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18/07/2019 21:00
Semifinals set at #EuroVolleyU17M in Sofia
2019 CEV U17 Volleyball European Championship - Men

Sofia, Bulgaria, July 18, 2019. Poland and Czech Republic join Bulgaria and France in the #EuroVolleyU17M semifinals. The last day of the pool phase in Sofia delivered us a lot of action as all teams put up a fight to cemen their position in their respective pools. In the battle for top place in Pool I, France defeated the Bulgarian Lions, staying the only unbeaten team with a perfect record of five wins and 15 points. The matchup between Czech Republic and Poland, which ended with a victory of the White-and-Reds, determined the top two teams of Pool II.  Thus in Saturday's semifinals France will face Czech Republic and the hosts Bulgaria will take on the winner of Pool II – Poland. Turkey and Belarus from Pool I and Italy plus Russia from Pool II will contest the classification matches 5-8.

Pool I

Romania vs. Finland 0-3 (17-25, 19-25, 12-25)

Finland beat Romania 3-0 in a match of honour in Pool I. After an equal start to the game, the Finns led 13-8 and they kept their advantage till the end of the opening set. Romania started the second set well (6-3), but Finland tied at 7-7 and after a series of serve from Jere Tikkala they took the lead (16-11). The Romanians reduced the gap to 21-18, but the Finns did not allow them for more closing 25-19. After the success in the first two sets the Finns started the third part confidently, leading 5-1. They gradually increased their advantage to 11-4, 14-6, 18-7, 20-8, ending this part at a landslide 25-12 win. Finland's Jere Tikkala was the best scorer of the match with 13 points, and Cristian-Daniel Chitigoi and Alin-Florin Ion scored 10 points each for Romania. Thus Finland took the fifth place in Pool I, while Romania ended their journey in sixth.

Janne Heikkinen, head coach of Finland: “I am very, very proud of my guys and we are happy about the result. It is our first win in the tournament and it was a difficult game for us. After a lot of  struggle during the tournament,  we managed to reach our high level. This is very important for me. For sure it’s disappointing to finish the tournament here, but this is the level of our game this year. I am sure that we learned many valuable things and we are looking forward to the U18 European Championship next year.”

Vasile George Breban, captain of Romania: “It was our last match and we are disappointed, because we lost because of our mistakes. Our overall performance in the championship was not good.”
France continued their winning streak with a fifth straight-set victory in as many matches. They won the battle for the first place in Pool I against Bulgaria in 64 minutes only. It was the first loss for the host team. Nathan Canovas played another great match in Hristo Botev Hall and finished with 14 points. Anatole Chaboissant added 12 for the victory.

Martin Stoev, head coach of Bulgaria: “We fought in the first two sets. Overall we had difficulties in the reception during the entire match. The two rivals of the other Pool - Poland and the Czech Republic, are equal, and at the end we chose to keep our energy for the next game, that's why I gave a chance to the other boys from the team. We will give everything to win with Poland in the semifinals.”

Olivier Audabram, head coach of France: “We are very happy with the victory over Bulgaria. We outplayed our opponent convincingly. We finished first in the group and fulfilled our main goal at the European Championship. We are going to play  the semifinal against Czech Republic aiming for another victory. We will fight for the European title.”
With their third victory in straight-sets Turkey secured third place in Pool I. Turkey did not face serious difficulties in the first two sets, before Belarus tried to come back in the third and was close to take it but lost it 24-26. Alper Ayar finished with 12 points for the winners, Aykut Gedik and Berk Dilmenler added 9. Both Turkey and Belarus will play for the fifth place later this weekend.

Ali Yilmaz, head coach of Turkey: "I am delighted with the victory, because with this success we finished 3rd in the group. Now we will fight for the fifth place. Our goal was different - to be in the final four but unfortunately we did not make it there. France and Bulgaria have shown that they are stronger.”

Aliaksei Kavaliou, head coach of Belarus: “We played a poor game. We were not able to compete against Turkey. Overall we had higher goals in the group stage, but the Pool was very strong and the other teams just were better. We will fight for a more appropriate position in the 5-8 classification matches.” 
Pool II
Czech Republic vs. Poland 0-3 (21-25, 20-25, 22-25)

As it turned out the game between Czech Republic and Poland was a decisive encounter for Pool II. Both teams entered the game very well, however the Czechs had more initiative on the court, as they led 15-12 and then 20-16, but the Poles kept pushing on their opponents. With Szymon Gorowski on serve, they managed to have a small advantage at 21-20 and thanks to great service from Kajetan Kubicki, they claimed the first set 25-21. The Czechs were leading 5-2, then 9-4, 13-8 in the second set, but again the Poles managed to catch up the score (15-15), before starting to build their advantage. Similar scenario was in the last part, when Poland dominated on the court in the decisive part of the set. Czech rising star David Kollator did his best to rise up his team, scoring 23 points, but it was not enough today. Jakub Olszewski, captain of Poland recorded 17 points. Thus, Poland won Pool II, being followed by Czech Republic in second place in the standing.

Jakub Olszewski, captain of Poland: "Finally we showed our volleyball and a consistent game. The Czechs jumped out to leading at the beginning of the sets, but we were able to catch up and show our best volleyball. We are happy that we won Pool II and progress to the semifinals. We knew that we had to stop the Czech opposite Kollator, because he is their top scorer, we managed to eliminate him from the attack. We are looking forward to our semifinal."
Greece vs. Italy 0-3 (23-25, 19-25, 21-25)

Already before this game it was known that Italy had no longer a chance to defend the title. The Greeks opened the game very well, leading during the whole opening set till 21-17. Then, the Italians made an astonishing comeback, winning the first part. In the second set the "Azzurrini" slowly but surely built their advantage on the court to eventually win it 25-19. The third part started better for the Italians too, but Greece led by their top scorer Alexandros Nanopoulos (who recorded a match-high 23 points) tied at 17-17 and then again 19-19, before Italy took control of the game and won in straight sets. Cosimo Balestra was the top scorer of Italy with 14 points, as Raul Parolari put 13 to his name.

Luca Porro, captain of Italy: "It was a tough game, they are a great team and they played very well. It was a hard-fought victory. The final standing in the pool was not important for us, because we wanted to show our best. We always have an amazing support from the player's bench which motivates us to give our best."
Russia vs. Portugal 3-1 (25-15, 25-20, 24-26, 25-16)

The matchup between Russia and Portugal was an all or nothing game as only the winner would have progressed to the classification matches 5-8. Russia dominated on the court in the first set and Portugal couldn't find a way to stop Mikhail Labinskii. In the next part the team led by coach Pereira impressed with great service which gave them an edge (9/5), but Russia erased the difference and were on the lead again with a three-point-advantage (15-12), which they extended by the end of set. Portugal were on the winning wave in the third set and grabbed a 6-1 lead. They further cemented the advantage moving the score to 15-8, then the Russians woke up for a while and reduced the gap tying at 20-20, so the game started from the beginning. Portugal took a 24-22 lead and eventually won this part (28-26). The Russians entered the court in the fourth set very motivated, gaining few-point-advantage (12-5, 16-10 and 20-13) that they kept till the end of the game.
Vladimir Khromenkov, head coach of Russia: "We were more nervous about this game than about others, because Portugal are very dangerous and technically strong opponent. I said to my players to not get relax, but it unfortunately happened in the third set and my players let the opponents go further. I'm happy with the result, it was a really important game for us, because we can continue competition. You always want something more, but my players get better with every match."
Nuno Miguel dos Santos Pereira, head coach of Portugal: "Russia are very strong, especially when it's about unity of the team in serve and block. They made us a lot of trouble in block, but still at some moments we were able to lead the game. I congratulated and praised my athletes for this tournament."
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Bulgaria and France secure spots in #EuroVolleyU17M semifinals

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