Russia vs Bulgaria and Italy vs Turkey are the semi-finals of this year’s #EuroVolleyU16W. Russia topped the final standing in Pool I in Nyiregyhaza after registering five wins in as many matches – while Italy emerged atop of a highly competitive Pool II in Humenné with four wins and one loss, the same record of Bulgaria and Serbia, who finished second and third on raking points, respectively.
In Pool I, Russia and Turkey confirmed their firm grip on the top spots of the final standing, as they claimed their fifth and fourth victory, respectively. Turkey needed a bit more than an hour to thump Belgium in three sets with Defne Basyolcu and Liza Safronova top scoring on 16 and 15 points, respectively. Belgium actually set the tempo for most of the second set, but Turkey cancelled a set point for the young Yellow Tigers before emerging victorious. With this 3-0 win, Turkey finished second in the pool to play Italy in the semis in a repeat of the 2019 gold medal match in Trieste.
Later in the afternoon, Russia looked just dominant and merciless as they conceded 41 points only to hosts Hungary to complete a clean sweep of their matches in Pool I. Polina Kovaleva and Elizaveta Pavlova finished the match in double digits with 16 and 13 points. Hungary played with glowing hearts, but they could not match Russia’s physical and technical prowess. In the semis, Russia will play Bulgaria as they try to improve on the bronze medal claimed by the previous generation of U16 players two years ago.
Finally, Poland edged the Czech Republic at the tiebreak to finish third in the group – and together with Hungary will move to Humenné where they will be playing later this weekend the classification matches 5-8. The Czech Republic had chances to record their first victory in the competition but Poland controlled the tiebreak after the side switch, so the Czechs ended their journey at the bottom of the charts with five losses in as many matches.
In Pool II, Serbia opened the programme of the last day of group action with a comprehensive 3-0 victory (25-12, 25-9, 25-20) over Romania. The young Serbian players controlled the match right from the beginning and collected much-needed three points. However, a fourth victory for Serbia was still not enough to secure a ticket to the semi-finals and the team mentored by Nemanja Zekic will stay in Humenné to contest the classification matches for places 5-8. Romania lost all five of their matches and won only one set in the tournament.
After losing to Bulgaria earlier in the competition, Italy won a fourth match in a row and secured first place in Pool II. The Azzurrine have been unstoppable since their setback in the match with the Lionesses. The Croatian team, without injured outside hitter Maša Mlinar, seemed to have run out of fuel after the exhausting five-setter against Bulgaria from the night before. Croatia finished the tournament with one victory and five points, but it was enough only for fifth place in the pool.
“Today we tried to put our opponents under pressure from the beginning, in the first two sets we did really well and we enjoyed also the third set, even though it was closer in the score. After losing the first match in the tournament, we had a good reaction as a team and we started to play better and better. We are really happy that we made it to the final stage, we want to enjoy it and play our best.”Linda Manfredini
Middle blocker of Italy
The home players representing Slovakia knew before their last match in the pool that they had booked the ticket to the next round of the competition. Bulgaria, on the other hand, were still in contention for a spot in the semi-finals, but needed to take three points from this match to achieve their goal. Bulgaria finally did their job and thanks to another good performance by opposite Iva Dudova (27 points) booked a ticket to Hungary. Slovakia will stay at home and play for places 5-8. Former volleyball great and former coach of the Slovak men’s national team, Andrej Kravarik watched the match in Humenné.