Brno/Kurim, Czech Republic. With a fourth 3-0 victory in as many matches, Italy secured on Wednesday their spot in the semis of #EuroVolleyU20M, even with one match still to play in Pool I. Their latest ‘victim’ was France, even though Les Bleus were able to put up a fight, doing so especially in the first and second sets. In Pool I as well, Belgium made it three wins in a row after losing to Italy on Saturday, as they routed Serbia in three sets to stay well in contention for a spot in the semis.
Italy vs. France 3-0 (25-22, 27-25, 25-13)
Although this was their first game at Vodova hall in Brno, Italy started with much confidence, putting much pressure with their service and showing that they are the dominant force in Pool I. France raised the level of their performance towards the end of the first set; however, Italy showed some great plays and they eventually sealed a 25-22 win. The second set was a very close affair, but Italy eventually emerged victorious, courtesy of their six blocks as well. After losing the second set in such dramatic fashion, France could not find a way back into the game anymore and Italy cruised towards their fourth 3-0 victory in as many matches.
Marc Francastel, head coach of France: “We knew that Italy was going to be a very hard opponent, but we had too much respect and did not put enough pressure on them. Their three main hitters were on a different level, much more experienced and they played with better technique as well.”
Angiolino Frigoni, head coach of Italy: “It was the first game for us in this arena, but we had practice here yesterday and prepared very well for this game. The biggest difference was probably our defence and that we could score even from the high balls. The French team played a good match too, but we did a great job reading their game very well and we did not let them score any easy points.”
Belgium vs. Serbia 3-0 (25-14, 25-12, 25-17)
After Tuesday’s break and rest day, the competition resumed in Kurim with Belgium recording a comprehensive victory over Serbia – in a match that the young Red Dragons controlled from start to end. Serbia did not find any answer to the Belgian game, with the eventual winners of this fixture scoring as many as 10 blocks. Lennert Van Elsen was the top scorer for the Belgians with 11 points, with the Red Dragons now boasting a record of three straight wins after their loss to Italy in the tournament opener.
Kris Eyckmans, head coach of Belgium: “The most important thing is that we won very quickly because tomorrow we will play an important match against the Czech Republic. Therefore, I am happy for this victory and the way we achieved it. Serbia did for sure not play their best game of the tournament.”
Boško Ma?užic, head coach of Serbia: “Belgium was very strong and we had no chance, especially in defence and reception. It was a bad day for us, but I believe that tomorrow will be better.”
Poland vs. Czech Republic 3-0 (25-23, 25-11, 25-20)
The Czech team, still looking for their first victory in the competition, played Poland in Kurim after a rest day and started the match by claiming what looked like a promising lead. However, Poland managed to change the course of the game and eventually took the first set with the smallest possible advantage. With their back against the wall and feeling much pressure, the Czechs failed to respond and ended up losing in straight sets. With their 3-0 win, Poland made sure they would progress from the pool and remain even in contention for a spot in the semis 1-4 – while the Czechs will say goodbye to the competition after tomorrow’s match against Belgium.
Premysl Obdrzalek, head coach of the Czech Republic: “We lost the match after the first set today, where we made two mistakes in the end. In the second set, Poland broke away and we were no longer able to respond. This somehow hit the boys a lot and unfortunately we lost the match.”
Sebastian Pawlik, head coach of Poland: “I am happy with the victory and that we controlled the game so well. We have to continue the same way tomorrow and play as best as we can and wait for the results from the other matches in the pool.”
Germany vs. Russia 2-3 (23-25, 25-20, 17-25, 25-23, 5-15)
Despite losing a close first set, Germany responded well in the second with some pipes and fast attacks, taking many risks with their serves – with Russia making a lot more mistakes than they had recorded in the first set. However, Russia regrouped to set the pace of the game from start to end of the third set. Germany’s teamwork called for a tiebreak, where Russia hit powerfully to secure their second victory in the competition.
Dan Ilott, head coach of Germany: “We definitely played a better game compared with the first one against the Netherlands. You could see so many errors and the nerves in our first game, but we had some extra time to prepare for the second match. We had a great game plan and executed some tactical things very well. Overall, I think that the team that does better in attack usually wins the set and in the tiebreak the Russians put much pressure on us with their serve, we were struggling with the first ball contact and could not respond as we wanted.”
Mikhail Nikolaev, head coach of Russia: “We did not play any friendly match before this championship and we did not have time to practice together as a team. Because of that, this is a big win for us. Germany is a great team, they won the last U18 championship and today it was their last chance for a spot in the semis, so I am satisfied with our performance tonight.”
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