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14/10/2015 22:40
Slovenia write history, upset world champs Poland to make EuroVolley semis, Bulgaria stamp second victory over Germany to keep dream alive
2015 CEV Volleyball European Championship - Men

Sofia, Bulgaria, October 14, 2015. Slovenia’s fairy tale at the 2015 men’s EuroVolley continued on Wednesday when the ‘Blue Boys’ mentored by Italian Volleyball legend Andrea Giani upset reigning world champions Poland to make the semis of Europe’s premier competition that are due to follow on Saturday at Arena Armeec in Sofia. The gold medallists from the 2015 CEV Volleyball European League were impossible to match for Poland in the two first sets before the guys in white and red shirts stormed back to call for the tie-break. Slovenia set the pace almost from start to end in the deciding set but had to survive a match ball for their opponents before celebrating one of the greatest achievements in their country’s sporting history (25-17, 25-19, 23-25, 19-25, 16-14). Later in the evening, hosts Bulgaria repeated their classy performance from the first day of action in Sofia and left almost no chance at all to Germany recording their second 3:0 win over the Baku 2015 European Games gold medallists (25-19, 25-23, 25-23) to continue their amazing journey in the competition and go for a much anticipated semi-final with France coming up on Saturday. The imposing Arena Armeec will definitely be packed once again as the 2015 men’s EuroVolley approaches its final, most exciting stages... 

Poland vs. Slovenia 2:3 (17-25, 19-25, 25-23, 25-19, 14-16)

After 3:2 to Poland in the first set, Slovenia broke away with an 8-1 run to take a 10:4 lead and never looked back. The Poles made far too many unforced mistakes, especially in serving, and did not manage to find their rhythm, while the opponents hammered as many as four aces during this set. The gap grew wider and wider and it was again a Polish error from the serving line that closed the set at 25-17 Slovenia’s way.  

Things seemed to have returned to ‘normal’ with Poland taking a 6:2 lead in the second set, but it did not last for much longer. At 7:7 the score was tied and at 10:9 Slovenia already had the lead not to let it go through the rest of the set. Andrea Giani’s squad continued to be more efficient in spiking and serving to double its lead after 25-19 at the end.

Set 3 was already a different story. Stéphane Antiga’s squad improved its performance on all elements and did not allow the opponent to take the lead at any point.  The Slovenes did not easily give up and stayed close behind, but Michal Kubiak and Mateusz Mika finally had their attacking abilities on display with the latter putting the ball on the floor for 25-23.  

The fourth set was quite competitive only through the first technical time-out, which came at 8:7 to Poland. Poland’s blocking was the main contributor to the established domination, but it was the powerful hit by Bartosz Kurek that shaped up the set score at 25-19.

Slovenia maintained a slight lead through most of the tie-breaker, but they were very close to missing out on the sensation when Poland finally took the lead at match point – 14:13.  But this was Slovenia’s moment. Andrea Giani’s men wrote some history in the following three rallies, turning the score to 16-14 and rejoicing with a fantastic victory over the world champions.

Bartosz Kurek and Michal Kubiak were Poland’s top scorers with 20 points each, while Mitja Gasparini and Tine Urnaut contributed 17 each to Slovenia’s triumph.

Andrea Giani, head coach of Slovenia: “The guys were fantastic today. From the beginning of the match you could see in their eyes the desire to win - to defeat Poland and to qualify for the semi-finals. I am very happy with their performance. We lost the third and the fourth sets, but still we played well during the whole match.  For sure this is my biggest result as a coach – the semi-final of a European Championship!”

Alen Pajenk, player of Slovenia: “Now I am feeling amazing! We won! We knew that it would be a tough match but we fought from the beginning through the end. We played some really good volleyball today. We played well yesterday and today and we just want to continue this performance.   I want to play against Bulgaria in the finals and to see this gym full. It will be amazing.”

Mateusz Mika, player of Poland: “Of course I am not happy because we wanted to win this game, but we lost by 2:3. In the tie-breaker it was really difficult but the tie-breaker was not our biggest problem today. The biggest problem was the first two sets, in which we could not find our game. We did not play our volleyball. The Slovenian team is a good team and they took advantage of this. We tried to come back and we won the third and the fourth sets but we did not manage to get the fifth.”

Pawel Zatorski, libero of Poland: “Before the match we expected it to be difficult, but not so much.  Our start in the match was not good and after that it was really tough to find our game. The Slovenian team was really confident and for us it was really difficult to come back. Today Slovenia played very well and deserved to win.” 

Bulgaria vs. Germany 3:0 (25-19, 25-23, 25-23)

The first time Bulgaria broke away was with a series of four consecutive points for 11:6, but Germany’s immediate reaction was five in a row to tie the score. The Bulgarian blockers were simply amazing in this set (9 points!) and the home squad once again started to pile up an advantage. This time the Germans could no longer catch up and the set ended at 25-19.

The second set was somewhat more disputed with Germany raising their heads more often to take the lead on several occasions. With Bulgaria’s serving now more prolific and Vladimir Nikolov and Todor Aleksiev leading the scorers, the Lions persevered to stay on top in the conclusive moments of the set. A fantastic triple block put the ball on the floor for the winning point that closed it off at 25-23.  

The third set was by far the most interesting one. Six consecutive points gave Vital Heynen’s side a comfortable 11:6 lead, but the well over 12,000 incredible spectators on the stands did not stop cheering their favourites on. The inspired Bulgarians found the strength to come back, not without the assistance of many German errors. The set stayed very tight all the way through 23:23, but on their first match point, the Lions blocked successfully to get the party started at Arena Armeec.

Vladimir Nikolov was the best scorer of the match with 14 points for the winning side.  Bulgaria’s Viktor Yosifov and Todor Aleksiev and Germany’s Marcus Böhme also went into the double digits with 11 points each.

Sebastian Schwarz, player of Germany: “First of all, congratulations to Bulgaria. They deserved to qualify for the semi-finals. They beat us two times by 3:0. They were absolutely better. We were not in the best form for this championship. We did not play good volleyball during the whole tournament. We are out because we were missing something and we are not in the shape needed to go to the semi-finals at this championship. Of course it was an advantage for Bulgaria to play at home and we have to acknowledge that we did not play well like last year at the World Championship in Poland.”

Vital Heynen, head coach of Germany: “I think that Bulgaria was better than us. They beat us by 3:0. Today we performed better than in the first game during the pool stage, but that was not enough.  I am not happy, but if I need to make a conclusion I will say that they deserved to qualify for the semi-finals. I hope that they to go to the final and they achieve a fantastic result. That will be good for Bulgarian volleyball. I think that our team can do a lot of things better.”

Vladimir Nikolov, captain of Bulgaria: “I am very happy! Today I made another dream of mine come true. Earlier today my wife told me: you need to live this moment, because this match can be your last for the Bulgarian national team. Fortunately, we defeated Germany so I will have another opportunity to play for Bulgaria. The match was with a big pressure, but we managed to show strong nerves. We were focussed in the key moments and we won. In Bulgaria we say: be careful what you wish for. Vital Heynen wanted to play against us and we beat them again! Today our biggest weapons were the block and this Bulgarian audience.”

Plamen Konstantinov, coach of Bulgaria: “The man today is Niki Penchev! The whole team played this match for him! He lost his stepfather the night after the match with The Netherlands and managed to overcome his family tragedy and his pain. He played really well and delivered a fantastic match actually like the rest of the team. He is the man today and this victory is for Niki! The match today was not the same like the one in the group stage. Today Germany played better and the match was close. One plays a match like this with a burning heart and a cold mind and this is the most difficult thing to do. For sure, France is the favourite in our semi-final. They played some great volleyball this year but we will see what happens.”

For more information on the 2015 CEV Volleyball European Championship - Men visit or click here. In social media, please use the competition’s official hashtag #EuroVolleyM.

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