Italy and Russia to advance to semi-finals from Pool II EuroVolleyU18M

Saturday 14th of April 2018

Púchov, Slovakia, April 12, 2018. In the last day of games in Pool II  Russia managed to beat Belgium (3-0), Italy cruised past Slovakia (3-0), while France beat Ukraine (3-1). This means that Italy and Russia advance to the semi-finals, while Belgium and France will fight for places 5-8 at the 2018 CEV U18 Volleyball European Championship - Men.

Live streaming of all matches is available here

Russia vs. Belgium 3-0 (25-13, 25-22, 25-22) 

The Russians started the game much better than their opponents and managed a rather dramatic 25-13 win in the first set, as they finished it off with five blocks. The second set was much closer. Belgium improved their performance and with the help of their great fans in the stands played a close game against Russia. There was only a one-two point margin before the end, but Russia finally won the second set 25-22. Belgium lead 16-15 in the third set, but Russia turned the score to 20-18 thanks to an attack and block by their star - opposite-spiker Omar Kurbanov. But it was not over as Belgium s Wout D Heer managed a monster block and leveled the score to 22-22. Russia finally won the set 25-22 in a hard fight and booked a ticket to the semi-finals. 

The captain of the young Russians Stanislav Antonov celebrated with his team: "We are all very happy, because last year we finished fifth at #EuroVolleyU17M in Turkey. This year we wanted to play in the finals and to win this championship. We played a good game against a very strong opponent like Belgium and we are looking forward to competing in Zlin." 

Mieke Moyaert, head coach of Belgium was not sad: "We played the two best sets in this tournament. I am really proud of what we showed today. In the second set we made six mistakes in our serve, but we played very well. Yes, we did not reach the semi-final, but we still fight for qualifying for the World Championship, and that is a big motivation. If we play the next match like we did today, I am sure we will qualify." 

France vs. Ukraine 3-1 (23-25, 25-23, 25-15, 25-20)

France started well into the battle for the fourth place in Pool II. They served well, attacked well and lead 17-12. But the Ukraine coach made some changes and it worked for the best. Danylo Uryvkin helped his team with good attacks and Ukraine finally won the opening set 25-23. The first part of the second set was again under the control of France who lead 18-13. But again Ukraine managed to minimise their deficit to 22-23. France finally won the second set after a big fight (25-23). It was all about France in the third and fourth sets. They put their opponents under big pressure with strong serves and managed to build a big lead that helped them qualify for Zlín, where they will play for places 5-8.
The coach of the Frenchmen Fabien Roy was relieved after the win, but also looking forward to the rest of the games: "This match was difficult, because the qualification for the final round was our goal. We are very happy that we won it, because it was not easy. We have made the first step and will see, what will happen in Zlin. We want to thank the Slovak Volleyball Federation for a very good organisation here in Púchov. Everything was very good, the hall and the hotel as well. Our boys played better match after match. It is a team without experience, one of our goals was to get it. I am very happy with my team."
Mykola Bovsunovskyi, setter and captain of team Ukraine: "I am disappointed with this match and to be honest also with our performance in this tournament. I knew, we were not favourites, but we could put more emotions to the game."

Slovakia vs. Italy 0-3 (11-25, 12-25, 20-25)

The final match of the day was affected by the injury of the Slovak first setter Samuel Porubský, who jumped on a player during the warm up. Italy immediately used the situation to their advantage, there was no chance for the Slovak team in the first set. The second set was also a show of strength from the Italian team. In the third set, Slovakia finally regrouped and were leading 8-6 at the first technical time-out. The situation changed just after the break, when Italy levelled the score first before leading 10-9; Slovakia reacted with a time-out and came back to the game (10-10), and kept going on strong until 18-18. Towards the end of the set, Slovakia made a service error and immediately after that, Italy responded with two aces. Italy eventually claimed the victory and kept the slate clean, as they walked away from the pool play without any losses. 
Vincenzo Fanizza, coach of Italy did not dwell on their success: "We have five victories, I have to be satisfied, as we reached the semifinal. It is very important for us now to continue playing on the same level we showed in Puchov."
Erik Gabor, coach of Slovakia gave a recap of the tournament: "The injury of our first setter was a big shock for us and we played very bad in the first two sets. Italy was the big favourite of the match, we knew that and I am glad that we played relatively good in the third set. We lost all the matches in this tournament, we were close to victory against Ukraine, but we get a lot of experience from these matches and that is important."

On Friday the best four teams of the pool will move to Zlín, Czech Republic, the games start again on Saturday. Italy and Russia will play the semi-finals, while Belgium and France will contest the classification matches for places 5-8. The eventual champions will be crowned on Sunday, April 15. 

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