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26/08/2018 20:45
Greece, Estonia and Romania certain of #EuroVolleyM Final Round, Slovakia, Montenegro and Albania record important wins
2019 CEV Volleyball European Championship - Men

Luxembourg, August 26, 2018. Greece needed a win on Sunday in order to join the #EuroVolleyM participants in France, Slovenia, Belgium and the Netherlands next year. In a come-from-behind match they beat Azerbaijan in a tiebreak and made sure they are part of Europe's elite in 2019. Romania keep a clean sheet in Pool A, which makes them certain of next year's Final Round as well - the first time they achieve this feat since 1995. Estonia qualified for the Final Round as well - following their 3-1 away victory in Israel, they made sure they will claim the top spot in Pool B regardless of the results of the matches due to take place in early January 2019. For the second time in one week they managed to beat pool favourites Finland. Slovakia get their third win as they overcome Republic of Moldova 3-1, but top spot in Pool C goes to Montenegro after beating Iceland in straight sets. Albania are still unbeaten at home, thanks to a 3-1 victory over Croatia.

Pool A

Romania vs. Finland 3-1 (26-24, 25-22, 20-25, 25-21)

  • Romania’s men ended this year's qualifying campaign to the 2019 CEV Volleyball European Championship with a third victory, thus securing first place in Pool A and qualification to the Final Round for the first time since 1995. In an intense match the home side topped Finland.
  • The man of the match was young Adrian Aciobanitei. In a very tight encounter the 23-year-old outside hitter made the difference.
  • The first set went head to head, until Romania gained a two-point lead after 24-24 to secure a 26-24 win. 
    In the second set, Romania took an early lead with 8-6 and 16-11 and thanks to strong serves quickly took the set at 25-22.
  • However, in the third set, as everyone thought that Romania had the victory in their pockets, Finland instantly took advantage of it. With powerful opposite Urpo Sivula on his best form the set ended at 25-20 for the visitors.
  • The fourth set was dominated by a very focused Romania that took control of the game, qualification for the Final Round becoming a real deal.
  • Top scorers for Romania: Aciobanitei (17 points), Razvan Olteanu (13), Laurentiu Lica (12). Top scorers for Finland: Urpo Sivula (29), Elviss Krastins (13).

Danut Pascu, head coach of Romania: "We confirmed the result we had in Finland and we proved to be powerful and worthy opponents. Finally we did it and we are in the Final Round after so many years."

Pool B 

Israel vs. Estonia 1-3 (31-29, 15-25, 20-25, 18-25)

  • Israel and Estonia played before an almost full house of 825 spectators, with a large crowd of fans coming to cheer the Israeli team in the third round of the European Championship qualifiers.
  • The opening belonged to the Israelis who stormed to a 4-0 lead, but the Estonians - who beat the Israelis last Wednesday - managed to quickly even the score to 6-6, thanks to the performance of their middle blocker Andri Aganits. After some tense minutes, the Israelis managed to win the first set 31-29 and get the crowd at Metrowest on their feet.
  • Timo Tammemaa showed excellent skills and managed to keep the Estonian advantage in set 2. This set was all under the control of Estonia who managed a landslide 25-15 win to level the game.
  • Veteran Israeli Libero, Omri Schwartz-Shmoel, proved that he knows how to be there for the team at the most important moments. Along with his good ability and a fantastic team effort, the Israeli team managed to regain the advantage and go up to 11-9 in the third set. The Estonians turned, however, the set around by winning 25-20.
  • The fourth set started as the third ended, under the control of the Estonians who did not allow the Israelis to catch up in the score. After a few minutes, it was already 12-6 to the Estonians who were on the way to an all-important victory. They won the last battle 25-18, thus ending the game in a 3-1 win to qualify for 2019 #EuroVolleyM Final Round.
Grzegorz Rys, head coach of Israel: “We played very well in the first set, we showed an excellent performance for a while, but it was hard for us to maintain this level throughout the whole match. I am proud of my guys, we will now have to prepare for the decisive game against Latvia in January.”

Gheorghe Cretu, head coach of Estonia: “We played very well. The first set was great Volleyball from both teams, we learned from our mistakes and I am glad we got back in the match. We have just one match against Latvia left and we will win it too.”

Pool C

Republic of Moldova vs. Slovakia 1-3 (14-25, 25-22, 20-25, 18-25)

  • In front of over 1,200 spectators, the Moldovan volleyball players did not manage to edge their valuable opponents. Slovakia tactically dominated the match, while Moldova played mainly on enthusiasm and some of the individual scores of Dmitrii Bahov, or the saves of their libero Roman Dudicov.
  • The best scorer of the match was Serghei Predius, with 17 points, while Peter Michalovic recorded 15 points for Slovakia. Matej Patak had the best reception, with a 50% excellence.
  • The match was visited by the Republic of Moldova's President Igor Dodon, a former Volleyball player during his studies.
  • Today's success puts Slovakia's team in the position of favourite to claim a ticket to the Final Round due to take place next year. Moldova, on the other hand, will have to claim two wins in January over Iceland and Montenegro to stay in contention.

Artur Romascan, head coach of the Republic of Moldova: “We had a lack of experience in some crucial moments of the game. Slovakia played well and they deserved the win.”

Iceland vs. Montenegro 0-3 (20-25, 20-25, 21-25)

  • Montenegro started the second set really strong (7-0) with strong serves from Marko Vukasinovic.
  • Vukasinovic was the top scorer for Montenegro with 22 points (including five aces and three blocks). Alexander Arnar Þórisson was the top scorer for Iceland with 11 points. 
  • Iceland has not won a set in the competition so far. 
Veljko Basic, head coach of Montenegro: “The main difference of the teams is that our team has 14 players that can play. My players have the capacity to get themselves out of a bad situation.”
Hafsteinn Valdimarsson, captain of Iceland: “We wanted to play better and even take one or two sets, but their experience showed in the end. I’m happy with how our team played, although the final result isn’t in our favour.”

Pool D

Albania vs. Croatia 3-1 (25-14, 25-20, 20-25, 25-20)

  • Albania played a good match, dominated the game in the first two sets and easily won them. Croatia played well only for one and a half set and after winning the third, they lost ground in the fourth, suffering their third loss in this round of qualifications.
  • For Albania this is the second win in this event, as they have triumphed in both matches played in Tirana, but have always lost when playing away from home.
  • Gazmend Husaj, the captain of the Albanian team, did not play, because he sustained an injury during the last training.
    After the match, all Albanian Volleyball players went to embrace their captain and dedicated him this victory.
  • Anton Qafarena, with 23 points scored was the best player of the match, while for Croatia the best scorer was Danijel Galic, with 17 points.

Jovan Melkas, head coach of Albania: “Even as we played without the captain, our main player, the team played with their hearts and showed a fantastic match. It was not easy to win against a strong team like Croatia, but I said earlier that this is a strong and open group where all teams can qualify. I am happy and pleased, as this is a younger generation of boys, which is growing day by day, so this victory gives them more confidence. Now we are more motivated than ever for the next two matches to be played in January.”

Ivan Rančić, head coach of Croatia: “We had some players who missed this match and we did not manage to play well against Albania. We attempted to turn the match around after the third set but without success, as Albania played a very good match, and they even won without their main player. This is a court where we have suffered before, so we knew it would be difficult. After this loss, I think it's difficult to qualify out of our group.”

Pool G

Azerbaijan vs. Greece 2-3 (25-20, 25-22, 22-25, 18-25, 5-15)

  • Greece needed to record a win in today’s match against Azerbaijan in order to qualify for the 2019 CEV European Championship.
  • Azerbaijan started the match furiously and made sure that a repeat of last Wednesday’s 3-0 defeat would not happen, they took the first two sets by storm, creating the needed difference at the end of the sets: 25-20, 25-22.
  • Greece hadn’t lost a single set before this match, they were now trailing 0-2. Bringing some new blood on court helped the Greeks to a 25-22 win in the third set. 
  • With Azerbaijan’s spirit broken, the last two remaining sets were easier for the Pool G frontrunners. The match was theirs after 25-18 and 15-5, granting Greece access to next year’s EuroVolleyM.
  • Nikos Zoupani (GRE) was the match top scorer with 21 points, including two block points.

Georgios Petreas, captain of Greece: "I am glad we could win. Azerbaijan showed a good match. We won the home match with 3-0. Today’s match was a little bit harder. It is an important win and it feels great to have qualified for the European Championship."
Tural Hasanli, captain of Azerbaijan: "We couldn’t win this match. Greece was a stronger team in our pool. I think we can win other matches and go on to take part in the Final Round."

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