Lecce/Marsicovetere. On Wednesday, Poland and Bulgaria made it three wins from three matches in the pool stage of #EuroVolleyU18M to top the charts of their respective group as they beat Belarus and Italy, respectively, on the final day of preliminary action at the tournament in Lecce and Marsicovetere. Italy lost a very close match to Bulgaria to finish second in Pool I and the ‘Azzurrini’ will play Poland in the semis on Saturday. Bulgaria’s next opponent will be the Czech Republic, as the players coached by Jan Svoboda routed Germany 3-0 to make it among the top four of the competition. The top six from the final standing will secure their participation in the 2021 edition of the FIVB Boys’ U19 World Championship.
Pool I in Marsicovetere
On the last day of the pool phase in Marsicovetere, Belgium beat Turkey 3-0 (27-25, 25-22, 25-22) after mounting a comeback in the first set. The young Red Dragons, on the other hand, controlled the match with more ease and confidence in the subsequent sets to finish third in Pool I, with Turkey following in fourth place.
Mieke Moyaert, head coach of Belgium: “I am very happy because the team fights for every point. We did not start well in this tournament, but with Italy we played a little better than we did with Bulgaria and today we showed our best performance. My boys played as a team and this was very important; moreover, the block-defence worked very well.”
Italy lost to Bulgaria at the tiebreak at end of a very beautiful and close match. Vincenzo Fanizza’s boys will face Poland in the semi-finals on Saturday after moving to Lecce, while Bulgaria will be taking on the Czech Republic. Italy played a great first set, which resulted in a real show of strength by the ‘Azzurrini’. Bulgaria responded by controlling the game from start to end of the second set. In the third, the hosts set the pace for most of the time but Bulgaria came back strong to emerge victorious in the end. After a close race in the early stages of the fourth set, Italy pulled away to call for the tiebreak but despite their effort, the ‘Azzurrini’ ended up losing to the young Lions in the fifth set.
Martin Stoev, head coach of Bulgaria: “We are very happy for the victory, it was a very good and hard-fought game; unfortunately, the only thing we missed was the crowd. In my opinion, both teams could win, but we did very well in the tie-break with our service game. Tonight I think it was our block that made the difference. In the semi-finals, we will face the Czech Republic which finished second in the other pool and therefore we hope they will be an easier opponent than Poland would have been.”
Pool II in Lecce
Poland finished their journey in Pool II in Lecce with three wins from as many matches, even though they dropped their first set in the competition. The young boys coached by former Volleyball star Michal Bakiewicz showed much focus even though they had already secured their spot in the semis. With this 3-1 victory, Team Poland made sure they finish on top of the group to play the runners-up from Pool I in the semi-finals. In today’s match against Belarus, Gwardia Wroclaw’s spiker Kamil Szymendera scored 18 points, including four aces. Belarus finish last in the pool with three losses but they can be proud of taking a set away from Poland thanks to Arseniy Palonski’s 15 points and the four blocks scored by their 206-cm tall middle blocker Hleb Azaranka.
Michal Bakiewicz, head coach of Poland: “We played three sets at our own pace and lost focus in the second set where Belarus caused us some problems. I am happy with my boys who managed to achieve such an important victory today that takes us from the top of the pool to the semi-finals. We owe a lot of respect to Italy and Bulgaria, the semi-finalists from the other pool; they both are very strong teams even if I have not had the opportunity to study them yet. Tomorrow I will give the boys some well-deserved rest to recharge their batteries before we ‘dive’ into the second and most important phase of this European Championship.”
In a direct clash for a spot in the semis, the Czech Republic delivered a very impressive performance to rout Germany in three sets and secure second place in Pool II. The players around Jan Svoboda delivered what you may regard as a perfect match, with as many as 12 blocks and seven aces in the process. David Kollator scored 15 times for the winning side. The Czechs will stay in Lecce and play Pool I winners Bulgaria for a spot in the gold medal match.
Jan Svoboda, head coach of the Czech Republic: “I do not know if it was the perfect match but we won a very important game. I am happy with my players who have been able to deal with such a challenge and a strong opponent such as Germany. We have been working together for quite some time focussing our efforts on our major goal, which is to take a medal home from this European Championship. We did especially well with our blocking game today and I have nothing to say but to thank my boys. I did not yet have the opportunity to think about the next opponents, since our thoughts were only about today’s match with Germany. From tomorrow we will think about the semi-final.”
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