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19/07/2018 23:08
Home joy as Netherlands advance to #EuroVolleyU20M semis
2018 CEV U20 Volleyball European Championship - Men

Ede, Netherlands, July 19, 2018. The Netherlands will join Czech Republic as the two 2018 CEV U20 Volleyball European Championship - Men semifinalists surfacing from Pool I. The home side lost to Belarus, but not before winning the first two sets to secure the pool runner-up position. Portugal and Czech Republic opened the last day in Ede with a feisty five-set battle. The Czechs had already secured their spot in Saturday’s semifinals in The Hague, but emerged victorious to cement themselves as pool winners, while the Portuguese are leaving the tournament with their heads held high. So are the Finns after putting up quite a fight against Germany. The Germans won in five sets, enough for a spot among the last eight, along with Belarus, but not among the last four.

Portugal vs. Czech Republic 2-3 (18-25, 27-25, 30-28, 22-25, 17-19)

Seven Czech points in a row, with Marek Sotola serving, were the blow Portugal never managed to recover from in the first set. Sotola aced four times to help his team on the way to a 25-18 start. Losing the set, the Portuguese also lost even the remote shot they had at a ticket to The Hague, but they kept fighting. With improved reception and David Araujo spearheading the offence, Portugal found their rhythm to make the second set far more interesting. In the money time, the Czechs managed to deny three Portuguese set points, but on the fourth one a powerful spike finished the set off at 27-25 to level the match. At the end of a hard-fought third set, Portugal in turn denied five Czech set points, but kept defaulting on their serves. When the serve finally went in, Andre Marques finished the rally with a successful spike to prompt a Portuguese set point. With a pulverizing ace, Araujo ended it all at 30-28. Portugal continued to commit a lot of unforced errors in the fourth set and this time the Czech Republic took advantage of it. With Sotola scoring away at all elements, they held the initiative all the way to the 25-22 close. In a feisty tie-breaker, the resolution once again came deep into the over-time. The Portuguese wasted four match points, while the Czechs took advantage of their very first one to win the match at 19-17 with a hit by Marek Sotola. He rounded off his fifth-set tally to 10 points for a match total of 39, which made him the best scorer of the game. On the other side of the net, David Araujo finished with 29.

Afonso Reis, captain of Portugal: "Our team played very well against last year’s champion. I can tell you that it was a close game and both teams could have won it, as they were equal to one another."

Ondrej Piskacek, captain of Czech Republic: "This was the hardest match in our pool. Portugal were so good in offence that they probably had more than 70% success in attack. We had more luck in the fifth set."

Germany vs. Finland 3-2 (25-20, 23-25, 23-25, 25-19, 15-12)

Germany took advantage of the abundant unforced errors on Finland’s side to stay in control throughout the first set. They maintained a comfortable lead and eventually Lorenz Karlitzek closed the set with a spike for 25-20. In a very balanced second set, the Finns could not hold on to the four-point advantage they had at 17-13, but were the first to reach set point, which was converted to a 25-23 win with a fantastic block by Severi Savonsalmi. In a very similar scenario, the third set went quite level with the gap never exceeding three points. On first set point, a triple Finnish block stopped the clocks at the same score – 25-23. At this point, the Germans could no longer advance to the semifinals, but if they lost the next one, their spot among the last eight would also be at risk. They took no chances and, with Linus Weber leading the offence, dominated for a 25-19. At this moment, the Finns no longer had a shot at a ticket to The Hague, so the tie-breaker was just a battle for honour, in which the Germans dominated from start to end with Jonas Sagstetter putting the ball on the floor for 15-12. Linus Weber was the best scorer with 24 points, followed by his teammate Anton Brehme and Finland’s Niko Suihkonen with 20 each.

Johan Verstappen, coach of Germany: "We made it with hard work and enthusiasm. After today we have a day to rest. It’s important to get new energy for the next two games. Our goal is to finish fifth."

Eric Burggräf, captain of Germany: "Our goal was to reach the semifinals, but we had to win the game by 3-0. Unfortunately, we didn’t. Our second goal was to go to The Hague and we are very proud to go there."

Belarus vs. Netherlands 3-2 (23-25, 25-27, 25-20, 26-24, 15-12)

In the great ambiance, created by the Dutch fans on the stands at the Van der Knaap hall, the Netherlands piled up a 16-10 advantage in the first set, but could not hold on to it as Uladzislau Davyskiba led his Belarusian teammates to a 23-23 tie. However, with two unforced errors in a row, Belarus handed the set to the home team. With Davyskiba on fire, Belarus were in the lead through the most part of the second set, extending the gap to four points on several occasions and reaching double set point at 24-22. With a kill block and a tip by Sjors Tijhuis the balance was restored and on Netherlands’ second set point, Martijn Brilhuis aced for the 27-25 win, which stamped his team’s pass to the semis. But the two sides kept fighting on. The third set went level through 17-17, after which Belarus took control and moments later, with a four-point run, took the set by 25-20. The Dutch were touching the victory, when they had a triple match point in the fourth set. Belarus not only denied it, but with a successful spike by substitute Maksim Bahatka closed it off at 26-24 their way. The Belarusians were the better team in the conclusive moments of the tie-breaker. Raman Pasavets kill-blocked for the last point (15-12) as he and his teammates rejoiced with the victory.

Oleg Mikanovich, coach of Belarus: "We became better during this competition. We had a big chance to go to the semifinals, but we didn’t take it. It’s all about the concentration. We thought that we would lose the game after the first and the second sets, and now w’re happy that we won the match."

Uladzislau Charnysh, player of Belarus: "It was a very nice game. We thought that we would lose, but the team went for the victory. We will just play for the fifth place, but we are very happy with the win."

Arnold van Ree, coach of The Netherlands: "We needed one point, and this is what we wanted in the first sets. No matter how, we wanted to take these two sets. After the second set the pressure was off. This tournament was tough for these boys, physically and mentally, because you can’t practice this. Too bad we didn’t win this game, but it is unique for the team that we placed ourselves in the semifinals. It’s great that all the tournaments come together in The Hague. I promise this is going to be a success."

Bennie Tuinstra, captain of The Netherlands: "Too bad we lost the game, but we are in the semifinals! After the second set we knew that we had reached the semis so the pressure was off. In the first two sets we played very well, but after that we made some bad choices."

Engage with the U20 European Championship on social media by using the competition’s official hashtag #EuroVolleyU20M.

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