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25/08/2018 23:15
France, Portugal, Finland, Croatia, Greece, Belgium qualify for #EuroVolleyW
2019 CEV Volleyball European Championship - Women

Luxembourg, August 25, 2018. On Saturday afternoon, France claimed their fourth straight win in Pool D (3-0 over Georgia) of the #EuroVolleyW Qualifiers, thus securing their qualification to the Final Round due to take place in 2019 in Turkey, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia. In the same pool, Portugal outclassed 3-0 the team of Denmark and thanks to this win will proceed to the Finals as well - doing so for the very first time in history. In Pool B Croatia also booked their tickets to the Finals after a 3-1 win over Austria.  Finland achieved the very same feat - doing so for the first time since 1989 - after recording their fourth straight win in Pool E following a comprehensive 3-0 victory in the derby with Sweden. Greece are the dominant team in Pool C and with a 3-0 vs. Ukraine they secured their spot in the Final Round of #EuroVolleyW as well for their first appearance in the premier competition since 2001. Belgium disappointed Slovenia at 3-0 later on Saturday and are topping the charts in Pool A with four wins, thus joining the group of teams who will compete in 2019 at the Finals.

Pool A

Slovenia vs. Belgium 0-3 (17-25, 16-25, 23-25)

•    After their away defeat in Antwerp on Wednesday, the Slovenian players were determined to surprise the heavy favourites of the Pool A in front of more than 1,000 spectators in Tabor sports hall in Maribor. However, Belgium, led by Britt Herbots and Kaja Grobelna took the initiative and did not let any surprises happen until 18-12 in the third set. Ela Pintar (SLO) tried it hard on serve in the last minutes of this matchup, but in the end the visitors showed their experience in the crucial moments and took the set and the win at 25-23 and 3-0.
•    Slovenia’s receivers were struggling in reception, especially when Celine Van Gestel and Marlies Janssens from Belgium were on the service line.
•    Belgium’s outside hitters gave their best, making it difficult for Slovenia’s defence too.
•    Slovenia’s Iza Mlakar became best scorer of the match with 16 points, while Kaja Grobelna was the best one for Belgium with 14 points to her name.   
•    With Saturday’s fourth consecutive straight win, Belgium confirmed their top position in Pool A and booked the ticket to the #EuroVolleyW Finals.

Saša Planinšec, player of Slovenia: “I am really happy that we raised the level of our performance from the first match to now. It was still not enough to win against Belgium, but our goal is to qualify for the 2019 European Championship and at this moment we are in a good position to do it. We still need to win in January, but we are on the right path.”

Ilka Van de Vyver, captain of Belgium: “We are really happy because we have booked our ticket to the European Championship. That was our goal from the beginning. The first two matches were a little easier, but we got prepared very well for the battle vs. Slovenia. We weren’t focused enough at the beginning of the match, but later we started to serve really good, we kept on being concentrated, except, maybe, in the end of the match. But then our coach said some really hard things, which helped us end up with a win.”

Pool B

Austria vs. Croatia 1-3 (25-21, 23-25, 21-25, 21-25)

•    In its fourth game of the European qualifiers the Austrian women’s national team almost shocked group favourite Croatia. The crowd at Stadt- & Sporthalle Zwettl witnessed a very close game, where Austria were constantly breathing down the necks of their opponents.
•    The Austrian team came off to a better start and took the first set. Leading by 20-16 in the second one, it seemed that Austria could take a point from this matchup. However, the Croats regrouped, being able to turn things in their favour and won the following sets as well. Croatia claimed a 3-1 win to secure their fourth victory in as many matches.
•    Nevertheless, taking the first set against a world-class side could prove to be crucial for the home team. Austria need to win the last two games against Albania and Switzerland respectively, in January in order to keep their hopes for booking a ticket to #EuroVolleyW alive.
•    The Croatians have already booked their spot at the tournament.
•    Top scorers of the match: Srna Markovic (20 points), Nikolina Maros (14) for Austria; Samanta Fabris (19), Lucija Mlinar (13) for Croatia.

Srna Markovic, captain and top scorer of Austria: “We were able to keep up to their level and therefore the defeat hurts. But the Croatian players play in much better leagues than we do. It’s remarkable, that the game was close until the end. I am sure we will be able to beat such teams in a few years. And I am still convinced that we will make it to the 2019 European Championship.”

Daniele Santarelli, head coach of Croatia: “We didn’t play well and made a lot of mistakes. The first set was a disaster. However, today most important for us is the result and not the way we played. But we have to keep on working and improve our game.”

Pool C

Greece vs. Ukraine 3-0 (25-22, 25-22, 25-12)

•    Greece seized a 3-0 victory over Ukraine for the second time in a week to mathematically claim a ticket to the 2019 #EuroVolley Finals.
•    Greece return to the European Championships scene for the very first time since 2001.
•    Anthi Vasilantonaki with 16 points and Olga Strantzali with 14 to their names respectively led Greece to the success.
•    Hanna Kyrychenko from Ukraine was the best scorer on the other side of the net, recording ten points.
•    Greece will host Norway next in Leg 5 before travelling to Montenegro in January.
•    Ukraine continue against Montenegro at home and Norway away on the road to securing a spot at the Finals.

Guillermo Naranjo, head coach of Greece: “We won more easily than we expected. This team is unbelievable. They keep on surprising me every day. I am proud to have led this team on this huge day for Greek Volleyball.”

Gariy Yegiazarov, head coach of Ukraine: “It was a great game in the first two sets, which were decided on some good receiving on the part of Greece in the crucial moments towards the end of each set. We failed from a psychological point of view in the third set. Congratulations to Greece. We will keep on fighting.”

Norway vs. Montenegro 0-3 (15-25, 22-25, 21-25)

•    Enthusiastic spectators gave the Norwegian players some added energy at some difficult times in the match.
•    Montenegro dominated at the net and this was a deciding factor in the match.

Matt van Wezel, head coach of Norway: “My players seemed to be scared at the beginning and this resulted in errors in situations they normally have control over. We need to be more stable and play consistently to be able to compete at this level and against these teams. Now we are allowing ourselves to lose momentum and continuity in our playing. The girls have the skills needed to compete at a higher level but at the moment, they are lacking in the maturity necessary to play at this level. Despite this, and the fact that we are, more or less, out of the qualification, I am proud of my girls and their desire to stay with our programme. Hopefully, the matches in January will reveal how well they are developing.”

Pool D

Georgia vs. France 0-3 (16-25, 17-25, 16-25)

•    After the second match between these two teams, France have a clean sheet of four wins in as many matches.
•    Héléna Cazaute from France was the top scorer of the match with 13 points to her name.
•    On the other hand, Ann Kalandadze from Georgia emerged as the best receiver, best blocker and best spiker.
•    Georgia will play in January 2019 against Denmark at home and against Portugal away their next and last two matches in the #EuroVolleyW Qualification.

Felix André, assistant coach of France: “We were a little bit afraid to play against the team of Georgia at their home, but our girls showed a really good game and won easily. It was really important to us to seize the victory, also because it means that we have qualified for the Finals of #EuroVolleyW.”

Ann Kalandadze, player of Georgia: “After the last match against France we were expecting more, but unfortunately we lost this game and I think we also lost a good chance for a win. I want to thank all the fans who came today to our match. The atmosphere in the Volleyball Arena was great.”

Denmark vs. Portugal 0-3 (14-25, 23-25, 21-25)


 •    Portugal caught a flying start in the beginning of the match, leading 8-1 as Sven-Erik Lauridsen, head coach of Denmark called his second timeout.
•    Portugal now have three wins out of four matches and are through to the Final Round as they will be claiming at least the second place in Pool D.
•    Georgia cannot finish better in the final standing than the Portuguese team even if they win their last two matches 3-0 as they will anyway have a worse set ratio than Portugal - which would break the tie.
•    With the loss, the home heroines of Denmark are out of the chase for a ticket to the Final Round, and so are Georgia.
•    It is the first time ever that the National team of Portugal qualify for the Final Round of #EuroVolleyW.

Sven-Erik Lauridsen, head coach of Denmark: “I think we played a fantastic match in attack. We have troubles finding our rhythm as we have to substitute quite often, but overall I am very satisfied with our performance. It was very tight in the second set. We lost by two points and made five service mistakes in the same part. Our lack of international routine also made things a little bit more difficult for us. Congratulations to Portugal for the win and for the qualification to the Final Round.”

Manuel Almeida, head coach of Portugal: “This was a much better match from both teams than the one played on Wednesday. I want to congratulate Denmark, who played very well in defense and even better in offense. In the first set our serve caused big problems for Denmark, and in the second one both teams increased their level of play. It was a very tight match all through the end. I am very happy that the girls played this well, and I am very proud to qualify for the Final Round as this is the first time for the Portuguese women’s national team to take part in such a big tournament.”

Pool E

Sweden vs. Finland 0-3 (14-25, 25-27, 19-25)

•    Finland silenced the home-crowd in Umeå by defeating Sweden 3-0 and ultimately securing a ticket to the Final Round of the 2019 CEV Volleyball European Championship.
•    The Finnish women’s national team have qualified for the #EuroVolleyW Final Round for the first time since 1989. 
•    Sweden and Finland clashed two times in a span of just four days and the ‘White and Blue’ ended up winning both contests.

Tapio Kangasniemi, head coach of Finland: “It is fantastic for us to go to the European Championship Final Round after almost 30 years without qualifying. We played it ball by ball and did put trust in our own game and our service and reception, which is very good at the moment.” 

Estonia vs. Czech Republic 3-2 (25-15, 26-24, 24-26, 16-25, 16-14)

 •    Estonia took a two-set lead, but Czech Republic managed to win the third and the fourth sets. The tiebreaker was a real thriller, where 500 people in Kalev Sports Hall were screaming from the top of their lungs to help the home team win. It was Kristiine Miilen who ended the game with a powerful attack and Estonia won the last set 16-14 and the game 3-2.
•    Kertu Laak and Kristiine Miilen did lead Estonia with 20 and 18 points respectively. Helena Havelkova had 23 points for Czech Republic in their losing effort.
•    Estonia sit in second place in the group with two wins and two losses - while Czech Republic follow in third with one win and three losses this far.

Kristiine Miilen, player of Estonia: “It was a really hard win for us. The third set was so difficult to come back especially mentally. And the fifth set also – we were behind 11-13 in the last set. But the fans helped us so much today, I am really happy with the win.”

Julija Mõnnakmäe, captain of Estonia: “The key for this win was team work – every player gave 100%. We did well in service and this was the difference compared to the last game against them. We had like a seventh player on the court, the fans were just amazing.”

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