Osijek, Croatia. The CEV U19 Volleyball European Championship 2020 is coming up soon with the competition due to run from August 22 to 30 in Osijek and Zenica. A few days before the actual start of the championship, a press conference took place in Gradski vrt hall in Osijek with representatives of the home team as well as of the Organising Committee.
“This European Championship is the first major European competition since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. It will take place in very strict conditions, according to the rules and protocols provided by the CEV. The competition itself is not open to the public and the media. Only players, staff members and organisational staff, who have returned a negative COVID-19 test, can enter the arena,” said the Secretary General of the Croatian Volleyball Federation, Valentina Bifflin. “The athletes are quite isolated, each team has its own floor in the hotel, and they will eat in separate rooms. On each floor, we have special rooms that are prepared for possible positive cases and isolation. We are always accompanied by a person from the Epidemiological Institute of the city Osijek and Osijek-Baranja county, as well as a representative of the CEV Medical Commission, who will monitor the course of the competition and ensure that everyone adheres to the prescribed measures. We hope and strongly believe that everything will go as planned.”
The Croatian Volleyball Federation organises the event in Osijek with the support of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports and the city of Osijek. “We have shown that we are ready to adapt to the new circumstances relatively quickly. The fact that this is the second competition we are preparing in Osijek in these special epidemiological conditions speaks for itself. It is important to emphasise that the City of Osijek is a city of sports, so all those who come to Osijek for sporting events always feel comfortable and achieve excellent results. We hope that it will be the same for this competition, which shows moderation, responsibility and uniqueness,” said the Deputy Mayor of Osijek, Boris Pilžota.
The match between Turkey and Bulgaria on August 22 at 3 pm will open the competition at Gradski vrt hall, while the Croatian youngsters will play their first match against the French national team at 5:30 pm on the same day. After that debut, Croatia will play against Germany the next day, with Turkey on August 24, before taking on Bulgaria and Russia on August 26 and 27, respectively, with all matches of the home team starting at 5:30 pm.
In the second group in Zenica, the national teams of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belarus, Italy, Poland, Slovakia and Serbia will take to the court. The two best teams from each group will continue to fight for a medal in Zenica, while the third-placed and fourth-placed will play their classification matches for places 5-8 in Osijek.
“Performance at this European Championship is of great importance because these are the 12 best European national teams at the moment. I think that matches against such strong teams are a great experience for the development of our talented generation. We expect that three to four players from this team will join our senior national team,” said the Expert Secretary of the Croatian Volleyball Federation, Frane Žanic.
The Croatian U19 national team has been training in Osijek under special conditions since the beginning of July, while the other teams will arrive on Thursday. The young Croatian players firmly believe that playing at home will bring them one of the two places at stake for the Women’s U20 World Championship next year.
“The working conditions are perfect. Safety measures have changed the dynamic of our trainings a bit, but we deal with it easily. We train twice a day, respecting social distancing and waiting for the results of the COVID-19 tests. We have 12 players who are ready to give their best and achieve great results for our nation,” said Croatia’s head coach, Saša Ivaniševic, while captain Mirta Freund added; “The situation in the team is excellent, we have high expectations and want to show ourselves in the best possible light. Our group is pretty tough, but we have trained well and I think we can compete equally with all the other teams.”
Croatia’s roster for the competition includes Mirta Freund, Zorana Brcic, Karla Antunovic, Jelena Zdilar, Andrea Koraca, Dijana Karatovic, Ana Ištuk, Mia Bilušic, Andrea Mihaljevic, Larisa Pauletic, Mia Kainz, and Rebecca Scoria.