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02/06/2017 23:42
Two ‘big matches’ coming up on Saturday to decide who goes to Japan
2018 FIVB Volleyball World Championship - Women

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). Spain came back twice from one set down and prevented Bosnia and Herzegovina from claiming their second consecutive victory in the tournament despite the injury to their player Cristina Sanz.

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.”

Click here for more info including detailed stats of the matches

News nr. 9 of 22
03/06/2017 23:55:00
Azerbaijan and Russia secure tickets to 2018 World Championship as 2nd Round nears conclusion
01/06/2017 22:18:00
Volleyball powerhouses with immaculate record after second day of World Champs qualifiers

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