Italy join unbeaten Russia into #EuroVolleyU19M semis!

Győr. Italy mastered a 3-0 (25-16, 25-15, 25-19) win against Hungary on the last competition day in Pool I to join Russia into Saturday’s semifinals of the 2017 CEV U19 Volleyball European Championship – Men. Russia finished on top of the pool standings unbeaten after claiming a 3-0 (25-16, 25-19, 25-18) victory over Bulgaria, leaving the southern European team winless at the tournament. The Russians will play against the Czech Republic in one of the semis. And Italy will meet Turkey in the other. The last match of the pool had to decide which team finishes in third, and which – in fourth place in the final standings. Poland came back from a set down to manage a 3-1 (16-25, 25-23, 25-18, 25-15) victory over Belgium and will face Finland in a battle for one World Championship spot. Belgium will lock horns with France for another.

Russia vs. Bulgaria 3-0 (25-16, 25-19, 25-18)

Before the match a happy-birthday tune was played before the national anthems and Russia’s captain Stanislav Antonov, the second youngest player at #EuroVolleyU19M, who turns 16 today, received a gift from the organisers. Russia completely dominated the first two sets to take а 2-0 lead after 25-16 and 25-19. In part 3 the Bulgarians fought back and were in the lead for most of the set. The Russians caught up at 14-14 and after 17-17 scored seven in a row to leave the opponents far behind and then closed the set and the match at 25-18. Stanislav Antonov and Vladislav Spiridonov shared the top scorer honours with 12 points each. Asparuh Asparuhov was the best scorer for Bulgaria with 7 points. Russia’s Konstantin Abaev was awarded MVP of the game.

Konstantin Abaev, player of Russia and MVP of the match: “The team played well today. We followed the advice of the coach. In the third set, we made more mistakes in reception. We are very happy for this win.”

Stanislav Antonov, captain of Russia, turning 16 on match day: “The training started with a celebration in the morning, but it is a normal day for me. I do not really think that it is a special day. We won and we played well, so my day is good. I know that I am the youngest player on our team and it is unusual that I am the captain. At the beginning, it was not easy, but now I can say that the team works very well.”

Hristo Georgiev, coach of Bulgaria: “As I said before this pool is really strong and for us it was an honour to play against some of the strongest teams in Europe. I think the two finalists will emerge from our group – most likely Russia and Italy. The organisation here in Győr was very good – everything was perfect!”

Italy vs. Hungary 3-0 (25-16, 25-15, 25-19)

Italy had no desire to leave their own fate to chances and put pressure on the home team from the very start of the match. With a well-rounded performance in all components of the game they cruised to a 25-16 win in the first set. Again enjoying noisy support from the stands, the Hungarians improved their efficiency in offence for a good start to the second set, but also made more mistakes allowing the opponents to turn things around for another convincing final score – 25-15. The home side improved even further in the third set, but not enough to change the course of the match. The Italians had a fantastic spiking effort towards the 25-19 close and a straight-set victory. Davide Gardini and Giovanni Gargiulo tallied 10 points each to top the scorers’ charts, while Kristof Horvath was Hungary’s best scorer with 8. Italy’s libero Filippo Federici was declared player of the match by the organisers from the Hungarian Volleyball Federation.

Filippo Federici, player of Italy and MVP of the match: “We are very happy! Congratulations to our team! Our previous matches were not so balanced, but today we did a good job. We are looking forward to playing in the semifinals.”

Mario Barbiero, coach of Italy: “I am really happy for qualifying to the semifinals. This match was important for us and we have to continue this kind of play.”

Zalán Lukács, player of Hungary: “This match was enjoyable for our team as we knew this was our last match at the European Championship. Yesterday we performed better, but today we are not disappointed at all. It helped us prepare for the European Youth Olympic Festival.”

Tibor Tomanóczy, coach of Hungary: “Unfortunately the team could not repeat the performance that they showed yesterday against Russia. The boys were fighting, but the quality of their game was not enough. This European Championship was successful for us, as our main goal was to gain experience and learn from the stronger teams.”

Poland vs. Belgium 3-1 (16-25, 25-23, 25-18, 25-15)

The Poles committed a lot of unforced errors in the first set and the Belgians did not miss the chance to win it by a wide margin – 25-16. The second set was a very tight battle from start to finish. Coach Maciej Zendel’s players were a little more focused for a 25-23 win and tied the match. They remained well in control throughout the third set and with a seven-point contribution from Filip Grygiel closed it off at 25-18. Improving their blocking efforts in the fourth set, the Poles made sure they stayed ahead to win the set by 25-15 and the match by 3-1. Filip Grygiel was the game’s top scorer with 18 points for Poland. On Belgium’s side, Martin Lallemand and Berre Peters made 12 points each. Polish substitute Bartosz Michalak took the last player of the match award from the organisers.

Bartosz Michalak, player of Poland and MVP of the match: “I think the team did a great job. The key was our strong reception and service. We really wanted to win and after the first set our play got better and better.”

Maciej Zendel, coach of Poland: “We started playing in the second, the third and the fourth sets. We got better in serving and reception. Our blocking in the middle was also very important for the win. The boys were really good today.”

Matthieu Vanneste, captain of Belgium: “We have a lot of frustration in our team at the moment. The first set was OK. In the second set, at a crucial point, there was a problem in the system. It distracted us and every time, when we wanted to come back into rhythm, we made a mistake. Poland played well against us.”

Mieke Moyaert, coach of Belgium: “The beginning was great for us, we were focused. We missed a lot of serves, but it was not the main problem. When the score was 23-23 in the second set, the tablet blocked when I wanted to make a double substitution. The referees followed the tablet and it confused everyone. We have to learn to concentrate after such a bad situation. We are a bit upset.”

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