Győr. Two thrilling five-set semifinals took place at the Szechenyi Istvan University hall in Győr on Saturday to determine the Czech Republic and Italy as the two contenders for gold in Sunday’s final of the 2017 CEV U19 Volleyball European Championship – Men. The Czech team delivered the first major upset of the Final Round with an inspiring 3-2 (16-25, 25-22, 18-25, 25-23, 15-10) victory over one of the title favourites Russia in the earlier semifinal. Later in the evening, the Italians showed more character than their opponents in a five-set drama with Turkey to claim a 3-2 (18-25, 25-23, 20-25, 25-21, 15-9) victory and join the Czechs in the battle for the continental title.
The Russian blocking made the biggest difference in the first set. Garnished with three aces, it helped the team cruise to a 25-16 win shaped up by Stanislav Antonov with a direct hit on the overpass for the last point. The Czechs greatly improved on all fronts, but most substantially in reception and offence, which helped them stay in control through the most part of the second set and win it by 25-22. Russia’s substitute setter Egor Krechetov was working well with substitute opposite Gleb Radchenko in the third set and the latter contributed as many as nine points to the 25-18 win. The Czechs remained focused and regained the initiative in the fourth set. With a great effort from setter and captain Ondrej Piskacek, they held their ground through the end and won by 25-23. In the crucial fifth set coach Jiri Zach’s boys established complete domination on the court. With an impeccable performance by opposite Marek Sotola in attacking and blocking (eight points), well supported by his teammates and the Czech fans on the stands, the Czech Republic cruised firmly to a 15-10 win to emerge victorious from the match and with a spot in Sunday’s final. Marek Sotola impressed with a fantastic 25 points for the winning side. Russia’s captain Stanislav Antonov became his squad’s best scorer with 19 points.
Egor Krechetov, player of Russia: “Honestly, we are very disappointed. It is really hard to talk about the result. We wanted to win this match.”
Artem Melnikov, player of Russia: “There were some critical points when we made some bad moves and mistakes. It gave the opportunity to the Czech Republic to score points and beat us.”
Ondrej Piskacek, captain of the Czech Republic: “This is a huge thing for us. Russia are a very strong team, but today we were a bit better. I am proud of my teammates – we played very well!”
Jiri Zach, coach of the Czech Republic: “We prayed for this victory and it is a huge success for us. This match showed that we can be strong and compete in the Volleyball world. We are really happy!”
Batuhan Avci was the real leader of the Turkish team in the first set, contributing in both spiking and blocking. After trailing by 14-15, Turkey broke away with eight points in a row to 22-15 and practically pre-decided the outcome of the set – 25-18. The second set was a block fest on both sides of the net. First it worked well for the Turks; then – for the Italians. Despite the 10 points from Adis Lagumdzija, the many unforced mistakes of the Turkish team tilted the set Italy’s way – 25-23. Quite the opposite, in the third set the Italian errors prevailed to help Turkey take control and step forward again with a 25-20 win. The fourth set was full of faults on both sides, so the three kill blocks of Italy proved decisive for their 25-21 win. The tie-breaker was all about Italy. Middle blocker Lorenzo Cortesia fired his teammates up with a five-point contribution and led them to a 15-9 close and a happy triumph with a place in the final. Turkey’s opposite Adis Lagumdzija was the best scorer of the match with 24 points, while Lorenzo Cortesia was the winning side’s biggest point contributor with 19 (including seven blocks).
Adis Lagumdzija, player of Turkey: “We played well throughout the game. Still, we did not have the guts to finish the game. We played with very silly mistakes. I hope tomorrow we will win.”
Ali Yilmaz, assistant coach of Turkey: “We started the game well today. I hope tomorrow we can show the same quality of serving. We have to focus on the bronze medal match.”
Davide Gardini, player of Italy: “We started the game weak. Luckily, we woke up in time and we could catch up with the opponent. I am really happy, but today is a normal day and now we have to focus on the next match.”
Lorenzo Sperotto, player of Italy: “I think that Turkey have a very good team. We knew it so we tried to do our best. We fought till the end. We are very happy, of course.”
Mario Barbiero, captain of Italy: “We played five sets today, which shows that both teams were very strong. Turkey played well today, especially in serving. There are good spikers in their team as well. We had several problems in reception, but I am very happy for the win. Now I will focus on the final match.”
After the four semifinalists the teams of Poland and France filled the two remaining European spots at the FIVB Volleyball Boys U19 World Championship. In the earlier semifinal in the race for the fifth place on the penultimate competition day at the Final Round of the 2017 CEV U19 Volleyball European Championship – Men, the Poles claimed a 3-1 (17-25, 27-25, 25-16, 25-21) victory over Finland and booked their tickets to Bahrain 2017 in August. After that, France followed suit and came back from a set down to hand Belgium a 3-1 (21-25, 25-16, 25-21, 25-23) defeat on the way to the World Championship. The noisy fans from Finland, Belgium and France created a great ambiance at the Szechenyi Istvan University hall in Győr for these two crucial games.
Poland started well taking an early three-point lead. Putting a lot of precision into their game, the Finns quickly came back to take complete control on the court towards the 25-17 close, which came with an elegant tip by Oskari Keskinen for the last point. The second set was a really tight battle. Keskinen continued to be on fire at the net, but so was Filip Grygiel. The Finns were the first to reach set point, but five rallies down the road it was a kill block by Grygiel on Keskinen that shaped up the 27-25 Polish win. Grygiel went on with his great spiking effort in the next two sets. The Polish blockers also stepped up their performance on the way to a convincing 25-16 final score in set 3, and in set 4 the three aces by coach Maciej Zendel’s players contributed to the 25-21 win, which put an end to the game. Filip Grygiel was by far the best scorer of the match, tallying a fantastic 28 points in Poland’s account. Niko Suihkonen was Finland’s top scorer with 19 points.
Szymon Jezierski, captain of Poland: “The beginning of the match was terrible and we lost the first set. We did not give up. We were fighting for the points. We won and that counts now. We really wanted to qualify for the World Championship.”
Maciej Zendel, coach of Poland: “We are really happy that we qualified for the World Championship. It was our goal. Today we did not play very well, but I am glad it was enough for the win.”
Anton Välimaa, captain of Finland: “It was a difficult game and we played well in general. Unfortunately, we made mistakes at critical points and, after the first set, we could not control the game.”
Pertti Honkanen, coach of Finland: “My opinion is that this match was very tough. Both teams wanted to use the other team’s weaknesses. The key point was the end of the second set when we had a set point and we lost it. After that, the boys could not concentrate so much anymore.”
France were in the lead through most of the first set, but with a tremendous spiking effort the Belgians stepped up in the money time. A powerful kill block by Berre Peters finished the set at 25-21 Belgium’s way. With Célestin Cardin on fire in the second set, the French dominated all through before Remi Bassereau closed it off at 25-16 with a block-out. France’s blocking (seven kill blocks) improved even further in the third set and they cruised to a 25-21 win to take the lead in the match. Bassereau spear-headed the French attack in the fourth set, which was the most competitive one of the match. The Belgians fought to the end, but Bassereau’s powerful hit put the ball on the floor for 25-23 on second match point. Remi Bassereau and Célestin Cardin topped the scorers’ chart of the match with 27 and 23 points, respectively. Berre Peters was Belgium’s most prolific player with 16 points.
Matthieu Vanneste, captain of Belgium: “We started well in the first set, but from the second set France took control of the game. They played well and we could not find an answer to them. I am a bit disappointed that we could not qualify for the World Championship, but we keep up the spirit.”
Mieke Moyaert, coach of Belgium: “We played against a very strong team. They have a great physical power. This time we did not play very well against this strong opponent.”
Luca Ramon, player of France: “We knew it was an important match and we wanted to play well. I am proud of my team, we did a good job and we do not feel bad about losing the first set. We qualified for the World Championship!”
Slimane Belmadi, coach of France: “The team had a fighting spirit. We really wanted to qualify for the World Championship. We prepared very well for this match. The boys followed the instructions. It is a big thing for them to go to the World Championship.”
All matches of the tournament are scheduled for live streaming on LAOLA1.tv.
Engage with the U19 European Championship on social media by using the competition’s official hashtag #EuroVolleyU19M.