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27/07/2016 21:52
Slovenia, Italy and Poland start men’s U23 World Champs qualifier in style
2017 FIVB U23 Men's Volleyball World Championships - European Qualification

Zagreb, Croatia, July 27, 2016. On Wednesday Slovenia opened the programme of the European qualification tournament for next year’s FIVB U23 Men’s Volleyball World Championship by cruising to a comprehensive 3-0 victory (25-20, 25-16, 26-24) over Bulgaria. Later in the afternoon Italy also cruised to a 3-0 win in their matchup with Turkey (25-21, 25-17, 26-24); to complete the schedule of the first competition day in Zagreb pre-favourites Poland cruised to a comfortable 3-0 win (25-21, 25-11, 25-20) as well in their matchup with hosts Croatia. The eventual winners and runners-up of the single round robin tournament will qualify for next year’s World Champs in Egypt – Russia are already qualified for they top the current FIVB ranking in this age group. 

Bulgaria vs. Slovenia 0-3 (20-25, 16-25, 24-26)

Bulgaria and Slovenia opened the programme of the tournament in Zagreb and after a close race unfolded in the early stages of the opening set, Slovenia edged ahead at the first technical time-out (8-7). After the break, Slovenia scored three points in a row whilst Bulgaria made mistake after mistake, this resulting in a commanding 16-11 lead for Slovenia. The Bulgarian coach tried to change the course of the game with some substitutions but Slovenia remained focussed through to the end (25-20).

Slovenia set the pace of the game also in the second set leading the way with a massive 9-2 but after Bulgaria coach Miroslav Zhivkov decided to opt for his second setter Konstantin Nechev, things started working a lot better for his team. Bulgaria closed in at 13-16 but after the break for the second technical time-out, Slovenia resumed their triumphal march, this resulting in a compelling 25-16 win.

Bulgaria rising star and team captain Velizar Chernokozhev suffered an injury in the third set but his team did not stop putting on a fight – the teams played point for point until Slovenia finished it all off 26-24.

Tonček Stern and Jan Kozamernik top scored for Slovenia with 13 and 12 points, respectively while Chernokozhev paced Bulgaria with nine despite his injury.

Bulgaria coach Miroslav Zhivkov said: “My team did not play good in reception, and we also made many unforced errors in attack. We started very nervous; we have to forget this match and re-start from scratch tomorrow.”

Slovenia coach Iztok Ksela said: “To tell you the truth we didn’t know what to expect from this match. We didn’t have a long preparation phase for this tournament and it was hard to get ready. We served well and our block worked fine as well; our reception was good and this resulted in good opportunities for us to attack and score. I think that the attitude shown by my players was the key to today’s success.”

Turkey vs. Italy 0-3 (21-25, 17-25, 24-26) 

Turkey and Italy looked extremely determined to start their campaign in style and to emulate Slovenia with Italy taking the lead right from the start, though their advantage was a small one – one or two points. Italy continued to push in attack and this eventually resulted in a 25-21 win in the first set. Italy started the second set with a display of fine reception and this provided them with the opportunity to score with consistency. Their advantage grew bigger and bigger, with the score standing at 16-9 at the second technical time-out. Turkey attempted a comeback by putting more and more pressure on their opponents with the help of their star player Yigit Gülmezoglu but it was too late to close the gap.

Italy probably felt like they already had the victory in their pocket and started the third set a way too relaxed. Turkey claimed a four, five-point lead, which they kept through to the second technical time-out (16-12). At this stage Italy woke up and playing with a lot of focus and determination they closed in mainly thanks to their top scorer Andrea Argenta (16 points in the end). Turkey had a set ball but a series of mistakes by the young Turks resulted in Italy closing it out 26-24 to seal their 3-0 win.

Italy coach Michele Totire commented: “Turkey is a good team and I did not expect to win this match 3-0. The first match of such a tournament is always difficult, it is summer and really hot, so the players needed some time to settle and find their rhythm. I am confident that we will get better and better with each match.”

Turkey team captain and best scorer Yigit Gülmezoglu (11 points): “My team could have played better and won this match. The main reason for this weak performance is that we did not have any friendly matches before this tournament. We will move on and I hope that we can stay in the race for first place in this tournament, but it is going to be difficult after we lost this one.”

Croatia vs. Poland 0-3 (21-25, 11-25, 20-25)

Many experts see Poland as the main favourites to claim first place in this tournament as the team consists of what can be described as a ‘golden generation’ and the expectations are really high back home.

The young players in white and red shirts started their campaign in the best way setting the tempo of the match right from the early stages of the opening set. They showed their quality and supremacy in all aspects of the game and even though Croatia tried their best to keep their pace, every time the hosts got closer, Poland scored a few more points to break away time and again. Still both teams made a number of service errors and yet Poland could make up for this by means of their good reception – something Croatia could not rely on. Petar Dirlić – who top scored in the end for the home side with 11 points – was the main weapon the hosts could boast but a number of errors towards the end of the set paved the way with gold for Poland (25-21).

The second set was one-sided and dominated by Poland with the White-and-Reds successfully finalising 93% of their attacks. Croatia improved their reception but their spikers failed to break through the Polish block, this resulting in a massive 25-11 set win for Poland. Poland standout player and team captain Aleksander Sliwka – who top scored in the match with 13 points – remained focussed all the way through to the end despite such comfortable lead.

The course of the match did not change in the third set either – and after the first technical time-out the Croatian guys kind of collapsed. Their coach Marin Ivanić tried to respond with some substitutions but he could not disrupt the plans of Team Poland that easily claimed their first win in the tournament.

Poland coach Wojciech Serafin commented: “I have prepared my team to be ready for each match and this is the only way to be successful and come out on top by the time this tournament comes to an end. Now we have to get ready for tomorrow’s match with Bulgaria, which is our next goal and the most important task to focus on at the moment.”

Click here for more info including detailed stats of the matches

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