Lecce/Marsicovetere, Italy. After a two-day break, everything is now ready in Lecce for the semi-finals of #EuroVolleyU18M, with Pool I winners Bulgaria playing the Czech Republic at 5 pm and hosts Italy up against Poland at 8 pm for a place in the gold medal match. The competition resumes in Marsicovetere as well, with the classification matches 5-8. The winners of the matches Belgium v Belarus and Germany v Turkey will secure their participation in the 2021 edition of the FIVB Boys’ U19 World Championship.
Looking at the final standing of last year’s U17 European Championship held in Sofia, Italy – who finished 5th there – are the only ‘new’ qualifier for the semi-finals, while Bulgaria, Poland and the Czech Republic finished second, third and fourth respectively a year ago. France, the winners of that tournament, had to withdraw from the competition held in the south of Italy due to a warning issued by their national authorities preventing the team from travelling abroad in coronavirus times.
In the group stage, Italy improved the level of their performance from match to match after mounting a huge comeback in their opening game against Turkey, where they came from 0-2 to win at the tiebreak. They subsequently beat Belgium 3-0 before losing at the tiebreak to Bulgaria, an opponent of a much higher level. To earn a spot in the final, Gabriele Laurenzano and his teammates will have to show their best performance, as they did in a number of sets against the young Bulgarians.
On the other hand, Poland are still unbeaten in this tournament, having claimed three wins in Pool II from their matches against the Czech Republic, Germany and Belarus, dropping only one set in the process.
In the other semi-final, Bulgaria, with three victories in the tournament to their name, will play against the Czech Republic, who made it to the semis after a victory over Germany in their last pool match.
The matches in Marsicovetere will be very important too, with a spot in next year’s World Championship at stake. Belgium (who finished third in Pool I) will face Belarus (5 pm), still with zero victories in the tournament. At 8 pm it will be the turn of Germany (third in Pool II) to face Turkey, who are also still looking for their first victory in the competition.
Due to restrictions imposed by the local authorities, no fans can attend the matches on site. However, live streaming of all these fixtures will be available on the official YouTube channel of the Italian Volleyball Federation. The 12 matches played during the pool stage accounted for more than 90,000 views and the audience is constantly growing. The most viewed matches were Italy v Turkey (18,100 views) and Italy v Bulgaria (15,400 views).
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