Slovenia’s incredible play next time at display this summer in the VNL

No more guessing. Even though they were not as convincing in the group stage, they defeated the German national team in the final of the qualifying tournament for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics with 3-0. Even the fourth organization of this Olympic qualifying tournament did not pay off for Germany. This time, they had to acknowledge the superiority of the French, who played disciplined in the final and celebrated to be the fourth European team to compete for Olympic medals in Tokyo.

09.01.2020, Max Schmeling Halle, Berlin Volleyball, CEV Olympia-Qualifikation, Frankreich (FRA) vs. Slowenien (SLO) Foto: Conny Kurth / www.kurth-media.de

In the Olympic qualifying tournament in Berlin, two national teams from the MEVZA region participated. Much closer to qualifying than the Czechs were as expected the European silver medalist from Slovenia. Both teams played in Group B alongside Germany and Belgium. For Slovenia, the first game against Belgium was also important, mainly because for team-play fine tuning and confidence. And even though the game was not what Slovenian coach Alberto Giuliani maybe wanted, it was enough to win 3-0. The name of the match was their opposite, Ton?ek Stern, who scored 20 points, only a point less had the Belgian opposite Jolan Cox. Even more important was the second match against the hosts from Germany, as they defeated the Czech Republic 3-0 in their first match. Exactly in this match the Czechs missed their opportunity to win a set. In the second, they led the entire time, at point 21 their lead was already five points. The Czechs were serving great, and consequently their block was excellent as well. However, this was not enough when György Grozer came to serve. The German opposite completely destroyed their advantage with forceful and precise serves. Until the end of the set, they managed to get only one more point , and the Germans turned the set in their favor. In the third, the teams were only together until the middle of the set, and then the Germans took the matter into their hands and won. The best German scorer suffered a minor muscle injury against Belgium and due to that he did not play against Slovenia. In this match, however, the quality and the range of players on the German bench was shown, who fought for every point and displayed a great will to win. So did Slovenia though, who won the first set with a two point differential, lost the second, won again the third and lost the fourth. In the fifth set, Slovenia gained a 10-7 advantage through defense and a well-placed block, and ended up winning the set with same difference. Both sides had a very effective attack, top scorer for Slovenia was Klemen ?ebulj (25 points) and for Germany Simon Hirsch (18 points).
Going further, Germany eliminated Belgium in the continuation of the tournament, while the Czechs were expecting to play against Slovenia. After Slovenia won the first set, Giuliani wanted to rest his starters for the semifinals. Žiga Štern, Saša Štalekar, Gregor Ropret and Mitja Gasparini got the opportunity. They won the second set by a two point margin. In the third the Czechs took the initial lead and immediately felt there was an opportunity to win it. They managed to do so, and Giuliani was forced to replace some of his back-ups, however left the 17-year-old Rok Možic on the floor. The youngster Mozic showed his incredible talent for the first time in an official match, as he represented a big thread and a problem for his opponents with his serve and attack. He scored 12 points in only two sets and celebrated a 3-1 victory with his team. Patrik Indra was the top scorer for the Czech team (19 points), although the whole team should should be praised as they made a very likeable appearance, despite unfortunately leaving the tournament without a win.

08.01.2020, Max Schmeling Halle, Berlin Volleyball, CEV Olympia-Qualifikation, Tschechische Republik (CZE) vs. Slowenien (SLO) Foto: Conny Kurth / www.kurth-media.de

After winning the first place in Group A, Slovenia faced the second-ranked team from Group B in the semifinals. The French beat Serbia 3: 2 but lost with the same result to the Netherlands and Bulgaria. Thus, there were as many as three teams in the group with one win, however the French had more points and therefore finished second in the group. And this not so persuading start of the French team instilled an even greater deal of confidence into the Slovenian team who had a dream start of the match. With an aggressive serve they pushed the opponent away from the net and prevented them from running a fast offense. The Slovenian block functioned well and their opposite Ton?ek Stern was unstoppable in the attack. The French seemed helpless in the first set, gathering only 13 points. Slovenia had a great start in the second set as well, but in the continuation the serves became less aggressive, and the French slowly started to balance it out, even though they lost the set at point 22. That the match was far from over, they showed in the third set at the score 10-7 for Slovenia. With great serve, they made a series of points and took even a 15:10 lead. In just a few minutes, the pendulum swang and it was now France, who were now ahead. The Slovenian serve was nothing to be compared to the one in the first two sets, and also in the attack they were now ineffective. France was getting better and better, took the third and fourth sets with a score of 25-14 and 25-21. A similar story unfolded in the fifth set, when Antoine Brizard at 4-3 for France scored three points with a serve, which was enough for a win of the »Tricolore«.

09.01.2020, Max Schmeling Halle, Berlin Volleyball, CEV Olympia-Qualifikation, Frankreich (FRA) vs. Slowenien (SLO) Foto: Conny Kurth / www.kurth-media.de

In the second semifinal, the undefeated Bulgaria faced the hosts from Germany, who had Grozer back on the court and he ended up being the top scorer with 16 points for a 3-1 win of Germany. 

After the end of the club season, the national teams of Slovenia and the Czech Republic will continue their appearances in national team competitions. The Czech Republic will play the Golden European League in Group C, which will also feature the national teams of Portugal and Macedonia. Otherwise, the first place in the European League leads to the Volleyball Nations League, highest level of competition, in which Slovenia will participate for the first time this year. First they will compete in Poland against the hosts of the tournament, Serbia and Italy.

FIVB VOLLEYBALL NATIONS LEAGUE – VNL
Slovenia

22/05/2020 – 24/05/2020
http://www.volleyball.world/en/vnl/2020/competition/poolinformation

CEV Volleyball European Golden League 2020 – MEN
League Round

23/05/2020 – 14/06/2020
Final Round – Belgium
20/06/2020 – 21/06/2020
https://www.cev.eu/Competition-Area/competition.aspx?ID=1233&PID=1982

POOL A 
Belgium
Romania
Slovakia
Spain

POOL C
Czech Republic
North Macedonia
Portugal
Turkey

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