Bulgaria win the European Golden League in front of their home fans. The Final Four hosts, who organised the tournament in Ruse, Bulgaria, needed four sets to claim victory over Croatia. Bulgarians led throughout the game, but Croatians persisted, challenging the hosts by tying the score in every set. Spain took the bronze medal after beating Czech Republic in a thrilling tie-breaker. Spain came from 1-2 behind to take the control over final set of the match and finish the competition in the third spot.
Gold Medal Match
Croatia vs. Bulgaria 1-3 (25-22, 22-25, 17-25, 20-25)
Supported by a large group of local fans, the Final Four hosts started the match with power, taking a six-point lead at 13-19. Croatia patiently decreased the gap to just 19-21, putting more pressure in the Bulgarians. Their effort paid off as the team reached the set-point at 24-22 and used their first opportunity to win the set with a spike from Matea Ikic.
A setback in the opening part of the match didn’t put Bulgarians down as they started second set with another lead at 4-8. The advantage soon grew to 5-12, but Croatia hit back scoring three points in a row, forcing Bulgaria to call a time out. Croatia yet again worked their way back from 10-14 to not only level the score at 14-14, but go 17-14 ahead. Bulgarians responded with series of good rallies to jump to 18-20, but Croatia managed to tie the score once more. A single block of Nasya Dimitrova on Klara Peri? – who attempted to tip the ball – and an error on Croatian side put Bulgaria at 20-23. The Final Four hosts claimed the set at 22-25.
Both teams played head to head in the third set, but Bulgaria soon established another significant lead at 5-8 further extended to 9-14. Just like before, Croatia slowly decreased it to 13-16, but this time Bulgaria did not let them even the score. The hosts scored five points in a row, keeping a confident lead over Croatia at 13-21. Bulgaria kept the control until the end of third set, won at 17-25.
It took a while for Bulgaria to gain a point advantage in the fourth set, as both teams went head to head until 9-9. But a three-point run from the hosts forced Croatia to call a time out at 9-12. The trouble on Croatian side continued when Bulgaria increased their lead to 10-16. Croatia managed to score three points in a row, knowing that their time to strike back in this game is slowly running out. The three-point difference between the teams carried on until 20-23, when Emiliya Dimitrova’s attack have Bulgaria their first match point. Bulgarians used their first opportunity as Dimitrova finished the match with another powerful hit.
“I am very proud with my team. We began our journey almost a month ago. There are new players in the team. At this point we are not ready to challenge Bulgaria. Now the most important is to grow and to be ready for the EuroVolley 2021. It is very important tournament for us.”Daniele Santarelli
Coach of Croatia
- Emiliya Dimitrova became the top scorer of the match with 19 points for Bulgaria. She also delivered two final points of the match, giving her team #EuroLeagueW crown.
- Samanta Fabris trails behind with 18 points for Croatia.
- Croatia performed slightly better in block, scoring 15 points to 13 blocks of Bulgaria.
- Individually Nasya Dimitrova led in blocking with 7 points in this element.
“The emotions are incredible! I can’t find the right words to describe it! We are proud and happy to be the European Golden League winners. I want to admire my team and the incredible fans. Now we begin to prepare for the EuroVolley. Of course, I know that we made mistakes, but the time for analysis will be after the celebrations.”Ivan Petkov
Coach of Bulgaria