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19/07/2018 22:05
Russia and Belgium through to #EuroVolleyU20M semifinals
2018 CEV U20 Volleyball European Championship - Men

Kortrijk, Belgium, July 19, 2018. Russia and Belgium occupied the top two places in the final Pool II standings and progressed to the semifinals of the 2018 CEV U20 Volleyball European Championship - Men. Before even playing their last pool match on Thursday, against Russia, the home team in Kortrijk advanced to the semis after Italy eliminated Poland from the race with a 3-1 win. In order to progress themselves, the Italians had to rely on a Belgian victory over Russia, but it was not to be. The Russians stormed to the top of the table with a four-set victory, leaving the Italians and the Poles in contention for the fifth place. The first match on the last day of action in Kortrijk was between the two winless teams that had lost any chances to advance to the final stage in The Hague. France defeated Turkey in four sets to say goodbye to #EuroVolleyU20M with a victory.

France vs. Turkey 3-1 (25-22, 18-25, 25-20, 25-17)

The French started strong and even with a good Muhammet Delibas on the other side of the net, it was Maxime Laumon who decided the first set – 25-22. The Turks held the advantage in the second set due to the better blocking from Ahmet Samet Baltaci and the power of captain Adis Lagumdzija – 25-18. The French were stronger at the net and Pierre Derouillon made the difference in an otherwise quite balanced third set – 25-20. In the fourth set France easily took control and cruised to a 25-17 close and the victory. Théo Fauré topped the scoring with 14 points for France. Muhammet Delibas delivered 12 for Turkey.

Ahmet Tocoglu, assistant coach of Turkey: "We lost our confidence too early in this tournament. We can play better Volleyball, but we didn’t show it on the court. We are not happy with this result."

Jocelyn Trillon, coach of France: "I am disappointed about this tournament. The other teams showed our weak points. We also have to work on the mentality of these guys. Too soon they think they have won and then they give the opponents open air to score and to come back. We have a lot of work to do and we should try to have the mentality of the Belgians, who really play as a complete team."

Poland vs. Italy 1-3 (24-26, 25-22, 18-25, 18-25)

The importance of the game led to a nervous start and a lot of easy faults on both sides. An ace by Remigiusz Kapica and the work at the net by Bartosz Firszt gave Poland hope at 22-20 and even 24-22, after a block by Mateusz Poreba. But three individual Polish faults and a well planned serve by Lorenzo Cortesia brought the set to Italy – 26-24. That didn’t happen again in the second set as the Poles converted their set point at 24-22 to level the match. In the third set the players of coach Mariusz Sordyl could not find an answer to the strong blocks of Daniele Lavia and, as Cantagalli showed his offensive talents, the set was for Italy – 25-18. At the same time, Belgium secured their place in the semis. Winning the match was nevertheless important for Poland as well as for Italy. In the fourth set, the Italians did not have any problems and with the blocking efforts of Lavia and the serving power of Cortesia they cruised to a 25-18 finish. Poland’s Remigiusz Kapica and Italy’s Diego Cantagalli made 17 points each to share the top scorers’ honours.

Mariusz Sordyl, coach of Poland: "Of course, there is a little bit of disappointment, but we came here after a 3-2 qualification win over Spain. You can’t play a match without errors, but today we made too many of them and we offered the match to our opponents."

Francesco Recine, captain of Italy: "We won the match on our service game. Of course, both teams were a bit nervous and we also made too many errors. Now we are supporting Belgium – this is our last chance to play the semifinals."

Belgium vs. Russia 1-3 (20-25, 22-25, 25-22, 23-25)

Inspired by some supporters of their own on the stands, the Russians started in an impressive way, with some powerful Volleyball by Maxim Sapozhkov on the way to a 7-2 lead. But after a time-out for the Belgian coach the home team found a way to come back and level it at 15-15 with blocks from Wout D’Heer and Matthieu Vanneste and spikes from Mathijs Desmet. However, the powerful serves of Konstantin Abaev and Alexander Zakhvatenkov were too much for the young Red Dragons to handle and Russia stepped ahead with a 25-20 win. In the second set the home team were constantly on the same level as their opponents, but, again, in the crucial moments the service pressure of the Russians and the blocks of Artem Melnikov led them to a 25-22 close. Coach Kris Eyckmans made some changes to his squad. Incoming setter Kobe Brems had an excellent performance, while another sub-in, Jorne Vandamme, posed a constant danger for the Russian defence. As D’Heer blocked Sapozhkov a few times, the home guys regained confidence and Vandamme finalised the set at 25-22. The fourth set was a thriller – also for the nail-biting Italian coach Monica Cresta, still hoping for a miracle – with the score going through 10-8, 12-12, 13-16, 16-20 and back to 20-21. Anatoliy Volodin and his blocking teammates finally brought Russia to the semis finishing the set and the match at 25-23, but not before Berre Peters denied two Russian match points. Maxim Sapozhkov scored 19 times for Russia to top the charts. Mathijs Desmet was Belgium’s most prolific player with 16 points.

Mathijs Desmet, player of Belgium: "We did not play as well as we did in the previous four games. It was the whole team that made some faults, too many faults… But on Sunday we will take revenge from the Russians in the final. If we play as we did in the previous days, it is possible."

Konstantin Abaev, captain of Russia: "We played with a lot of motivation today. Now, there is still only one thing that counts: to become European champion. I’m sure we will be number one on Sunday evening."

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

Click here for more information.

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