Croatia triumph as first ever Silver EuroLeagueM winner
Skopje, FYR of Macedonia, June 15, 2018. Croatia triumphed as the first ever winner of the CEV Volleyball Silver European League - Men. Defeating Belarus in the gold medal match in four sets, the Croatians deserved the trophy of the inaugural event and it was handed to them by CEV President Aleksandar Boričić during the closing ceremony. Croatia’s opposite Leo Andric was nominated Most Valuable Player of the competition. As a result, Croatia will contest the 2019 edition of the Golden European League, thus replacing the lowest ranked team from the 2018 edition of that competition.
Latvia found more motivation than their opponents to fight for the bronze medals and defeated hosts FYR of Macedonia, also in four sets, in the third place match at the Kale sports hall to deserve their spot on the podium.
Gold Medal Match: Belarus vs. Croatia 1-3 (16-25, 25-20, 24-26, 23-25)
• The first set was no contest, as Croatia served better, blocked better and attacked better than the Belarusians. Led by Leo Andric with eight points, they completely dominated on the court to cruise to a 25-16 win.
• Belarus tightened their blocks in the second set. It was a tough and even battle through 18-18 before the Belarusians broke away with five points in a row, including one ace by Ilya Burau, on the way to a 25-20 close.
• In a feisty third set, Croatia wasted the quadruple set point they had at 24-20, but after 24-24 Danijel Galic spiked off the block to prompt a new set point and then landed a precision-placed ace to convert it himself for 26-24.
• The fierce battle continued into the fourth set with Belarus catching up in the score several times and keeping the suspense through the end. Galic rode the momentum from the end of the previous set to score another seven points including the winning one for the final 25-23.
• Leo Andric was the best scorer of the match with 29 points, including an impressive five aces, for the winning team. Danijel Galic added another 20, while Andrei Radziuk was Belarus’s top scorer with 12 points.
Viktar Beksha, coach of Belarus: “We made many mistakes in the first set. In the second, we reduced the mistakes and won it. Croatia had a very good serve. We tried to have good reception, but we had to attack only with the wings and it was difficult. It should have been five sets, but we missed a couple of important balls. Maybe next time we will try to do this...”
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Ivan Rancic, coach of Croatia: “Congratulations to my players! We are very proud! We won this competition and I think that we deserve this gold medal. In the final we probably played our best match. We prepared very well for this tournament and I would also like to thank our federation. They created very good conditions for us. I would also like to send my greetings to all friends in Croatia.”
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Tsimafei Zhukouski, captain of Croatia: “I cannot explain how happy I am today and very proud for my team. We played an amazing game today and I would say this is a historic success for us, in the last ten years of Croatian Volleyball for sure. We are a little bit tired, but tonight – we celebrate!”
Bronze Medal Match: Latvia vs. FYR of Macedonia 3-1 (25-20, 25-16, 23-25, 28-26)
• Latvia outplayed the home side on all counts in the first set. Romans Sauss scored six points to lead his team to a 25-20 win.
• The Latvians used the momentum to pressure the Macedonians in the second set, especially from the serving line. They scored four aces, including that perfectly placed serve by Edvarts Buivids, which closed the set at a landslide 25-16.
• Andrejs Zavorotnijs was on fire in the Latvian offence during the third set and the Latvians opened a lead cruising towards the shutout. Whether they lost their focus with the medals getting into their heads or not, but they made too many unforced errors to let the home team come from behind and take the set by a narrow 25-23 margin.
• In a rollercoaster fourth set, Vase Mihailov scored seven times to keep FYR of Macedonia afloat. The home guys were the first to reach set point at 24-22, but they wasted that and three more before the Latvians turned it around to a 28-26 win, keeping their cool through the dramatic epilogue of the set.
• Aleksandar Ljaftov was the best scorer of the match with 20 points for FYR of Macedonia.
• Four Latvian players reached the double digits – Romans Sauss (15), Toms Svans (14), Andrejs Zavorotnijs (14) and Edvarts Buivids (13).
Avo Keel, coach of Latvia: “I am very happy for this victory, because after yesterday’s loss our team was not in such a good condition. Two weeks ago we were very good, but I don’t know what happened after that in the semifinal with Belarus. Because of yesterday’s result, it was very important to win today.”
Ljubomir Travica, coach of FYR of Macedonia: “We started this match for the third place without emotions. We lacked real motivation and this affected our performance in the beginning of the match. With some substitutions in the second set, we changed the atmosphere within the team on court, but not enough to reach the fifth set.”
Most Valuable Player
Leo Andric (CRO)
Setter: Deniss Petrovs (LAT)
Opposite: Leo Andric (CRO)
Outside hitters: Andrei Radziuk (BLR) and Danijel Galic (CRO)
Middle blockers: Siarhei Busel (BLR) and Ivan Mihalj (CRO)
Libero: Darko Angelovski (MKD)
4. FYR of Macedonia
*Promotion to 2019 Golden European League
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Information by cev.lu