Brno/Kurim, Czech Republic. #EuroVolleyU20M went underway on Saturday in the Czech Republic with four matches after revising the original schedule following the withdrawal of Ukraine and Turkey confirmed on Friday night (click here for further info). Italy and Poland looked in full command and took comprehensive 3-0 victories in their respective Pool I matches with Belgium and Serbia. The hosts from the Czech Republic, on the other hand, came back from two sets down to lose a dramatic tiebreak to France. Over to Pool II, in the only match scheduled for the opening day of the tournament, Russia beat their neighbours from Belarus 3-1.
Italy vs. Belgium 3-0 (25-18, 25-20, 25-14)
The bronze medal winners from the 2018 U18 European Championship held in Zlin, Czech Republic, Italy started their campaign against Belgium, who finished seventh at that same competition two years ago. The ‘Azzurrini’ lived up to their status to secure a comprehensive 3-0 (25-18, 25-20, 25-14) victory. After a close start, Italy claimed a 5-point lead in the first set and did not look back anymore from there. Belgium edged ahead at the start of the second set and with the score remaining close up to 14-all, Italy changed pace and they eventually stormed to a well-deserved 3-0 win.
Angiolino Frigoni, head coach of Italy: “I am very happy and I think the players are very happy too, because we played a good match with a lot of attention. This Belgian team is not easy to play and we had a good organisation in block and defence. All players showed much focus but this is only the beginning of the tournament and we have a long journey ahead of us.”
Kris Eyckmans, head coach of Belgium: “For me it was a well-deserved win for Italy. We had some small opportunities and chances in the first two sets but there was a clear difference in the way they played and how we played. We made some mistakes we should avoid and in every set we made a few of those – and that makes a big difference against a team that plays at this level such as Italy.”
Poland vs. Serbia 3-0 (25-19, 25-16, 25-18)
This match was originally due to take place in Kurim, but moved to Brno after the re-organisation of the tournament programme following the withdrawal of Turkey and Ukraine. Team Poland adjusted very quickly to the quite specific conditions of the Vodova Hall in Brno and needed 70 minutes only to secure a comprehensive 3-0 victory, with Przemyslaw Kupka top scoring with a personal tally of 16 points.
Sebastian Pawlik, head coach of Poland: “I am glad that we won, maybe the level was not so high but it was first game and I think both teams were a little bit nervous – but we did our job and won. That is why I am glad.”
Boško Ma?užic, head coach of Serbia: “I would like to congratulate the Polish team. It was our first match of the tournament and I believe we will make some progress and will play better and better in the coming days.”
Czech Republic vs. France 2-3 (21-25, 22-25, 25-23, 27-25, 16-18)
The maximum capacity of 199 spectators – all wearing facemasks – supported the home team in their first match with France but the hosts found themselves trailing 0-2 after the first two sets. The Czechs emerged victorious from the third set before coming from behind (15-19) in the fourth to stay alive in the game (27-25). The tiebreak was a close affair but France managed to cope with the pressure a little better and eventually sealed a 3-2 victory after almost two and a half hours of play.
P?emysl Obdržálek, head coach of Czech Republic: “We started the game nervously, and we made a lot of unforced errors. We knew, it was possible to beat France and we are extremely sorry that we failed to do so. However, I have to say, we had two times luck on our side at the end of the third and fourth sets. I regret that we did not manage to get the job done with a victory. We started the tiebreak pretty well, but only two mistakes decided the result. We are sorry for that, but we hope that this loss will not knock us down ahead of the next games.”
Marc Francastel, head coach of France: “The first game in such a competition is always difficult, especially for such young players. We had the opportunity to finish the game in the fourth set but we did not play well there. It is young players – so this is somehow normal but it is a victory and this is important for us.”
Russia vs. Belarus 3-1 (30-28, 18-25, 25-22, 25-18)
Pool II features four teams only after Ukraine and Turkey had to withdraw from the competition, since some of their players tested positive for the novel coronavirus upon arrival in Brno. The first match in the group featured neighbours Russia and Belarus, with the first set lasting well beyond the 25-point mark and Russia emerging victorious at 30-28. Despite this setback, Belarus did not tremble and responded with a 25-18 win. Russia was able to secure a close 25-22 win in the third set before clearly dominating the fourth (25-18) to celebrate their first victory in the competition.
Mikhail Nikolaev, head coach of Russia: “There has been a long break from competition and the players have been missing the feeling of a match. I am satisfied with today’s victory. Belarus is a good team but today we played very well and we were better in all basic elements.”
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