Azerbaijan and Russia secure tickets to 2018 World Championship as 2nd Round nears conclusion
Luxembourg, June 3, 2017. Azerbaijan and Russia join Serbia as the next teams to secure their tickets to next year’s FIVB Women’s Volleyball World Championship in Japan. As predicted, Pool E came down to Azerbaijan’s match against the Netherlands. Despite being pushed close in the first (30-28), the sets got progressively easier for the home team - winning the second 25-22 and the third 25-13. While over in Pool A Russia are undefeated after four matches, and now cannot be caught which guarantees their place at next year`s premier event.
That leaves three spots left to be determined this weekend and in Pool C Turkey need to win their match tomorrow against Montenegro to top their pool. While in Pool D it will be determined by the final match between Belgium and Italy, Pool F has Germany needing to collect three points, or the top spot could be stolen by Slovenia.
Pool A in CRO
Georgia vs Greece
Greece claimed their third victory in Osijek – out of four matches – to cement their second place in the standing of the Pool. They did so by comfortably routing Georgia in three sets (25-13, 25-13, 25-14). Angeliki-Melina Emmanouilidou and Evangelia Merteki top scored for Greece with 12 and nine points, respectively, in their winning effort.
Russia vs Hungary
Russia made it four wins in as many matches at Gradski Vrt sports hall as they comfortably beat Hungary 3-0 (25-11, 25-21, 25-7). Russia’s superstars Tatiana Kosheleva and Nataliya Goncharova played a great game and with today’s result, Russia made sure they will finish first in the pool – and thus are virtually qualified to next year’s World Championship in Japan. “I always try to play the best I can for my team and I am really happy with today’s performance,” Kosheleva said. “I just hope we can continue playing in the same way.” Zsofia Kalotai, player of Hungary, said: “I have not been a member of this team for a long time but I think we have a good group of players and we will just get better and better.”
Austria vs Croatia
Croatia beat Austria 3-1 (23-25, 26-24, 25-20, 25-16) in the final match on schedule for Saturday in Osijek. Katarina Pavicic (top scorer with 14 points), plus libero Nikolina Bozicevic and outside hitter Lucija Mlinar set the pace for the home side as they came back from one set down. Srna Markovic played very well for Austria but after the game she admitted that it is quite challenging to play so many matches in a row as they are doing in Osijek. Pavicic commented: “We played really well and we get along very well with the older players. We have set an ambitious goal, which is to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.”
Pool C in BUL
Montenegro vs Switzerland
Switzerland improved their win-loss record in Pool C to 2-2 after rallying to a 3-0 victory (25-22, 25-16, 25-17) in their matchup with Montenegro.
Dragan Nesic, coach of Montenegro: “Congratulations to Switzerland, they deserved to win today. They played much better than us. We didn’t play well in attack and our serve was weak too.”
Jelena Cvijovic, player of Montenegro: “It was really too much for us. Honestly, I didn’t expect this result. We expected to win today but we made too many errors, and we didn’t play well at all.”
Sarah Troesch, player of Switzerland: “I feel great. We wanted to win today because last year we played Montenegro twice and we won one out of two matches. Therefore, our goal was to win again and the team did a great job. We executed everything our coach told us and we are really happy with the result.”
Tabea Dalliard, libero of Switzerland: “We all feel great. We accomplished our goal and now we are happy. At the beginning it was not easy to put them under pressure but later on we managed to play better and remained concentrated until the end, so we are happy with our performance.”
Bulgaria vs Turkey
Turkey won the ‘big match’ with hosts Bulgaria 3-2 (23-25, 25-23, 25-23, 13-25, 15-13) to virtually secure their qualification to next year’s World Championship in Japan.
Giovanni Guidetti, coach of Turkey: “It was a great match. I want to congratulate Bulgaria because they played very, very well. They are a strong team. I’m proud of my team because we really fought hard for the whole match, from start to end. We only had a sort of blackout in the fourth set. I think we were a little bit luckier in the tiebreak but we deserved this victory because we played really well from the beginning of the match. I congratulate my team, but I have to congratulate Bulgaria as well! I think it was great Volleyball show today!”
Neriman Özsoy, player of Turkey: “I think they started really well. In the fourth set I was not able to help my team because I had a little injury, but I am grateful that all my teammates did a great job and as a team we played really well today. This victory is truly the result of a collective effort. The individual skills didn’t decide the winners. Giovanni told us before the match that we must play as a team and this is what we did it. I am also happy that we won before so many Bulgarian fans.”
Dobriana Rabadzhieva, player of Bulgaria: “I’m very proud of my team because we managed to come back from many difficult situations. In the tie-break they put us under a lot of pressure with their serve and despite our great comeback, little things cost us the victory in the end.”
Nasya Dimitrova, player of Bulgaria: “We were really close to the victory but for me the most important thing is the full sports hall. This kind of support energises us very much and adds a lot of adrenaline. Our run towards the World Championship will continue in the next qualification round. This is not the end!”
Romania vs Kosovo
To complete Saturday’s programme in Sofia, Romania easily beat underdogs Kosovo 3-0 (25-12, 25-12, 25-13).
Madalina Angelescu, coach of Romania: “We tried to play with a lot of respect to our opponent and we also tried to prepare for the match with Switzerland coming up tomorrow with some substitutions, so that all players would have some time on the court.”
Adriana Vilcu, player of Romania: “We were really focussed during the match. We knew that Kosovo is not the best team here but we must play with respect to any opponent. Tomorrow I expect a really tough game because Switzerland is a good team. We know them, they know us. We will see what happens.”
Lorik Ilazi, coach of Kosovo: “This was possibly our best match here. We played really well in attack. I hope we can continue playing in the same way tomorrow as well.”
Pool D in BEL
The fans can look forward to a final showdown between Belgium and Italy on Sunday at 8 pm to determine the eventual winners of Pool D who will qualify straight to the 2018 World Championship in Japan.
Belarus vs. Latvia
Angelo Vercesi, the Brazilian-born assistant coach of Belarus was happy that his second lines could easily cruise to a 3-0 victory (25-19, 25-20, 25-16) in their matchup with Latvia, after putting up a fight in their previous games with Italy and Belgium. “Normally I should say: Italy is the favourite because they play faster. However, anything can happen in Volleyball. Belgium also have some experienced players, an experienced staff and they play before the home fans and this can push them further. I heard the hall is sold out and because Belgium has nothing to lose, you never know how this is going to end.”
Spain vs. Italy
“We played our best match in this tournament. Of course against Italy, every player is extra motivated,” said Spain coach Pascual Saurin after his team lost 0-3 to the Azzurre (17-25, 18-25, 15-25). “Tomorrow we play our final against Latvia, but in the real final I should say that the Italian team seems to be the favourite because they have more consistency. Belgium have the advantage of playing before the home crowd. However, even then, I think the Belgians must play better than they have done this week so far. They have to play very strong, because against Italy every mistake will be punished.”
“Coaches are never pleased with the results of their team, but tomorrow we will certainly play our best game,” promised Italian coach Davide Mazzanti.
Belgium vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Yellow Tigers played their best match so far in the tournament as they beat Bosnia and Herzegovina 3-0 (25-19, 30-28, 25-16) even though they had to cancel a number of set points for their opponent at the end of a closely fought second set. “It was a good preparation for the final game, much better than an easy game. Now, we know that we have to fight and that a good block-defence is essential. We had too many problems in reception, but I’m convinced that we are ready for tomorrow,” said Belgian coach Gert Vande Broek.
Pool E in AZE
Norway vs Israel
Israel finished their journey in Baku on a high note as the team coached by Italian-born Giuseppe Cuccarini beat Norway 3-1 (25-19, 15-25, 25-17, 25-15). The respective captains played an excellent game and finished as the match top scorers – Anna Velikiy from Israel registered 19 points, as Norway’s Julie Heile Mikaelsen finished the match on 16.
“This is the end of our journey. My team played a few good matches, and we celebrated a victory against Denmark. We haven’t any regrets because this tournament has been a truly important experience for us and we return home much stronger than before,” said the head coach of Norway Odd Atle Ekerhovd.
Azerbaijan vs The Netherlands
With 3,000 fans in attendance at the Sports Games Palace in Baku, Azerbaijan rallied to a 3-0 (30-28, 25-22, 25-13) victory over The Netherlands in the ‘grand finale’ of the tournament to secure their ticket to next year’s World Championship. The home team delivered a perfect game with a very solid attack and some amazing defence actions.
As their leaders Natalya Mammadova and Polina Rahimova struggled to find their rhythm, the Netherlands claimed an early 10-6 lead in the first set and extended it to 15-7 with their rock-solid defence. However, at this stage the home team woke up and changed the course of the game – with massive blocks from Rahimova and Aynur Karimova as well as with the help of their rising star Yelyzaveta Samadova (30-28). Azerbaijan rushed to a 15-13 lead in the second set and with Mammadova, Rahimova and Samadova on fire, they took the important points to double their lead in the match (25-22). Azerbaijan dominated the third set (25-13) with Rahimova finishing the game with an impressive personal tally of 28 points.
“I am proud of my team. My girls played with brave hearts and won all five matches without dropping a single set. The game against The Netherlands was very difficult, but after a thrilling opening set, we found our rhythm and eventually beat our opponent. Yes, Azerbaijan have won a ticket to the World Championship but we will soon start preparing for another big challenge coming up this year – the European Championship in Azerbaijan and Georgia,” said Azerbaijan head coach Faig Garayev.
“We are really disappointed with the result. However, we have to learn our lesson. Azerbaijan have qualified for the World Championship, whereas we have to get ready to play the third round of qualifications,” said the head coach of the Netherlands, Jamie Morrison.
Ukraine vs Denmark
Ukraine finished the tournament with a comprehensive 3-0 victory (25-14, 25-18, 25-16) over Denmark to settle for third place in the pool.
Pool F in POR
Finland vs Germany
Germany beat Finland 3-0 (25-23, 25-23, 25-14) to open the programme of the fourth competition day in Viana do Castelo and are now only step away from qualifying to next year’s World Championship in Japan. Germany looked dominant from the start of the match but as soon as they slowed their pace down, Finland would catch up soon and the strong serve displayed by the ‘Suomis’ caused a lot of problems to the German receivers, especially in the second set. Germany won two close sets before they changed pace in the third and imposed their rule from start to end. Their opposite hitter and best scorer Louisa Lippmann (17 points) said: “We started off quite badly because we had problems to deal with their service. Nevertheless, in the third set we showed what we are capable of and we got closer to our real level. When we play as a team, our chances to win increase significantly.”
Portugal vs Slovenia
Later in the afternoon, Slovenia beat hosts Portugal 3-0 (25-18, 25-19, 25-22) in a match which was initially quite close as Portugal could rely on Julia Kavalenka and Marta Hurst to counter the pressure coming from the Slovenian side of the net. Slovenia played with much more confidence in the second set and won it thanks to a few good blocks before Portugal claimed an early lead in set three but Slovenia responded to finish the match in style. Alessandro Chiappini, Slovenia’s head coach said: “We did it. We have virtually made it to the third round, which has been our goal since we lost badly to Germany earlier this week in a match where unfortunately we couldn’t reach our best level. I am very pleased because after losing to Germany, we have played three almost perfect matches. It wasn’t easy, since we have been playing under a lot of pressure following that first match. There are some things we can improve, but I could not ask more from these players, who have been working really hard and giving their best for the past four weeks.”
France vs Estonia
Estonia may have won against France 3-2 (22-25, 25-20, 15-25, 25-17, 16-14) but it was the French team that caught the better start to the match with good actions, particularly at blocking. The second set was won by Estonia due to some changes in the initial line-up that provided the Baltic team with another level of consistency. The following two sets saw France and Estonia with some ups and downs that led to the inevitable tie-break that was eventually won by Estonia. Despite losing by four points at one stage, they were able to turn the score around to their favour. Andrei Ojamets, Estonia’s coach, highlighted that “it will be a difficult match tomorrow thrilling the home crowd that will be supporting Portugal. We don’t have many solutions on the bench and we use almost always the same seven players, but Portugal hasn’t had an easy tournament, with 13 sets played in only four days so we will try to defend third place.”
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Information by cev.lu