Győr . Russia became the first team to secure a spot in the #EuroVolleyU19M semifinals. The Russians mastered their fourth win in four matches with a 3-0 (25-14, 25-21, 25-22) shutout of co-hosts Hungary. Before that, Pool I competition at the Final Round of the 2017 CEV U19 Volleyball European Championship – Men resumed on Wednesday afternoon with a 3-1 (25-23, 25-17, 23-25, 25-19) Polish win against Bulgaria, keeping the Poles in and the Bulgarians out of contention for the last stage of the tournament. The last match of the day was a real jewel, as Italy pulled off a spectacular comeback from two sets down against Belgium to rejoice with a 3-2 (19-25, 18-25, 25-23, 25-16, 15-13) victory. Italy, with three wins, Belgium and Poland, with two wins each, all stand at seven points. They will advance to the last stage of the tournament, but which of the three teams will join Russia into the semifinals will be decided on Thursday.
Bulgaria wasted the four-point advantage they had at 12-8 in the first set after performing well in blocking and serving. With Filip Grygiel on fire in attack, Poland came back and in the end the southern Europeans helped with some unforced spiking and serving errors towards the eventual 25-23 Poland’s way. After 10-9 in the second set Poland broke away with seven points in a row and never looked back – 25-17. The third set was very tight, with several switches in the lead. Bulgaria stepped up their blocking efforts to help themselves to a 25-23 win. In set 4 Poland made a lot of errors, but made up for it with a more prolific performance in blocking, serving and spiking and won by 25-19 to claim their second victory in the pool. Filip Grygiel contributed 24 points to this win and was declared player of the match. Ivan Pankov was Bulgaria’s best scorer with 14 points.
Georgi Petrov, player of Bulgaria: “The Polish block was very strong, it could be the key to their success. Probably we are not ready for this competition physically and the team is getting exhausted as well.”
Hristo Georgiev, coach of Bulgaria: “We were prepared and motivated to win against the team of Poland. If we had won the first set, it would have been a different match. Unfortunately, we played well only in the first and the third sets.”
Filip Grygiel, player of Poland and MVP of the match: “This game was very important for us, because we would like to qualify for the World Championship. We had good service and reception. Now we will concentrate on tomorrow’s match.”
Maciej Zendel, coach of Poland: “Congratulations to our team! I am happy for this win. The players did a good job today. It was an important victory for us. We are trying to improve with every match.”
After the first rally Russia took the lead and never let it go through the end of the first set. Three aces and five kill blocks helped them run away to a 25-14 close. With some of Russia’s key players resting for the time being, Hungary went for it at the beginning of the second set. Inspired by the loud support from the stands, the home team improved their serving and hitting and had the lead for a while, but after 7-7 the Russians, spear-headed by Ivan Kuznetcov, regained control on the way to a 25-21 win. The Hungarians kept the pressure on the powerful opponent for much longer in the third set. Stepping up their spiking efforts, coach Tibor Tomanoczy’s players took an advantage wide enough to prompt coach Andrey Nozdrin send captain Stanislav Antonov on court to the rescue of his teammates. He stepped in as a real leader and scoring three aces for a total of seven points in the set, he helped turn things around to a 25-22 final score in favour of Russia. Hungary’s Marcell Pesti was the best scorer of the match with 13 points. Gleb Radchenko, with 12 points, was most prolific on the winning side. His teammate Vladislav Spiridonov was awarded MVP of the match.
Robert Farkas, player of Hungary: “We were aware of the fact, that the Russian team would finish first in the pool. So it was about gaining experience. We wanted to play without pressure and, of course, we will improve from this match.”
Tibor Tomanoczy, coach of Hungary: “In the first set the team played timidly. We started to play with less pressure in the second set and we started to improve. The final set was the best for us. We were getting better and better. We can accept this loss against such a brilliant team.”
Stanislav Antonov, captain of Russia: “We started the game very well, but we played making a few mistakes, so the Hungarian team could catch up with us. Some of our boys played for the first time in a European Championship match.”
While there were plenty of spectacular defensive actions on both sides of the net, Belgium were the better team in all the other elements during the first set. With a combined 13 points from Martin Lallemand and Berre Peters, the Belgians won the set by 25-19. With the noisy support from their fans on the stands, coach Mieke Moyaert’s players kept up the fire and stayed in control throughout the second set. They greatly increased their efficiency in offence and cruised to a 25-18 close to double their lead. At this point, Italy were just one lost set away from losing all chances to fight for the medals, but this is where they started their amazing comeback. In the third set, the Italians started putting their blocking skills on display. Their lead extended to as many as five points and, despite a late scare, when the Belgians came back to within one point, the Azzurrini closed it off at 25-23. Extending their fantastic blocking performance into the next set, the Italians established complete domination and, after a convincing 25-16, tied the match to prompt a tie-breaker. The deciding set was very tight. Coach Mario Barbiero’s boys were taking more risk in serving and attack, hence making more errors, but at match point it was a small Belgian mistake that sent the Italians celebrating with a 15-13 win to complete an incredible comeback.
Matthieu Vanneste, captain of Belgium: “In the first two sets, we played quite well. We were aggressive and energetic. Unfortunately, in the third set, we let them come back into the game. We fought as much as we could, and will do that in the following matches as well.”
Mieke Moyaert, coach of Belgium: “At the beginning we were very good. The Italian team could not react to our performance. I am a bit disappointed that Italy were able to turn the match around. We are looking forward to the next matches.”
Davide Gardini, captain of Italy: “The opponents started very strong and we were not ready for that. They were better, but then we woke up and started playing Volleyball. We learned from this match and we know what to improve.”
Mario Barbiero, coach of Italy: “The Belgian team started with two extraordinary sets. I am very angry at my team because they were not paying attention to the match. We have to improve in reception. Of course, I am happy for the victory.”
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.