Lecce/Marsicovetere, Italy. On Sunday night, Italy produced a truly superb and dominant performance to rout the Czech Republic in three sets and secure the gold medal of this year’s #EuroVolleyU18M. This is Italy’s second title in the competition, as their only previous success in this age group had come at the 1997 edition of the event held in Puchov, Slovakia. As for the Czech Republic, this is their second straight silver medal, after a previous generation of players had finished second two years ago on home soil in Zlin. After their painful loss to Italy in the semis, Poland finished the tournament on a high note with their 3-1 victory over Bulgaria in the third place match, thus adding another medal to the one of the same colour they claimed at last year’s U17 continental event. In Marsicovetere, Turkey beat Belarus in the clash featuring two still winless teams to secure the last ticket available to join the 2022 edition of the European Youth Olympic Festival.
Italy secured their second European crown in this age group, doing so 23 years since their previous success in the competition. The ‘Azzurrini’ played a great match, and after a close race up to 19-all in the first set, eventual MVP Luca Porro paved the way for a 25-23 win with a couple of attacks. Italy controlled the second set from start to end with Porro scoring as many as eight points on his own. The course of the match did not change in the third and final set, where the Czechs failed to mount any sort of comeback.
Vincenzo Fanizza, head coach of Italy: “I am happy for the whole team, it is a great emotion, since these guys have given an immense joy to the Italian Volleyball community. I dedicate this victory to my family; it is a result that pays back the many sacrifices we have made. The boys remained focused throughout the entire match. I can seem very strict at times but I know that in these situations the hardest thing is to stay focussed and my boys did this. They are a group of great value and I sincerely believe that the future can be bright for them if they continue to work this same way.”
Luca Porro, MVP of #EuroVolleyU18M: “We played a very good game. I think in general we can do better and better, but tonight we were really good at winning this game. We gave it our all and in the end we made it. We are a great group and we always believed in our ability to achieve such an important result. We all hope this is just the beginning. Next year we will have the World Championship and we hope to perform well there too.”
Poland beat Bulgaria 3-1 to finish their #EuroVolleyU18M campaign with bronze – to go with the medal of the same colour they claimed at last year’s U17 tournament in Sofia. Poland set the pace of the match in the first set and did the same also in the second, where Bulgaria, however, mounted a valiant comeback. Despite this, Poland finished the set in their favour to double their lead in the match. Bulgaria responded well in the third set but Poland claimed the fourth one to close the match 3-1 and celebrate with the bronze medals.
Michal Bakiewicz, head coach of Poland: “I can be and I am satisfied with third place in such a difficult tournament. Yesterday, in the semi with Italy, we witnessed a great battle between two equally strong teams, with one or two balls deciding the eventual winner. This match was very important for us because it is not so easy to come back to the court after losing such a close semi-final. I am happy and satisfied because my players were very concentrated and they played a very good game.”
Classification match 5-6
After securing their spot in next year’s U19 World Championship on Saturday, there was ‘only’ fifth place at stake in the matchup featuring Germany and Belgium. Germany caught a very promising start to the match dominating the first set and even though Belgium responded by taking a close third set, Germany were the well-deserved eventual winners of this fixture. Ben-Simon Bonin and Joscha Kunstmann piled up 17 points each for Germany to finish the tournament on a high note after losing to Poland and the Czech Republic in the pool stage in Lecce. Ferre Reggers scored as many as 32 points for Belgium, but that was not enough for the Red Dragons to have the upper hand.
Dominic von Känel, head coach of Germany: “I am satisfied with how we finished this tournament, which started in an iron group with two very strong teams like Poland and the Czech Republic. Today we were focused on the goal of finishing the event in the best way, beating Belgium in the final for the fifth place. We had a good time here in Italy, and I have to thank those who worked hard to organise this event despite the many difficulties that still exist. We look positive at the future, we have very interesting individuals in the group and our work ultimately aims at supplying athletes to the senior national team regardless of the results.”
Classification match 7-8
Belarus and Turkey opened the last day of competition in Marsicovetere vying for their first victory in the tournament, with a spot at stake to participate in the next edition of the European Youth Olympic Festival due to take place in the summer of 2022 in Banska Bystrica, Slovakia. Turkey secured their first success after last week they had lost to Italy 2-3 in their opening match where they wasted a 2-0 lead. Turkey were still able to finish their journey in the best possible way with Can Koc top scoring with 17 points.
Ali Yilmaz, head coach of Turkey: “The loss to Italy at the beginning of the tournament was a tough one and it somehow disrupted our rhythm in this competition. We were not able to recover mentally after that tiebreak we lost in the first match against the hosts but I am happy that at least today we managed to take home the first victory and secure our participation in the next edition of the European Youth Olympic Festival. We close this event thinking about the future with the desire to grow and find some sort of a redemption. Belarus have a good team but we were good at controlling the match despite the good performance of our opponents.”
1. Italy */**
2. Czech Republic */**
3. Poland */**
4. Bulgaria */**
5. Germany */**
6. Belgium */**
7. Turkey **
*Qualified for 2021 FIVB Boys’ U19 World Championship
**Qualified for 2022 European Youth Olympic Festival
MVP: Luca Porro (ITA)
Outside hitters: Luca Porro (ITA) and Kamil Szymendera (POL)
Middle blockers: Mateusz Nowak (POL) and Jakub Klajmon (CZE)
Opposite hitter: Georgi Tatarov (BUL)
Setter: Simon Bryknar (CZE)
Libero: Gabriele Laurenzano (ITA)
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