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Women's Volleyball FIVB World Championship 2018

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20 minutes ago, VolleyRuller96 said:

That would be definitely one of biggest surprises I ever saw in volleyball, but whenever there seems to be so huge gap between team levels like here nothing is sure. Estonia may even lead 24-20 in III set and lose... or lead 8-2 in tie break and then lose 15- 9 :(

you are too harsh pn your girls

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28 minutes ago, DaniSRB said:

you are too harsh pn your girls

Yes I've been told so a few times since yesterday :d Well, I  just don't think losing the fifth set like this should happen. Not against Czech Republic.If that was Serbia, Germany, Turkey they would be playing against - ok, they just weren't strong enough. But Czechs are not really amongst the best teams in the world, yet they totally outclassed us. We scored that one pount just because of Czech error. You have to admit, even for women's volley standard this is pretty long streak ;)

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This is so sad. Poland from one of the best team in the world to this.


ok I know that our team is strong, but still.

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The following teams have progressed either to World Championship or Qualification Round 3


Women's Tournament





























Edited by VolleyRuller96

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Serbia simply ruthless as Olympic silver medallists book ticket to Japan



Warsaw, Poland, May 28, 2017. The silver medallists from the Rio 2016 Olympics – Serbia – are the first European team to secure a ticket to next year’s FIVB Women’s Volleyball World Championship in Japan. They did so by completing a clean sweep of their matches in Pool B where they did not drop a set in five games, finally routing also hosts Poland on Sunday. The Czech Republic settled for second place, thus keeping alive their chances of boarding a plane to Japan next year – and the Czechs will be trying to achieve this goal when contesting the third and final stage of European qualifications in mid-August. 

Iceland vs. Slovakia 

The match between Iceland and Slovakia brought no surprises. Marek Rojko’s team shined with a 63% spiking efficiency against their opponents, who managed to attack successfully only once every three attempts. The Icelandic team can be commended for their better performance at blocking, compared to Saturday’s match with Cyprus. This, however, could not have any major impact on the final result, especially when Slovakia kept bombarding their opponents from the service line (15 aces), saying good-bye to Warsaw with a comprehensive 3-0 victory (25-11, 25-21, 25-11).
“For us it was an important tournament to practice as a team and gain more experience in the game. Facing a stronger rival is always a great opportunity to improve your skills and be better prepared for the next competition,” said Iceland Frida Sigurdardottir.


Czech Republic vs. Cyprus 

The Czech Republic’s 3-0 (25-18, 25-14, 25-15) win against Cyprus cemented their second place in the tournament, with a chance for a World Championship berth in the last qualification round. Fuelled by this kind of motivation, the Czech players were dominant in the scorecards on spiking, while Cyprus gave away too many points (10 in the second set) to be able to pose a threat to their opponent. The third and last set only confirmed the Czech Republic’s dominance on the court, with a great performance and the final point scored by Katerina Kohoutova.
“This was a good tournament for our team. Our goal for Warsaw was to take up the second place. Winning over Poland was the biggest milestone and we did it! I am happy and excited to wait for the outcome of the last match between Poland and Serbia,” said Veronika Dostalova, libero of the Czech Republic.

Serbia vs. Poland 
The first set of Poland vs. Serbia showed the difference in quality between these two teams. The Olympic vice-champions were aware of their own strength and capabilities, while the hosts seemed to still have the painful loss against the Czech Republic in their heads. Zoran Terzic’s players dominated on court from the very beginning (8-2) and their superb reception allowed them to lead the game as they pleased. Two sets (25-15, 25-16) were enough to confirm Serbia’s first place in the tournament, the third one (25-15) was a formality, giving the team a flawless 3-0 record in all of their Warsaw matches.
The organisers of the tournament awarded the best players / Dream Team of the competition as follows:
Outside hitter: Brankica MIHAJLOVIC (SRB)
Outside hitter: Michaela MLEJNKOVA (CZE)
Middle blocker: Stefana VELJKOVIĆ (SRB)
Middle blocker: Agnieszka KĄKOLEWSKA (POL)
Libero: Silvija POPOVIĆ (SRB)
Setter: Bojana ZIVKOVIĆ (SRB)
Opposite hitter: Tijana BOŠKOVIĆ (SRB)

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Top teams off to flying start in women’s World Champs qualifiers 



Luxembourg, May 31, 2017. The top favourite teams – i.e. Russia, Croatia, Belgium, Italy, Bulgaria, Turkey and Germany – caught a promising start to their campaign in the second round of European qualifiers to the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship Japan 2018. They all claimed their respective opening matches in three sets to cement their status as ‘hottest’ candidates to book a ticket to Japan. Azerbaijan and The Netherlands achieved the same feat in Pool E – and actually they repeated it for the second day running, since they started their campaign on Tuesday already and they have not dropped a single set this far at the tournament being held in Azerbaijan’s capital. 

Pool A in Osijek (CRO) 

Russia vs. Austria 

Russia are certainly the clear-cut favourites to claim a ticket to next year’s World Championship from Pool A and they cemented this role from the very first match they contested in Osijek, routing Austria in three sets (25-14, 25-13, 25-15). Russia coach Vladimir Kuzyutkin could use almost all of the players on the roster and was visibly satisfied with the result. Kseniia Parubets (Ilchenko) top scored for Russia as Srna Markovic paced Austria in their losing effort. Austria head coach Svetlana Ilic commented: “I am pleased with the performance of my players. We are playing in a very difficult and challenging pool, but my players are happy that they can measure themselves up against such world-class opponents.”


Greece vs. Hungary 

The second match of the day was much closer and a lot more dramatic, with Greece eventually edging Hungary at the tiebreak (25-18, 20-25, 20-25, 25-21, 15-13). It was difficult to predict the outcome of the match, especially in the fourth set where Hungary enjoyed a small advantage and eventually called for the tiebreak. Greta Szakmary and Bernadett Dekany top scored for Hungary as Anthi Vasilantonaki and libero Areta Konomi were the key players in Greece’s eventual victory. Hungary coach Alberto Salamoni commented: “We are disappointed, especially since we were that close to winning the match. We played well and we hope for a positive result in tomorrow’s game with Austria.” 

Georgia vs. Croatia 

Hosts Croatia easily beat Georgia 3-0 (28-26, 25-11, 25-18) even though the first set was kind of shocking for the home fans as the Croatian team had to work hard and fight until the end before emerging victorious. The following two sets were a lot easier and Croatia eventually celebrated a 3-0 victory to start their home campaign in Osijek and quest for a spot to compete at next year’s World Championship in Japan. 

Pool C in Sofia (BUL) 

Turkey vs. Kosovo 

Turkey comfortably claimed the first set of their matchup with Kosovo and after that their Italian-born coach Giovanni Guidetti made some substitutions without affecting the final result (3-0; 25-5, 25-13, 25-10) in any way. Meryem Boz top scored for Turkey with nine points as Fjolla Shabani scored four times for Kosovo in their first ever international match. 

Nazmie Ibrahimi, player of Kosovo: “This match was really special for me and my team, because for the first time in history we represent our country in such a big tournament. As you know we are the youngest country in Europe and it is great pleasure to be here. Turkey is a great team, we knew that and we tried to do our best. However, for us it is important to continue to work even harder and hopefully one day we will be able to put up a fight and be successful even when playing strong opponents such as Turkey.”   

Lorik Ilazi, coach of Kosovo: “This is the first international competition for our women’s national team. The level here is really high. For our team this tournament is really important because we will have the opportunity to learn and gain some valuable experience. This is our main goal here, not the results. Turkey is just too strong for us. We have a programme for the next years to develop our young players and to build a strong team.”  

Güldeniz Önal, player of Turkey: “We tried to play with a lot of discipline in all aspects of the game. If our block did not work so well, they ended up scoring, so this means that we have to improve on this element for the next matches. However, I am confident that the level of our performance will improve in time for the big match with Bulgaria. Step by step, match after match we will play better and better.” 

Giovanni Guidetti, head coach of Turkey: “Of course, it was not a difficult match and I’m happy because all of my players had the opportunity to take to the court. This is only the first day of the tournament and it’s really important that all players join the competition and feel the atmosphere of it. I am very happy with this. Kosovo tried their best and I want to congratulate them because they never gave up. They fought for every ball even when the situation was difficult. Respect for Kosovo!”


Bulgaria vs. Switzerland 

Hosts Bulgaria started in the best way their campaign in Pool C with a comfortable 3-0 (25-8, 25-9, 25-20) victory over Switzerland. After the first two sets, Bulgaria head coach Ivan Seferinov made some substitutions and Switzerland managed to play better in the third, even though Bulgaria emerged victorious in the end. Nasya Dimitrova and Emiliya Nikolova scored seven points apiece for the “Lionesses”. Maja Storck finished the match as top scorer recording nine markers for Switzerland. 

Emiliya Nikolova, player of Bulgaria: “We were really concentrated but as you could see from the third set, when we lose focus, we immediately start making mistakes. Tomorrow I expect to start with our six best players. For sure Romania is a tough opponent, but we won our last two matches against them last year and back then we showed that if we play at our level, they do not stand any chance against us.” 

Gergana Dimitrova, player of Bulgaria: “In the third set we didn’t play as well as in the first two sets, but the most important thing is the final result. Romania play well, especially in defence. Now we will scout them and we will be ready for tomorrow’s match.”  

Sarah Troesch, player of Switzerland: “Bulgaria served really strong. They are very experienced and tall. Bulgaria played well from start to end and it was a little bit difficult for us, but I think in the third set we finally found our game. We scored 20 points and this is actually good. Bulgaria and Turkey are the best two teams in this pool but we will try to keep the level from the third set and take it to the next matches.” 

Thays Deprati, libero of Switzerland: “For us it was a really difficult game. We had a lot of problems in the beginning but we played better and better as the match progressed. We have a good feeling and I think the last set was really much better and now we are in the tournament. We feel ready for the matches to come.” 

Romania vs. Montenegro 

Romania completed the programme of the opening day in Sofia with a comprehensive 3-0 victory (25-23, 25-15, 25-16) over Montenegro. 

Dragan Nesic, coach of Montenegro: “Today the difference was 25 years. We had three players on the court who are only 15 years old. I am happy I can provide them with the opportunity to play at this level because they have a lot of potential and a bright future ahead. Congratulations to Romania. I hope in future my team will grow so that the next time we can beat them.” 

Nikoleta Perovic, captain of Montenegro: “Romania is a good team. We started pretty well and we played really solid in the first set but after that we didn’t manage to bring out our best game.” 

Madalina Angelescu, coach of Romania: “We are happy because my players performed really well. They played a good match. They understood the kind of spirit and motivation which they must have and show in a game like this. It’s very important to start the tournament with a victory, so for us this is a huge moment. Bulgaria is the best team in this pool. Tomorrow’s match will be a very difficult one. They have a lot of experience but we will try do our best and this is Volleyball, so you never know what can happen.” 

Adina Salaoru, captain of Romania: “For us this is a very important tournament. We really, really wanted to start with a victory. We are glad that we finally managed to beat Montenegro, because we are teams of the same level but maybe today we were the luckier ones. Bulgaria is a really strong team but you know, anything can happen in sport.”
Pool D in Kortrijk (BEL) 

As many had expected and predicted, the women’s World Championship qualifier in Kortrijk started with easy victories for hosts Belgium and Italy in their respective matches with Latvia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Belgium beat Latvia 3-0 (25-17, 25-13, 25-12) and the coach of the Yellow Tigers, Gert Vande Broek, said: “It was a good way to warm up for the remainder of the tournament.” Italy showed little mercy for Bosnia and Herzegovina in the third and last match of the opening day (25-12, 25-12, 25-13). “We could try some tactics and test some players; we had a good start to the tournament by playing this kind of match,” said Italy coach Davide Mazzanti.


The result of the first match was a little more surprising as Belarus routed Spain in three sets too (25-14, 25-20, 25-13). Aliaksandr Klimovich, coach of Belarus, was obviously pleased with this result. “The way we won this match makes me happy and hopeful ahead of the next games,” he said. “Our tactical plan was good, we could read their game from the first minute, we remained concentrated until the end, our block was outstanding and our counterattacks worked well too. Of course, we have some experienced players on our team, but our setter remained calm all the time, and she listened to her coach,” he said. “What about the expectations for the rest of this tournament? Let’s enjoy the victory today, and after that we will be taking it one match at a time and see how far this is going to take us.” 

Pool E in Baku (AZE) 

The Netherlands vs. Norway 

The Netherlands – together with Azerbaijan the ‘hottest’ candidate for the top spot in the pool – added a second victory to their tally as they easily beat Norway 3-0 (25-11, 25-14, 25-13). The Netherlands showed an impressive quality in their game and as a result, they still have not dropped a single set in the two matches they have contested so far in Baku. Team captain Maret Balkestein-Grothues finished the match with nine points and said: “I think we delivered a very good performance, we have won two matches so far and we feel the rhythm of the game. I think we can do even better in the next matches against Israel, Ukraine and Azerbaijan. The team is 100% ready for the matches still to come.” 
Norway head coach Odd Atle Ekerhovd took some positives from the match despite the 0-3 loss. “We did a good job in reception and in some other aspects of the game. We keep on learning and we hope to play as good as we can in the next matches.” 


Ukraine vs. Azerbaijan 

Azerbaijan emulated the Netherlands as the hosts also claimed their second 3-0 victory in the tournament, this time dispatching Ukraine in three sets (25-17, 25-17, 25-21). Azerbaijan came out with all guns blazing leading 10-5 in the first set as Natalya Mammadova and Polina Rahimova joined forces to contribute to a real Volleyball show, finally resulting in a comfortable 25-17 win for the home side. Ukraine found their rhythm in the second set, thus claiming an early lead (8-5) before Azerbaijan responded to make it 10-all. Mammadova scored some terrific blocks and showed a very solid performance in reception as well to pave the way to another 25-17 set win for Azerbaijan. Ukraine attempted to change the course of the game in set three leading 16-14 at the second technical time-out, but Azerbaijan fought back (17-17) and eventually closed the match at 25-21. 
“We needed a victory, especially since this match was very important for us. I think we did a good job, especially in reception. We immediately start preparing for the next matches as we want to extend our winning streak through to the end of the tournament,” said Azerbaijan libero Valeriya Mammadova (Korotenko). 
“Azerbaijan played a really good game. We wanted to win but we missed our opportunities towards the end of each set,” said the head coach of Ukraine, Gariy Yegiazarov.

Denmark vs. Israel 

Israel celebrated their first victory in Baku as they beat Denmark 3-0 (25-22, 25-19, 25-18). Despite the final score, it was a fairly close match and the Scandinavians put up a real fight against a young Israeli team. They did so especially in the second set where they rallied to an 8-4 early lead before Israel fought back and eventually took three points from this match. Israel’s most experienced player, Anna Velikiy top scored with 24 points. 

Pool F in Viana do Castelo (POR) 

Germany vs. Slovenia 

After a bit of slow start to each set, Germany could finally impose their rule and did so with their blocks and attacks to produce a 3-0 (25-18, 25-20, 25-22) victory in their matchup with Slovenia. Germany opposite hitter Louisa Lippmann was the top scorer of the match with an impressive personal tally of 21 points. “I am very happy and proud since we took three points while facing a team as good as Slovenia. The first match of any such competition always goes along with quite much pressure, since all the participating teams want to qualify to the World Championship,” said Felix Koslowski, Germany coach.


Portugal vs. France 

The home team of Portugal, featuring several young players, some of them making their international debut, record a hard-fought victory over France 3-2 (25-21, 13-25, 23-25, 27-25, 15-13) which will certainly provide a further boost of motivation to the young Portuguese ladies. Manuel Almeida, Portugal assistant coach said: “Many young players gave their contribution to this win against such a strong team as France and that’s a huge motivation for this group.” Home star Julia Kavalenka was the best scorer of the match with 25 points. 

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Volleyball powerhouses with immaculate record after second day of World Champs qualifiers 



Luxembourg, June 1, 2017. Russia and Greece (Pool A), Turkey and Bulgaria (Pool C), Italy and Belgium (Pool D), Azerbaijan and The Netherlands (Pool E) as well as Germany and Portugal (Pool F) have a perfect record of two wins in as many matches following completion of the second competition day in the European qualifiers to the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship Japan 2018. The eventual winners of the five tournaments taking place this week will join Serbia (who finished first in Pool B last week) to start composing the European contingent for next year’s Worlds. This will also include the winners and runners-up from the third round qualifier scheduled for mid-August featuring the five second-placed teams from the tournaments coming to an end on Sunday, June 4 plus the Czech Republic, who finished second in Pool B.  

Pool A in Osijek (CRO) 

Austria vs. Hungary 

The second competition day at Gradski Vrt sports hall in Osijek started with a dramatic match where Austria eventually beat their neighbours from Hungary 3-2 (27-29, 25-22, 25-18, 11-25, 15-12). Austria coach Svetlana Ilic was visibly happy with the result and the victory. “We have a completely new team, so it is challenging and heavy to play five sets for these young girls but the eventual victory is a really big thing for us. We are especially proud of this victory since coming here we were regarded as the outsiders in this tournament.” “What to say after this kind of match? We somehow gave it away to Austria and provided them with a nice present,” said Hungary head coach Alberto Salamoni. 

Russia vs. Georgia 

Reigning European champions Russia needed only 59 minutes of play to rout Georgia 3-0 (25-8, 25-6, 25-13). Iuliia Kutiukova and Irina Zariazhko-Koroleva were the best players for the Russian powerhouse in this match. Georgia coach Paata Ulumbelashvili commented: “We know that Russia have the best team in these qualifications and are one of the top teams in the world, so it is always difficult to play such an opponent, and this you can clearly see from the final result.”


Croatia vs. Greece 

The home fans did not have anything to celebrate on Thursday night as Greece beat hosts Croatia 3-0 (25-21, 25-23, 25-18). The crowd was expecting a big victory from Croatia but this did not happen. “We had an opportunity and we did not use it, but this is not the end of the world. We have to remain concentrated and focus on tomorrow’s match,” said home star Ana Grbac. “I did not expect such an easy victory. We played the best we could and I think this has been the team’s best performance since I have been their coach,” said the leader of Greece, Georgios Rousis. 

Pool C in Sofia (BUL) 

Switzerland vs. Turkey 

Turkey confirmed their status of ‘hot’ candidate for first place in Pool C after claiming their second 3-0 victory in as many matches they have contested so far in Sofia, this time dispatching Switzerland in 63 minutes of play (25-16, 25-11, 25-17). 

Giovanni Guidetti, coach of Turkey: “We did our job. I saw some good things from my team and some bad ones, which we have to analyse later today. Our opponent played better than Kosovo did yesterday. I think that the level of the opposition is getting higher with each match and this is good for us, because I expect to be in perfect condition for our ‘final’ matchup against Bulgaria. Romania is a good team with good attackers and very good middle-blockers, so tomorrow we will have to play better than we did today.”

Naz Aydemir Akyol, player of Turkey: “It was not an easy game for sure. Switzerland was a better opponent than Kosovo, but the level of our opponents is getting higher with each day and we know that our strongest opponents are still on our way, so we used these first two matches to develop the right chemistry within the team because we didn’t have much time to prepare for this tournament. We need to improve many things because we want to qualify for the World Championship in Japan by finishing first in this pool.” 

Timothy Lippuner, coach of Switzerland: “I am very satisfied with the early stages of the match. Today we were ready to take up the challenge. Unfortunately, in the second set we struggled but we played well in the third one, so I am proud of the spirit shown by the team. We were better in reception, attack and service, so we made some progress from yesterday.”  

Laura Kuenzler, captain of Switzerland: “Yesterday we had a lot of problems in reception but today we managed to do our best in this aspect of the game. This gave us the opportunity to attack and serve well and I am happy with the progress we could see compared to yesterday’s game with Bulgaria.” 


Montenegro vs. Kosovo 

Later in the afternoon, Montenegro claimed the Balkan derby with Kosovo 3-0 (25-20, 25-7, 25-5) in a match which was only the second ever for Kosovo’s senior women’s national team on the international stage. 

Dragan Nesic, coach of Montenegro: “For our team every victory is important. It does not depend on which team we play, we must be happy with any good results. We were not enough concentrated in the opening set but in the next two we improved our performance. For sure we are not the best team here, but we are not the weakest opponent. Officially, this is the first victory for us this season. I congratulate my team and of course all respect for Kosovo.” 

Ksenija Ivanovic, player of Montenegro: “It was a good match for us, we were the better team today and I hope this positive trend to continue in the same way in the coming days. Yesterday we lost to Romania and so it was important to win today.” 

Lorik Ilazi, coach of Kosovo: “In the first set we started really well. We played tactically very good, and my players followed the game plan we had agreed upon. Our reception was stable and as a result, the first set was a close call. This was our goal before the match; in the following sets I made some substitutions, since it is important that all players feel the rhythm of the game and gain experience from international competition. Of course, congratulations to Montenegro. They deserved the victory.” 

Anyla Kryeziu, player of Kosovo: “We are a really young team and this is our first big international tournament. Maybe emotions caught us during the matches we have played so far and we didn’t manage to show our best level. We must keep working hard.” 

Romania vs. Bulgaria 

Bulgaria emulated Turkey to claim their second 3-0 victory in as many matches in Pool C as they beat their neighbours from Romania after 77 minutes of play (25-23, 25-15, 25-21).  

Pool D in Kortrijk (BEL) 

Even though hosts Belgium and Italy lived up to their status of pre-favourites and cruised to 3-0 victories in their respective matches with Spain and Belarus, these games were closely-fought and surprised were not too far away. “After the first set, where the Italian star player Paola Egonu successfully finished 80% of her attempts, our block started working better and better,” explained Belarus coach Aliaksandr Klimovich after the match. Anastasiya Harelik is confident that Belarus can achieve even more: “If you give us some more time to practice, we can certainly reach a higher level. Of course, today every player wanted to be excellent against a team as strong as Italy. We were all very motivated,” she said after Italy emerged victorious 3-0 (25-12, 26-24, 25-22). 
Italy coach Davide Mazzanti was not so pleased with the performance of his team. “After a very good first set, we had problems with their variety of serves, their good defence and their well-performing counterattacks. On Sunday against Belgium I want my players to play with a lot more aggressiveness. We can definitely play better than we did today.”


The Yellow Tigers – supported by a lot of spectators wearing a yellow hat – had problems with the good defence of their opponents for one set, but after that Lise Van Hecke, Freya Aelbrecht, captain Charlotte Leys and Laura Heyrman were too strong in the remainder of the match (3-0; 25-21, 25-18, 25-14). “We know the Belgians very well because we practiced together a few times,” explained Spanish coach Pascual Saurin. “However, we could only play two friendly matches while preparing for this tournament. So, our aim is to make some progress with each match, while the Belgians want to qualify to the World Championship.”

In the last match of the day in Kortrijk, Bosnia and Herzegovina beat Latvia 3-1 (25-11, 25-21, 25-27, 25-12). 

Pool E in Baku (AZE) 

Norway vs. Ukraine 

On Thursday Ukraine bounced back from their loss to Azerbaijan the day before to rally to a 3-1 victory (25-21, 22-25, 25-14, 25-17) in their matchup with Norway. Ukraine’s star player Olesia Rykhliuk had to follow the game from the side-lines after catching a gold. Despite this, Ukraine stormed to an early 8-3 lead before Norway fought back to edge ahead at 14-13. Ukraine, however, responded in the best way to win the first set 25-21. Norway caused a little sensation by taking the second set after rallying to an impressive 20-14 lead, before producing a 25-22 final score. However, Ukraine regrouped to win set three and four and eventually take three points from this game. Hilde Elvebakk from Norway was the best scorer of the match with 20 points.
“I am absolutely pleased with my team. We played really well against an opponent as strong as Ukraine. My players showed very dynamic Volleyball and I can say that we are improving our game with each match. I hope we will continue in the same way for the remainder of the tournament,” said the head coach of Norway, Odd Atle Ekerhovd.  


Azerbaijan vs. Denmark 

Azerbaijan made it three wins in as many matches so far after cruising to a comprehensive 3-0 (25-12, 25-14, 25-14) victory in their matchup with Denmark. Their head coach Faig Garayev decided to make some changes to the starting six, with Natalya Mammadova enjoying some rest and Jana Kulan taking a lot of responsibility in attack. Kulan eventually finished the match with nine points, as Yelyzaveta Samadova scored 11 times. Polina Rahimova was on a class of her own as she registered 29 points. 
“We have good players also among our substitutes and the coaching staff decided to give an opportunity to every player on the team, so that they all can feel the rhythm of the game. Now we need to step up and prepare as good as we can for the next matches with Israel and the Netherlands,” said Rahimova. 

Israel vs. The Netherlands

The Netherlands also claimed their third straight victory in Baku but they dropped one set in their matchup with Israel (25-19, 25-11, 22-25, 25-15). The Oranjes achieved this result through a combination of monster blocks, strong serves and precise spikes. After easily routing Norway and Denmark earlier in the tournament, the Netherlands had to play an opponent of a higher calibre. Robin de Kruijf did some good work at the net with her blocks as Celeste Plak spiked many times to help Holland claim a 2-0 lead in the match. Israel, however, did not accept an easy loss and they stormed to a 15-12 lead in the third set; though the Netherlands responded by scoring three times in a row, and even edged ahead at 17-16, Israel put up a fight and eventually had the upper hand at 25-22. However, after this setback, the Oranjes came back strong in set four to take three points from this game and can now prepare for the all-deciding matches against Ukraine and Azerbaijan coming up on Friday and Saturday. 

Pool F in Viana do Castelo (POR) 

France vs. Slovenia 

Looking determined to take their first points in the competition after their 0-3 heavy loss to Germany on Wednesday, Slovenia started the match quite aggressively and kept the pressure high through to the end (25-17, 25-15, 25-16). They just didn’t allow the French to breathe and were able to hold on to their early leads in each of the three sets, even though the second one was a lot more closely contested at least at the beginning. In the end, Slovenia coach, Italian-born Alessandro Chiappini said: “We are still in the race, thank God! Today the team played more relaxed, and compared to yesterday’s match we showed what we are capable of and I am very pleased with what I saw. After the defeat against Germany we deserved one more chance, since we want to fight for the qualification to the World Championship.”


Portugal vs. Finland 

Portugal caught a slow start to the match but supported by their fans, the hosts were able to win the first set and almost completed an epic comeback in the second one, with the Portuguese setter’s experience being a key factor and with Finland having difficulties to deal with it. The following set saw Portugal making a few more errors and the visitors took full advantage of this to take the lead in the match. However, Portugal could capitalise on an early advantage they had in the fourth set to extend the match to a tiebreak and eventually claim their second victory on home soil in as many matches (3-2; 25-23, 27-29, 17-25, 25-22, 15-12). Julia Kavalenka from Portugal was the best scorer of the match with 31 points, one more than Finland’s Piia Korhonen. Antonio Guerra, Portugal’s coach said: “Our team is very competitive and it is growing. Tomorrow we will face the favourite team from Germany. However, we should remember that sometimes you just need to change a little thing to the most perfect machines to disrupt their functioning.” 

Estonia vs. Germany

In the last match of the day Germany confirmed their position as one of the favorite winning once again by 3-0, this time against Estonia. Portugal and Slovenia will probably be the biggest obstacles in the Germans path towards the World Championships in Japan. Maren Brinker, Germany’s captain is aware of that fact “the biggest difficulty is that all are waiting to see our team easily winning all our matches, so our focus has to be always at maximum level. Portugal played two very emotive matches and plays with the public mostly on their side, what grants them extra strength. We will have to put on the court all our power to add another victory”.

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Fivb Women's World Championships Qualification

Two ‘big matches’ coming up on Saturday to decide who goes to Japan 


Luxembourg, June 2, 2017. Saturday’s programme of the five European qualifiers to the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship will be highlighted by two ‘big matches’ – with Azerbaijan playing the Netherlands and Bulgaria taking on Turkey to determine the eventual leaders in Pool E and C, respectively. Though Turkey and Bulgaria will have to contest one additional match on Sunday, the winners of these fixtures will book their tickets to Japan – where the 2018 edition of the FIVB Women’s World Championship will take place. Elsewhere, Russia (Pool A), Italy and Belgium (Pool D) and Germany (Pool F) boast an immaculate record of three wins in as many matches and will be trying to extend their positive streak into the weekend to secure their trip to Japan.  

Pool A in Osijek (CRO)

 Georgia vs. Austria 

After edging their neighbours from Hungary on Thursday, Austria claimed their second victory in three matches and they did so by routing Georgia in three sets (25-14, 25-16, 25-14). Nikolina Maros and Srna Markovic were the standout players for Austria. Georgia spiker Ann Kalandadze said: “It was a good experience for us and I think we learned more about ourselves and improved our game.” Svetlana Ilic, head coach of Austria, commented: “This is our second victory at this tournament and I am very proud of my team. We have been working really hard to achieve this kind of results.”


Greece vs. Russia 

Russia and Greece locked horns on Friday in Osijek with first place in the pool at stake – and Russia eventually emerged victorious 3-1 (25-10, 24-26, 25-16, 25-23). Greece nevertheless played an excellent game and they were close to winning the fourth set as well. However, Russia came out on top in the end to keep their perfect record in the competition, mainly thanks to their best scorer Nataliya Goncharova (21 points). “We have been working really hard and I believe we reached our limits and could not do more than this since a world-class team like Russia was standing on the other side of the net. We will be trying to do our best until the end of the tournament and to improve with each match,” said Greece coach Georgios Rousis. 

Hungary vs. Croatia 

Hungary came back from two sets down to claim the last match of the day in Osijek – with a 3-2 victory over hosts Croatia (19-25, 30-32, 25-15, 25-21, 15-11). Croatia’s bad service and weak reception and defence were the main reasons for the second straight loss suffered by the home team. 

Pool C in Sofia (BUL) 

Kosovo vs. Switzerland 

After two consecutive losses on Wednesday and Thursday, Switzerland found the right rhythm in Pool C and beat Kosovo in straight sets 3-0 (25-11, 25-8, 25-15). The captain of Switzerland Laura Kuenzler was the top scorer of the match with 10 points. 

Lorik Ilazi, coach of Kosovo: “For us every match here is special. We did some good things today but we didn’t manage to play at the same level for the whole match. Now we will check our errors, will analyse them and I hope we can play better tomorrow.” 

Venera Kadriu, player of Kosovo: “I expected much more for this match from myself and from all other players as well. I know that we didn’t play our game at all. In the first set we were very excited because we knew that Turkey and Bulgaria are just too strong for us, but we thought Switzerland is maybe closer to our level and we can have our chances. Despite the loss, for us it is a real honour to be here and to compete at this tournament. I don’t care about the results. We should try to do our best against Romania tomorrow.” 

Gabi Schottroff, player of Switzerland: “It is a good thing that we could win this match. It is important for our self-confidence and for the next matches. All of my teammates played really well. We had some goals before the match and we managed to achieve them. I hope we can repeat this same performance tomorrow as well.” 

Laura Kuenzler, captain of Switzerland: “I feel great actually, it really feels good. We did our job. We played well in the first two sets. In the third we lost our focus a bit and we made some mistakes, but everything is fine when the final result is that good.”


Bulgaria vs. Montenegro 

Bulgaria continued their triumphal march in Pool C with another great victory against Montenegro – 3-0 (25-15, 25-12, 25-13). Bulgaria coach Ivan Seferinov opted for Eva Yaneva and Gergana Dimitrova, thus Elitsa Vasileva and Dobriana Rabadzhieva enjoyed some time to rest ahead of the all-important match coming up on Saturday with Turkey. Despite these changes, the hosts played well and Gergana Dimitrova finished as top scorer with 12 points.

Ivan Seferinov, coach of Bulgaria: “The most important thing is that we gave an opportunity to Elitsa [Vasileva] to be fresh for our so important match against Turkey tomorrow. This will be our moment of truth!”  

Hristina Ruseva, player of Bulgaria: “I am happy with this victory. Montenegro is a team with good potential but we managed to show a good performance and to win in three sets. Now we should think about our match with Turkey. It will be difficult so we must be concentrated and try to deliver our best performance. I hope more people will come to the sports hall to support us. We need their help.” 

Danijela Dzakovic, player of Montenegro: “I want to congratulate Bulgaria! They played really well today, so congrats. I think Bulgaria and Turkey are the big favourites here and they will decide between themselves which team will qualify directly to the World Championship. Tomorrow is a new day, a new match and we will try to win.” 

Turkey vs. Romania 

Turkey emulated hosts Bulgaria to claim their third victory in as many matches – and they did so by routing Romania 3-0 (25-14, 25-19, 25-18). 

Giovanni Guidetti, coach of Turkey: “We have done our job so far. We knew before coming here that this tournament would be decided by the match tomorrow and we are looking forward to playing Bulgaria. If Bulgaria keep playing as good as they have done so far, it will be a very difficult match for us. They are in great shape, they play really strong, they are stable, they block very well, so we hope tomorrow they don’t have their best day.” 

Neriman Özsoy, player of Turkey: “I think Romania played at a higher level than our first two opponents here. We are improving and we are trying to follow the instructions of our coach and to get better with each match. Tomorrow we will have the most important match in the tournament, because the eventual winners will qualify to the World Championship. The key will be who has the better tactics and who can play smarter. I think if we can do what we have planned for the game, we will have a good chance to win but we respect our opponent very much. Bulgaria are a strong team.”

Adina Salaoru, captain of Romania: “Sometimes if you want to beat a strong team, you have to have the opportunity to play against such an opponent. It was our chance to prove us and show what we are capable of. We just played as good as we could and in some moments I think we did really well.” 

Pool D in Kortrijk (BEL) 

After the game they played against Italy, it had become clear that Belarus could be a challenging opponent for hosts Belgium. The Yellow Tigers had indeed to play on a high level to cruise to a 3-1 victory (25-23, 23-25, 25-17, 25-17) and keep a perfect record after completion of the third competition day in Kortrijk. 
“In the first set we could save two set points and in the second we took advantage of some Belgian mistakes in reception, but after that it was also clear why this Belgian team is among the top seven in Europe. They have a lot of talent and experience in their team,” said the enthusiastic coach of Belarus, Aliaksandr Klimovich after his team managed to take one set from the Yellow Tigers. “Today I asked my players to have a little more Zen spirit because they wanted to win so badly,” said Belgium head coach Gert Vande Broek.


Italy, the favourites of this tournament, had no problems at all in their match with Latvia (3-0; 25-12, 25-9, 25-16). “We expected that this would be an extremely challenging tournament for us, because the level of some of the teams playing here is simply too high for us,” explained Latvia coach Janis Leitis. “We played at a good level but we cannot keep it for five days and for five matches in a row. We were happy with taking one set from our match with Bosnia and Herzegovina and we will be trying to achieve the same feat when playing Spain on Sunday.” 

In the third and last match of the day, Spain beat Bosnia and Herzegovina 3-2 (22-25, 25-20, 20-25, 25-23, 15-10). 

Pool E in Baku (AZE) 

Denmark vs. Norway 

On Friday afternoon Norway celebrated their first victory at the World Championship qualifying event in Baku as they claimed the Scandinavian derby with Denmark 3-1 (21-25, 25-15, 25-23, 25-15). The team captain of Norway, Julie Heile Mikaelsen finished the match with 17 points, whereas Trine Noer Kjestrup recorded 16 for Denmark in their losing effort. 
“We started terribly and ended up losing the first set. Both teams had ups and downs but we are happy with the result. I hope my girls will continue the same way and win also their last match in this tournament,” said the head coach of Norway, Odd Atle Ekerhovd.
“We are disappointed because my team had a good opportunity to win. However, Norway was better today and I have to congratulate our opponent,” commented the head coach of Denmark Sven-Erik Lauridsen. 

Israel vs. Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan made it four wins in a row on home soil after rallying to a comprehensive 3-0 victory (25-9, 25-14, 25-18) in their matchup with Israel. Home star Polina Rahimova finished the game with 15 points, thus becoming the top scorer in the match. 
“Azerbaijan have a really strong team. My team, on the other hand, does not have much experience at this level and we ended up losing. We showed a good performance against The Netherlands but maybe today my players were a little tired. We played a few big games here in Baku and we will now continue our journey in this tournament,” said the head coach of Israel Giuseppe Cuccarini.
“We have started preparing for the big, final match against The Netherlands. The team has been playing great so far and all players are in good shape. We just need to beat the Oranjes and if we do so, we will be going to the World Championship,” said the middle blocker of Team Azerbaijan, Ayshan Abdulazimova.

The Netherlands vs. Ukraine

The Netherlands had to fight but eventually kept their clean record in the competition after edging Ukraine 3-1 (30-28, 18-25, 25-13, 27-25). As for Ukraine, this match was their last chance to remain in contention for a spot to compete at next year’s World Championship. After struggling with a cold, Ukraine’s star player Olesia Rykhliuk was back in action and she set the tone for an 8-3 Ukrainian lead in the first set, before the Netherlands regrouped and made it 10-all. The first set went into overtime and the Netherlands eventually emerged victorious at 30-28 after a spike by their opposite Lonneke Slöetjes and a block by Robin de Kruijf/Anne Buijs. Rykhliuk set the tempo of the game for Ukraine in the second set and after taking the lead at 13-9, they held on to it to win the set 25-18. The Netherlands were back in control in set three (16-6) where they left no chance to their opponent to take a landslide 25-13 win. The fourth set was a close call and many expected a tiebreak but Buijs claimed match ball for the Oranjes and a mistake by Rykhliuk eventually finished the match 27-25 for the Netherlands. 

Pool F in Viana do Castelo (POR) 

Finland vs. France 

France caught a promising start to the match leading the way almost from start to end of the opening set before Finland came back strong to eventually have the upper hand. History repeated itself in the second set where France came out strong but the ‘Suomis’ fought their way back again and after doubling their lead in the match, they won the third set as well to seal a 3-0 victory (26-24, 25-18, 25-17). Finland coach Tapio Kangasniemi said: “Today I am happier than in the previous days, not only because we won but also because our team is improving from match to match. Tomorrow we will play against the pool favourites, Germany, but as in Volleyball it’s difficult to dominate every match, let’s see what we can do.”


Germany vs. Portugal 

Germany beat hosts Portugal 3-1 (25-18, 25-15, 15-25, 25-11) in a match where the leadership in the pool was at stake. The first set was initially a close race before Germany broke away by putting pressure on Portugal’s receivers with their serve – and the set eventually finished on four consecutive errors from the home side. Germany made almost no mistakes at all in the second set but Portugal stormed back to take set no. 3. Even though the home fans were hoping for Portugal to make it to the tiebreak, Germany comfortably sailed to a landslide 25-11 win in the fourth set to finish the match in their favour. “We are one victory away from reaching our goal and we can feel that we are getting closer to qualifying to the World Championship,” said Jennifer Geerties, Germany’s best scorer with 13 points. The top scorer of the match was Julia Kavalenka from Portugal with 20 points. “It was a very difficult match, but I think that if we had believed more in ourselves, we could have achieved a different result. Mainly we struggled with our reception, but in the third set we showed that we have the right set of skills to beat any of the teams playing in this pool,” she said.

Slovenia vs. Estonia 

Slovenia cruised to a 3-0 victory (25-19, 25-20, 25-12) in their matchup with Estonia. Even though Estonia claimed an early lead, playing calmly but effectively Slovenia closed the opening set in their favour with two consecutive blocks. Eva Mori and her teammates did some good work in the second set as well where they kept composure from start to end before the third set was a lot more one-sided. Slovenia’s captain Eva Mori said: “Tomorrow we will have our most important match, since it will decide about who finishes second in the pool and will move on to the third round of qualifications. The sports hall will certainly be crowded with Portuguese fans and I only hope that we can play like we did today. Germany is a good team, but if instead of playing them on the first day, we could have played them on Sunday, I believe that the result would have been different.”

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I'm watching the womens qualification match with Turkey too and Giovanni Guideti should shut his mouth, because he will not leave the country in one piece. What a prick...

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