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18/07/2018 23:59
Belgium, Russia, Poland win to heat up race for #EuroVolleyU20M semis
2018 CEV U20 Volleyball European Championship - Men

Kortrijk, Belgium, July 18, 2018.  The fourth competition day in Pool II of the Final Round of the 2018 CEV U20 Volleyball European Championship - Men started off with another exciting five-setter. Russia wasted a precious point in the race for the spots in the semifinals, but with the 3-2 victory over France managed to stay in contention. Poland mastered their third victory in a row, a four-setter over Turkey, to further heat up the race for The Hague. Finally, hosts Belgium managed to remain unbeaten in a nail-biting five-set drama against Italy.

While Belgium, Russia, Poland and Italy are all sure to travel to The Hague this weekend, Thursday’s crucial matches between Poland and Italy and between Belgium and Russia will determine which two of these four squads will be playing for the medals.

Russia vs. France 3-2 (25-19, 23-25, 24-26, 25-17, 15-11)

It was an important opening game for both teams: Russia perhaps to secure a place in the semifinals, France to stay in the tournament. In the first set the Russian block was especially strong, leading to a 25-19 win, but in the second set the French had found the possibility to solve that problem. Théo Faure came in and setter Thomas Gill was having an excellent day. In the end Pierre Derouillon decided the set – 25-23 France’s way. A thrilling third set went through scores of 4-1, 6-6, 16-19, but with Viktor Pivovarov making it 23-20, a Russian win seemed to be in the making. But the French came back again with blocks by Maxime Roatta and Maxime Laumon. They saved a set point at 23-24 before that same Pierre Derouillon closed it off at 26-24 to give France a 2-1 lead. Understandig the importance of the game, the Russians increased the pressure and with Maxim Sapozhkov and Anatoliy Volodin scoring away for 25-17, they prompted tiebreak. Pivovarov and Sapozhkov were crucial at the net for the 15-11 set win and the 3-2 Russian victory. Pierre Derouillon was the top scorer of the match with 20 points, while Anatoliy Volodin scored 14 times for the winning side.

Konstantin Abaev, captain of Russia: "We did not play so well. In two of the sets we were too relaxed, but when we played really concentrated, the French made more faults. The semifinals are still possible."

Pierre Toledo, player of France: "We fought for the victory till the end, but sometimes we had difficulties in reception, which made scoring the points also difficult."

Turkey vs. Poland 1-3 (12-25, 23-25, 26-24, 22-25)

The motivated young Polish guys overpowered their opponents on the way to a 25-12 landslide in the first set. In the second set the Turkish players regained confidence as Ahmet Samet Baltaci with a drop and Adis Lagumdzija with some nice attacks found answers to the power of Bartosz Firszt and Mikolaj Sawicki. But Remigiusz Kapica was unstoppable at set point as he delivered for 25-23. In the third set, the two teams alternated in the lead. After the Turks denied a Polish match point, captain Lagumdzija took responsibility to lead his team to set point, which his teammates converted to a 26-24 win with a kill block on Kapica. With the good work of Lagumdzija and Muhammet Delibas, Turkey were in the lead through 18-17, but then made too many faults. Ahmet Tümer saved a second match point, but the power of the Polish team made the difference in the end – 25-22. Adis Lagumdzija was the best scorer of the match with 22 points, while Remigiusz Kapica scored 20 for Poland.

Adis Lagumdzija, captain of Turkey: "After the defeats of the last three matches we had no more confidence. Here, we hoped to play for a place among the best four of our pool or even better, but we made too many errors in the important rallies."

Bartosz Firszt, captain of Poland: "We did not play our best game of the tournament - not enough concentration at the end of the third set, but the most important thing is that we won. Tomorrow against Italy we hope to qualify for the semifinals."

Italy vs. Belgium 2-3 (22-25, 15-25, 25-18, 25-23, 13-15)

A surprising Belgian squad started in the all-important game against Italy in an extraordinary way. After beating Poland, France and Turkey, they came out as a completely confident team of friends, working hard for each other. The danger came from everywhere: a good watching captain Matthieu Vanneste, strong blocks from Wout D’Heer, good serves and attacks from Berre Peters, Mathijs Desmet and Dries Van Lommel. Only Francesco Recine found an answer at some positions. For the Italians it got even worse in the second set as they were overpowered by the Belgian team. Setter Alessandro Acquarone and his teammates were quite frustrated and made a lot of mistakes, while Berre Peters hammered out the difference from 8-6 to 21-14. But the Belgians could not hold this high level for much longer. Daniele Lavia, Lorenzo Cortesia and Diego Cantagalli played again at their normal level to take the third set. Leandro Mosca and captain Francesco Recine led their teammates to winning the fourth set and prompt a dramatic tie-breaker.
Belgium broke away to a 9-2 lead with nine points in a row with Berre Peters on serving duty, well helped by Matthieu Vanneste, Wout D’Heer and Mathijs Desmet. But it was too soon to rejoice even when the home side saw themselves with seven consecutive match points at 14-7. The Italians denied the first six, before Berre Peters took an option on Belgian participation in the semifinals. Mathijs Desmet and Matthieu Vanneste of Belgium and Diego Cantagalli of Italy were the best scorers of the match with 21, 20 and 19 points, respectively.

Francesco Recine, captain of Italy: "The Belgians played two very good sets, but we came back. We had our chances, but we made too many faults, especially in reception."

Matthieu Vanneste, captain of Belgium: "Our first win ever over Italy! We showed we are a complete group. We help each other, even if it is difficult sometimes. The Italians always underestimate us and when it doesn’t work for them they get frustrated. I think we are now very close to reaching the semifinals."

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

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