical game for us because our style is based on good defence and we are trying to fight for every ball. It was a good game for us,” Finnish superstar Olli-Pekka Ojansivu said.

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Northern Ireland vs. Cyprus 

The battle of the two weakest teams in the pool produced a clear victory for Cyprus over Northern Ireland (3-0; 25-20, 25-16, 25-22). The tournament in Karlovy Vary is an interesting experience for both teams as the captain of Northern Ireland Alan McKnight claimed: “We can take a lot from it. It’s fantastic experience.” The Cyprus side is hoping for one more success at this competition. “We are happy for this win. We have two more games and we will do our best to win them too,” player Ioannis Kontos said.

Spain vs. Czech Republic 

Czech captain Ales Holubec and his teammates played Spain in the last match of the day. The game was a close fight from the very beginning and even though the Czechs were probably the favourites going into this match, the visitors deservedly won 3-2 (25-22, 20-25, 22-25, 25-21, 15-10). “We are extremely happy for this win. I think we deserved it because we did not give it up after losing the third set and we fought till the end. It was a great fight,” Spanish captain Jorge Fernandez Valcarcel said. This loss makes things a lot more challenging for the Czech Republic, who now have to win two matches out of two if they want to make it to the World Championship. 

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