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14/01/2019 11:00
Italy edge France in dramatic final to claim ticket to #EuroVolleyU17M Finals
2019 CEV U17 Volleyball European Championship - Men

Viana do Castelo, Portugal, January 13, 2019. Italy claimed a dramatic final with France at the WEVZA qualifier for this year’s #EuroVolleyU17M, thus securing their ticket to the Final Round of the competition, which is due to take place in Sofia later this summer. The Netherlands beat Portugal 3-0 in the third place match and together with France and fifth-placed Belgium, these teams will contest the second round of European qualifications scheduled for April, where they will have one last chance to book their ticket to the Final Round.

Final match: France vs. Italy 2-3 (25-23, 23-25, 23-25, 25-19, 12-15)

Even though Italy had claimed a comprehensive 3-0 victory in the pool stage, everyone looked forward to this final with much anticipation. France set the tempo of the game in the early stages of the first set before Italy flipped the charts around; however, France fought back again and won the set by the slimmest possible margin. As they seemed to have taken their lesson from the first set, Italy played better in the second, even though the final stages were quite close and dramatic, with France levelling at 23-all. The third set was a copy of the previous one, with France drawing level at 23-23, before Italy closed it in their favour with an ace. France played an excellent fourth set and with the help of their setter, Anatole Chaboissant called for a tiebreak. It was a real final, reaching its climax in the fifth set, where Italy edged ahead towards the end to secure their ticket to the Final Round. Raul Parolari top scored for the ‘Azzurrini’ with 23 points as Hilir Henno registered 21 for France.

Italy and France put on a real show in the final match of the WEVZA U17 European qualifier in Viana do Castelo.

Renato Barbon, head coach of Italy: “It was a great match. It is very difficult at this age to be able to play at this level in a final. It was an excellent show, with two great teams and a good public. In this tournament all the teams were of a high level and their quality grew with each passing day.”

Olivier Audabram, head coach of France: “It was a good final that thrilled the fans. We believed that we had the quality to win this match and we gave our best. Congratulations to the Italian players for their qualification and congratulations to my players as well for their evolution throughout the tournament.”

Classification match 3-4: Portugal vs. The Netherlands 0-3 (23-25, 21-25, 16-25)

The first set was extremely close, and even though Portugal took many risks with their serving game, they could not take that many points from their opponents with the help of this asset. The Netherlands edged ahead and eventually claimed the first set with an attack from Stijn de Ruijter. The Dutch team rushed to a 7-0 lead in the second set following an ace from Thomas van Bladel. De Ruijter further extended the Dutch advantage to 10-3 and Portugal did never stand a chance at a comeback. The Netherlands controlled the third set as well and happily celebrated after taking the bronze medals from the tournament. De Ruijter top scored with 17 points as Manuel Figueiredo registered 14 for Portugal.

Dutch setter Jilles Amersfoort setting during the bronze medal match with hosts Portugal.

Arne Hendriks, coach of the Netherlands, was pleased with the third place: “It was probably our best match. Apart from the first set, in which we had many difficulties, we played very well, putting pressure with our service and defending very well. Our team played as a group and everyone deserves my congratulations.”

Nuno Pereira, head coach of Portugal: “I have to make a very positive review of this tournament, because we achieved our main goal that was a ticket to the 2nd round of qualifications. I congratulate the team on the work they have done and the ambition they showed. Today we started well but we did not end the match in the best way.”

Classification matches 5-7: Belgium vs. Spain 3-2 (25-21, 19-25, 13-25, 25-22, 17-15)

Spain started well and had a five-point lead but after levelling at 21-all, Belgium scored four times in a row to take the first set. Spain caught a promising start to the second set as well and this time they did not allow any Belgian comeback. The Spaniards set the pace from start to end of the third set before Belgium responded in the fourth until a too late reaction from their opponents. The tiebreak was very close and Spain had a small advantage for most of the time, before Belgium pulled off a 17-15 victory. Ferre Reggers scored as many as 28 points for Belgium as Luke Belda registered 20 for Spain.

The young Red Dragons of Belgium celebrate their victory over Spain.

Win De Boeck, head coach of Belgium: “We knew that a pool with Italy and France would never be easy. We played a good match against Germany and the fifth place end ups being good… even though our performance today was not the best. However, I am still happy because these competitions and these matches are good for these young players.”

Final standing

1.    Italy
2.    France
3.    The Netherlands
4.    Portugal
5.    Belgium
6.    Germany
7.    Spain

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