Marsicovetere/Lecce, Italy. On Monday, Poland, Italy and Bulgaria celebrated their second victory in as many matches to secure a spot in the semis of #EuroVolleyU18M. Poland and Bulgaria are yet to drop a single set in the competition, after storming to comprehensive shutouts of Germany and Turkey following their previous successes on Saturday. Italy, on the other hand, showed no mercy for the young Red Dragons from Belgium and on Wednesday they will play Bulgaria for the top spot in Pool I. Czech Republic and Germany will lock horns with the last spot in the semis at stake. Live streaming of all matches is available through the official YouTube channel of the Italian Volleyball Federation.
Pool I in Marsicovetere
Bulgaria were the first team to secure their spot in the semis from Pool I as they beat Turkey 3-0 to go with their victory by the same score on Saturday against Belgium. After a hard-fought first set, Bulgaria were obviously the dominant force in the remainder of the match.
Martin Stoev, head coach of Bulgaria: “We are very happy to have qualified for the semi-finals. Today we won 3-0, but the game was not as easy as it may look, since Turkey are a difficult opponent with many tall players. At the beginning of the match, we were a bit nervous, but we improved our performance afterwards. We have achieved the first goal and now we want to use our chances in the best way.”
Italy did the same as Bulgaria in their match with Belgium, claiming a spot in the semis and with it among the top six of the competition as well – these will represent Europe at the 2021 Boys’ U19 World Championship. This is where Italy will try to retain the title claimed last year in Tunisia by an older generation of players. The ‘Azzurrini’ delivered a very good performance to celebrate their second victory in as many matches in Pool I. Italy claimed an early lead in each set and did not relinquish it until the end, thus staying in full command of the game.
Vincenzo Fanizza, head coach of Italy: “I am very satisfied with my team. We secured a very important victory this evening. Thanks to the 3-0, in fact, we have reached two goals that we really cared about, i.e. the semi-finals of the European Championship and the qualification for the U19 World Championship in 2021. We played a very fast game, pushing a lot with our service and it is therefore quite normal that we ended up making some mistakes. Tonight I especially liked the calmness shown by my players and that they controlled the game with so much confidence. On Wednesday, we will play a very tough match against Bulgaria, in my opinion the favourite team to win this European Championship. We will have to play without fear and give it all to show our best game.”
Pool II in Lecce
Poland beat Germany 3-0 to secure their spot in the semis of the tournament, with the classification matches 1-4 due to follow later this week in Lecce. Only the first set of their matchup with Germany was a close affair, but the young players in white and red shirts eventually took it by 27-25. After that, the players coached by Michal Bakiewicz raised the level of their performance, especially through Jakub Olszewski and Kacper Ratajewski, who top scored by registering 15 points apiece. Poland currently top the charts in the pool with two wins in as many matches and full six points, waiting for their last match in the group against Belarus on Wednesday.
Jakub Olszewski, team captain of Poland: “We struggled a little in the first set but we did well to control the game against a strong opponent such as Germany. Despite this victory, we must remain focused on the next match against Belarus to finish the pool phase in the best possible way and only after that, we will think about the next step. As for the teams in the other pool, Italy certainly have a little advantage for playing at home, but Bulgaria has an excellent team. We lost to them last year in the semis of the U17 European Championship, so we know how good they are.”
The Czech Republic recorded their first victory in the competition to remain in contention for a spot in the semis. Their next match against Germany will decide who will remain in Lecce for the semis and medal matches later this week. David Kollator top scored for the winners with 15 points.
Jan Svoboda, head coach of the Czech Republic: “I am proud of this group, since it was not easy to prepare this European Championship. We have come here to do our best. We started today’s match a little nervous and struggled with service and reception. It took us a while to find our rhythm but this is a very important victory for us ahead of the matchup with Germany, which will decide which team will progress to the semis.”
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