Lecce/Marsicovetere, Italy. Italy and the Czech Republic will contest the gold medal match of #EuroVolleyU18M on Sunday in Lecce after these two teams emerged victorious from their respective semi-finals in contrasting fashion. The Czechs needed three sets only to beat Pool I winners Bulgaria, while Italy had to go the full distance and play a tiebreak to end the winning streak of Team Poland in the competition. Live streaming of Sunday’s gold medal match will be available on EuroVolleyTV, the CEV’s YouTube channel and the CEV’s European Volleyball Facebook page. Elsewhere, Germany and Belgium beat Turkey and Belarus, respectively, in Marsicovetere to secure not only the right to play for fifth place on Sunday, but most importantly their participation in next year’s U19 World Championship as well.
Semi-finals in Lecce
The Czech Republic routed Bulgaria in three sets to end the winning streak of the young Lions in the competition. Bulgaria had claimed three wins in as many matches in Pool I in Marsicovetere, but the Czechs delivered a superb performance to secure the right to play for gold on Sunday. Daniel Fabikovic top scored for the winners with 14 points, one more than those scored by Bulgarian rising star Aleksandar Nikolov.
Jan Svoboda, head coach of the Czech Republic: “I am very happy. Before this match we knew that Bulgaria had played very well in their pool. We prepared all the technical details; when I spoke with my players, I told them to play hard and to focus especially on our defence game. Tomorrow we will play the last match of this good tournament. I think that each final is open, so nothing is impossible and we will do our best to win the most important match of this strange season.”
Italy beat Poland 3-2 after a very dramatic match to challenge the Czech Republic on Sunday evening for the European crown. Italy will contest the gold medal match in this age group for the fifth time in history after doing so in 1995 in Barcelona, 1997 in Puchov, 2015 in Sakarya and 2017 in Györ. This is the fifth straight final reached by head coach Vincenzo Fanizza and his staff in as many competitions, i.e. the WEVZA Championships in 2018 and 2019, the European Youth Olympic Festival in 2019 and last year’s U19 World Championship in Tunisia.
Italy claimed the first set before Poland responded by leading from start to end of the second. The ‘Azzurrini’ showed great Volleyball in the third but again Poland responded swiftly in the fourth. The two teams fought for every point in the tiebreak before Italy claimed a small break to seal their victory at 15-13.
Mattia Boninfante, setter of Italy and son of 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Dante: “We had some difficulties in the tiebreak but fortunately I had a good service series that helped change the course of the game. I think that next time one my teammates will be making the difference – and not me. I am very happy for the result but tomorrow we will have another battle against one of the best European teams, and yet we want to win again.”
Semi-finals (Classification 5-8) in Marsicovetere
In a very important match, Belgium beat Belarus 3-0 to secure their participation in next year’s U19 World Championship. The young Red Dragons started the match with the right pace and finished it with a record of 10 blocks and 57% of positive reception. Their opposite hitter, Ferre Reggers, top scored with 15 points. Belarus had an advantage only through halfway of the third set but ended up losing 0-3 despite the 12 points scored by Hleb Azaranka.
Mieke Moyaert, head coach of Belgium: “I am proud of my boys, they were so motivated, as being able to participate in a World Championship is a great opportunity and we managed to secure our ticket to next year’s event. Today we stepped onto the court much focussed on such an important match. We worked well with our block and in attack as well, putting Belarus under pressure right from the first points. Today we proved to be a real group, we remained united from the beginning to the end of the match and this pushed us towards such a victory. Today I want to celebrate a bit and tomorrow we will close this European Championship with the final for fifth place, at the end of which I think we can be satisfied with our performance here.”
Germany claimed a real battle with Turkey to seize the last ticket available to compete at next year’s U19 World Championship. They had to fight for every single point but they eventually emerged victorious after four very close sets. The best scorer of the match was Germany’s opposite hitter Joscha Kunstmann with 25 points in a game where Germany scored nine blocks and Turkey responded with 10 stuffs.
Dominic von Känel, head coach of Germany: “With Turkey we knew it would be a very difficult match, which you would win rather mentally than physically. We are very happy to have achieved such an important goal as the qualification for the next World Championship. We come from an iron group in Lecce where we faced teams like Poland and the Czech Republic and we could not achieve more than what we managed to do there. Ours is a large group where everyone knows how to play Volleyball, there are no outstanding individuals, but the group was and is our strength. Tomorrow we want to win the match for the fifth place with Belgium.”
Click here for further information.