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18/10/2015 20:03
Italy upset Bulgarian co-hosts, secure thirteenth EuroVolley medal
2015 CEV Volleyball European Championship - Men

Sofia, Bulgaria, October 18, 2015. The crowd at Arena Armeec in Sofia deserved a warm farewell to Bulgaria’s Lions even though the local heroes lost the bronze medal match of the 2015 men’s EuroVolley to co-hosts Italy. The Azzurri bounced back strong from their semi-final setback with Slovenia and imposed their pace right from the onset of the match. Bulgaria’s reaction came especially in the third set but Italy had more consistency in their performance while the hosts seemed not to have fully recovered from their upset in the dramatic semi-final with France the night before. Italy finished it off in four sets (25-20, 25-14, 23-25, 25-20) to secure their thirteenth European Championship medal in history to follow on silver they had won both in 2011 and 2013.

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Bulgaria vs. Italy 1:3 (20-25, 14-25, 25-23, 20-25)

The hosts of the 2015 men’s EuroVolley had probably different plans and were hoping to cross their ways in the grand finale of the tournament, but even though they both had suffered major upsets in Saturday’s semis, they seemed very motivated to finish their campaign on a high note. Once again a sell-out crowd came together at Arena Armeec to cheer the Lions on in their last match of the tournament but Italy were the ones who came out with all guns blazing as powerful serving by Ivan Zaytsev paved the way to a 6:2 lead in the early stages of the opening set. Bulgaria slowly but surely found their way into the game and eventually edged ahead at 11:10; Zaytsev set the tone for another positive run by the Azzurri who turned the tide and made it 14:12, but carried by their raucous fans Bulgaria stormed back and moved the charts to 16:15 in their favour to send the teams into the second technical time-out. Bulgaria and Italy continued to exchange the lead back and forth, but two blocks in a row by Osmany Juantorena and Simone Buti on Bulgaria’s legendary captain Vladimir Nikolov made it 20:17 for the runners-up of the 2015 FIVB World Cup, who could capitalise on this break to close the set at 25-20.

After recording better figures than their opponents in all fundamentals, Italy continued to push as much as they could also in the second period (8:5, 10:7) as the Lions seemed to struggle in their effort to play with the same quality and intensity they had shown in their previous EuroVolley matches. At the score of 13:11, home star Nikolay Penchev sustained an injury and was forced to leave the court with his place taken by Miroslav Gradinarov, and after that setback the Lions could score only three more points in the set which ended in a landslide 25-14 win for Italy.

On Saturday they had been caught by surprise in their semi-final with underdogs Slovenia, however this time around Italy performed close to their best – almost as they had done in their speedy quarterfinal victory over Russia – and left little chance to Bulgaria who, on the other hand, seemed not to have recovered from their semi-final loss to France. The Lions nevertheless played with glowing hearts and a block on the Cuban-born Italian star Osmany Juantorena restored the balance in set 3 (8:8). The hosts finally edged ahead after Filippo Lanza sent the Mikasa off the bounds, and the local fans got even more to celebrate as Nikolay Uchikov pushed Bulgaria to a 14:12 lead with two consecutive aces. The ambiance became hotter and hotter at Arena Armeec and despite a late comeback by Italy, Bulgaria held on to their advantage to stay alive in the game (25-23).

The fourth set was a battle of nerves, another ‘last call’ for Bulgaria as the Lions had to win this period as well in order to keep cherishing their hopes of a medal. Ivan Zaytsev’s serving was again instrumental to another positive run for Italy (17:12) but the home heroes did not give in and reduced their deficit to one point (18:17) after a decision by the first referee was overruled by the video challenge while reviewing a winning serve by Viktor Yosifov. However, Italy stepped up their efforts (20:17) and even the return of captain Nikolov could not prevent the Azzurri from securing their country’s thirteenth medal in European Championship history which was cashed by middle blocker Matteo Piano (25-20).

Ivan Zaytsev and Osmany Juantorena paced Italy with 26 and 17 points, while Nikolay Uchikov – who replaced Vladimir Nikolov late in the opening set – recorded 15 for the Lions in their losing effort.

Plamen Konstantinov, head coach of Bulgaria: “Maybe today we just could not perform well physically or mentally. The biggest Italian weapon today which made the difference was the serving. They served really well. Italy deserved the victory.”

Vladimir Nikolov, captain of Bulgaria: “I think that we had a perfect tournament. Yes, we lost our last two games but it does not matter. We are a very small country without a strong domestic championship. During the tournament six of our top players, like Teodor Salparov, Todor Skrimov, Tsvetan Sokolov, Nikolay Nikolov, Andrey Zhekov and of course Matey Kaziyski were missing, which is a lot.  So this is a great success for us – to be in the fourth place in Europe. We did an amazing job.”

Gian Lorenzo Blengini, head coach of Italy: “I am very happy and very satisfied because, after yesterday, it was not easy. We wanted to play for the gold medals so much and we were so disappointed after yesterday’s loss. And only after 24 hours to play another game against a strong team like Bulgaria was really hard. But today my players were very good. They played a fantastic match and did a great job. This is the best for one coach - to see how his players are fighting for every single ball only 24 hours after a huge loss. I am happy with these bronze medals.”

Osmany Juantorena, player of Italy: “It was a difficult game because we lost our semi-final against Slovenia yesterday. It was a very important match for us, so today we needed to recover and to play against the host Bulgaria and this amazing crowd. Now everybody in our team is happy because we managed to achieve a fantastic victory and won the bronze medals.”

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. 3 of 179
18/10/2015 22:42:00
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17/10/2015 22:36:00
France silence 12,500-strong crowd to challenge Slovenia for EuroVolley crown

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