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17/10/2015 19:16
Slovenia does it again! Italy is beaten, Giani’s boys go for European gold!
2015 CEV Volleyball European Championship - Men

Sofia, Bulgaria, October 17, 2015 - Slovenia’s fairy tale at the 2015 men’s EuroVolley continued on Saturday afternoon at Arena Armeec in Sofia where the players coached by Italy’s Volleyball legend Andrea Giani caused yet another sensation – two days ago they had already upset reigning world champions Poland in the quarterfinals – edging Italy by 3:1 (25-13, 23-25, 25-20, 25-20) to get the right to vie for European gold on Sunday!

The gold medallists from the 2015 CEV Volleyball European League delivered a superb performance from start to end to secure their country’s first ever European medal. They will be playing 2015 FIVB World League winners France in the ‘grand finale’ of the tournament coming up on Sunday at 20:45 local time.

At this stage one thing is for sure: the eventual European champions will celebrate their first crown ever, for both Slovenia and France have never topped the charts since the championship was established back in 1948. On top of this, this is Slovenia’s second ever European final in team sports after in 2004 their men’s handball national team finished as runners-up of a home continental tournament held in Ljubljana losing the gold medal match to Germany. 

Click here for a live and comprehensive gallery of the 2015 men’s EuroVolley final weekend

Slovenia vs. Italy 3:1 (25-13, 23-25, 25-20, 25-20)

The real sensation of the 2015 men’s EuroVolley, Slovenia did not show any fear right from the beginning of their much anticipated semi-final with 2015 FIVB World Cup runners-up Italy and their spectacular start resulted in an early time-out called by Gian Lorenzo Blengini as the Azzurri trailed 2:6. Slovenia could count on a few dozens of noisy fans who had travelled to Sofia for their heroes’ historic appearance in the final weekend of the EuroVolley as the country is currently experiencing a real Volleyball fever – just as an example the Facebook page of the Slovenian Volleyball Federation has gathered more than 1,500 additional likes in seven days! Slovenia executed the tactical plan prepared by their mentor Andrea Giani close to perfection, and Italy had to accept a six-point deficit at the second technical time-out. Slovenia’s continued to play with incredibly high tempo and their march continued just smoothly (20:12) as the Italians seemed to be caught by surprise; the Azzurri helped their opponent’s cause with some mistakes of their own and the opening set quickly came to an end with a landslide 25-13 for Slovenia sealed by a mistake of Italian substitute opposite Luca Vettori.

The story of the match did not seem to change also in the second set where Slovenia came out with all guns blazing (4:1) as the lethal service of Mitja Gasparini seemed to be just too much to handle for Italy’s receivers. Osmany Juantorena worked hard to close this early gap for the Azzurri but Slovenia’s team captain Tine Urnaut easily found a way through the Italian block to make it 8:5 and send the teams into the first technical time-out. A spectacular one-hand set by 2015 European League MVP Dejan Vincic set the tone for Slovenia’s 9:6 lead but Italy eventually made up for their deficit levelling the score at 10 all. Italy edged ahead (14:12) but Slovenia claimed a long, exciting rally to flip the charts in their favour (15:14). The game had definitely reached another level of intensity with both teams fighting for every ball with all of their heart; Slovenia were extra ‘charged’ by their incredible enthusiasm, yet Italy could respond with the class of their star players Zaytsev and Juantorena. A mistake by libero Jani Kovacic provided Italy with two opportunities to close the set, Gasparini got a block out to survive the first one, but Italy tied the match following a Slovenian service error (25-23).    

It was again Slovenia to catch a flying start in the third set (4:2) before an ace by Klemen Cebulj moved the tables to 6:3. The match was an exciting and close one as a semi-final of Europe’s premier competition can only be; Slovenia’s performance was maybe less impeccable than in the previous sets, yet very effective, as they could rely on a narrow margin also at the second technical time-out (16:14). Mitja Gasparini fired one of his terrific serves to widen Slovenia’s lead to four points (20:16) and he forced Italy’s coach Blengini in another time-out after his amazing crosscourt spike touched the ground for 22:17. The break did not produce the desired effect and Slovenia’s sensation continued following their 25-20 win in the third stanza.

Blengini stopped the game once more after only four points in the following set since Italy quickly trailed 1:3 before a Slovenian net fault helped the Azzurri level the score at 3 all. The colourful and passionate Slovenian fans did never stop cheering their heroes on as they remained standing almost from start to end of each set, and their support paid off as Giani’s boys were again able to keep the pace of their much more decorated opponents and could even lead the way for most of the time (16:14). After a terrific block on Zaytsev, the European League gold medallists broke away (18:15) and something historic seemed just about to happen… Mitja Gasparini added another ace to his personal tally (20:16), but his teammates suddenly made a few mistakes as they probably got nervous after setting their sight on the finish line. However, it did not last long until Slovenia made history capping their terrific performance with a well-deserved 3:1 win to get the right to vie on Sunday for Europe’s most coveted Volleyball crown! 

Tine Urnaut and Mitja Gasparini were the men of the match for Slovenia as they top scored with 22 and 18 points, respectively, whilst Osmany Juantorena paced Italy with 15. 

An ecstatic Andrea Giani, head coach of Slovenia, said after this historic win: “I am feeling incredible! This victory belongs to the Slovenian Volleyball history! I am proud of my team. In the quarterfinal we beat Poland - the world champions. Today we defeated Italy - the runners-up at the World Cup. These teams are among the best in the world. And now we have the opportunity to win the European Championship. Amazing!”

Jani Kovacic, libero of Slovenia:  “What can I say after a victory like this? It is an amazing feeling. Today we have surprised Italy in every one element. We served well, we spiked well, and we blocked and defended well! Today we played like one. We gave our hearts on the court. We fought for every single ball. It was a great performance and now we are waiting for the final. Bulgaria or France - it does not matter. At this level all teams are very strong. It is going to be a great match.”

Ivan Zaytsev, player of Italy: “It was an incredible match for us. The beginning was really hard. The Slovenian team played really, really well. In the first set we were in the middle of the sea without nothing. We tried to recover and fight but it did not work. For sure we could have played better today, but Slovenia made a really great match. They made few errors and we just did not find the right answer.”

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.

News nr. 5 of 179
17/10/2015 22:36:00
France silence 12,500-strong crowd to challenge Slovenia for EuroVolley crown
16/10/2015 22:02:00
Italy’s captain Simone Buti says underdogs Slovenia are hard nut to crack

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