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.

Women of Croatia as our (MEVZA) only representative in the Olympic Qualifications

The last European passenger for the Women’s Olympic tournament in Tokyo is also known. In the final of the qualifying tournament in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, Germany and Turkey played. Despite Germany being better in the group stage, it was Turkey that had the upper hand in the finals of the tournament. With every match in this tournament they played better and once again proved their quality in the finals. Turkey won with a commanding 3-0. Hande Baladin scored 18 points for Turkey and Louisa Lippmann’s was Germany’s top scorer with 17. Above all, it was the Turkish attack that was the reason for their smooth victory, as they managed to do everything just about right in this element and deserved to win a ticket to the Tokyo Olympics.

Of eight national teams from the Middle Europran (MEVZA) region, only Croatia participated in this tournament. In Group B, they had to compete with Turkey, Germany and Belgium. Already in the first match, Croatia’s team competed against Turkey, the reigning European champions. And after the first set, it looked like that Samanta Fabris and her teammates could surprise their strong opponents with the famous coach Giovanni Guidetti at the helm. Despite the slightly weaker serve-reception, Croatia offense was better and after a close end of the set, they won it with the smallest possible difference. From here, Turkey raised their level of play in the attack, pressed with the serve and also stopped their opponents more effectively with their block-defense. In the second set, Croatia managed only 12 points, in the third 20 and in the fourth 21 points. All of Turkey’s players scored between 13 and 16 points each with the exception of their setter Cansu Özbay. “I think we played a great first set, without mistakes. Then something changed. For some players, the level in this competition is probably too high, but it is a good experience for all of us, “said Italian coach Daniele Santarelli after the loss against Turkey.
Also against Belgium, Croatia lost 3-1, however made it a lot harder for their opponent this time around. In this match, Croatia again started great and quickly gained a significant lead of 21:12. They easily won the set, especially due to their great attack. The second set was completely equal, however they a bit out of luck in the end, as Belgium won with 28-26. As if this close defeat in the second affected Croatia’s players in the third set, who in no way could show the game from the first two sets, therefore also the on 16. They again recalled their good play in the fourth set, however could not stop the Belgium players, who were now rolling.

And if on paper, Germany was an easier opponent than Belgium and Turkey, it didn’t look like it in this tournament. Before the match with Croatia, Germany defeated both Belgium and Turkey, and as the only ones in the group also defeated Croatia with 3-0. After having lost to Belgium, however, it was clear that Croatia could no longer advance to the semifinals, so coach Santarelli gave some other players a chance and rested the two most effective players from the first two matches, Samanta Fabris and Martina Samadan. This is why Germany won the first two sets convincingly, and it was only when German coach Felix Koslowski began the third set with five new players that the forces on the court  were equal at least until the end of the set. Nevertheless, in crucial moments, Germany was more focused and won the set with 25-23.

Croatia thus concluded the tournament without a win, but with a positive impression, as it demonstrated that as this young team further progresses, it will soon be able to be a competely equal opponent to the best European teams. This April, they will continue their national team campaign as they will compete in the European Gold League. They will have to beat Finland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia in their pool to advance, which is, of course, for a team like Croatia very realistic.

V skupini A je premo? pokazal Poljska, ki je zmagala vse tri tekme, doma?inke iz Nizozemske pa so pokazale boljšo igro proti Azerbadijanu in Bolgariji. A je polfinale pokazalo, da sta bili prvi dve ekipi iz skupine A kakovostnejši, Nem?ija je premagala Nizozemsko s kar 3:0, Tur?ija pa poljsko po petih nizih s 3:2.

In Group A, Poland demonstrated their power, winning all three matches, while the hosts from the Netherlands were better than Azerbaijan and Bulgaria. The semi-finals however showed that the first two teams from Group A were of better quality, as Germany defeated the Netherlands with a clear 3-0, while Turkey defeated Poland after five sets, 3-2.

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

CEV Volleyball European Golden League 2020 – WOMEN
League Round 23/05/2020 – 14/06/2020
Final Round – Bulgaria
20/06/2020 – 21/06/2020

POOL A
Belarus
Bulgaria
France
Hungary

POOL B
Croatia
Czech Republic
Finland
Slovakia

CEV Volleyball European Silver League 2020 – WOMEN
League Round
23/05/2020 – 14/06/2020
Final Round
27/06/2020 – 28/06/2020

POOL A
Azerbaijan
Croatia
Finland

CEV Volleyball European Silver League 2020
POOL A
Bosnia & Herzegovina
Estonia
Slovenia

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