Vienna/Innsbruck, Austria, September 11, 2011. The match that Austria’s Volleyball family had been eagerly waiting for turned into a major disappointment for the home audience and the group mentored by head coach Michael Warm that eventually settled for a 0:3 defeat to Turkey. With the absolute pre-favorite of Pool A, Serbia, coming up tomorrow the chance for the home guys to advance to the next phase of the EuroVolley is really slim. Serbia had opened today’s program at the “Wiener Stadthalle” by edging Slovenia 3:1 in a game where Ivan Miljkovic & Co. played extremely well the deciding points of set 3 and 4.
In Pool C Italy stroke a pass for the next round with a 3:0 win over Finland while Belgium claimed a real thriller with France where a total of 23 set balls (!) were necessary to fix the final 3:1 on the scoreboard.
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Pool A in Vienna
Slovenia vs. Serbia 1:3 (9-25, 23-25, 25-23, 23-25)
The pre-favorite of Pool A, Serbia, claimed on Sunday afternoon a second win after edging Slovenia 3:1. With this result the guys around superstar Ivan Miljkovic have already claimed a pass for the next round and are very much likely to advance directly to the 1/4 finals should they win also their last game of the prelims against Austria.
Serbia dominated the scene in the opening set where Slovenia could score only 9 points. Milos Nikic had already scored 8 for his side at the end of that set but the story changed in set 2 where Alen Sket stepped up to set the pace for Slovenia’s attack; although he pocketed 11 points all alone, still this was not enough to take home that section of the game which ended at 25-23 for the bronze medalists from last year’s Worlds in Italy.
After initially trailing down, Slovenia stormed back in set 3 to take the lead at 16:15 and with Serbia having troubles to finalize their side-out, the guys in green jerseys could go for the 2:1. The game remained tight also in the fourth set, Slovenia actually dictated the tempo for most of the time but Serbia displayed some excellent play in the final rush to pocket its second win in this tournament.
Alen Sket topped the charts of the best scorers with 22 points, while Miljkovic totaled 18 for Serbia.
“Serbia is a team of great quality that has the potential to win it all. I’m still satisfied with my team because every player gave his best out there. With one or two points going our way maybe we could have won another set, but it wasn’t meant to be” said Slovenian head coach Veselin Vukovic.
“We played with a lot of patience at the end of the second and fourth set and that made the difference. Slovenia played very well especially with their service. Tomorrow is a new day. We will have to show a lot of discipline and patience against Austria as well to make it to the quarter finals”, explained Serbian head coach Igor Kolakovic.
Austria vs. Turkey 0:3 (21-25, 22-25, 20-25)
Austria lost its second match in the prelims of the EuroVolley on Sunday in front of 5’500 fans at the “Wiener Stadthalle”. The home guys were able to play with good consistency in the opening set but still fell behind quite quickly. A time-out asked by head coach Michael Warm could briefly change the course of the game but Turkey stepped up for the final rush to secure a 1:0 lead.
Austria went through many ups and downs also in set 2, with real black-outs whereby they lost some points in a row. Philipp Schneider – who has been playing last year in Montpellier, France – did his best and scored 8 points all alone in this section of the game to keep alive the hopes of the Austrian fans but still Turkey wrapped it up at 25-22.
The home guys did not surrender – propelled by their loud and passionate fans – and went up 14:10 in set 3 with good play from setter Oliver Binder and team captain Daniel Gavan. However, Austria had to acknowledge the Turks were better tonight and as Thomas Zass was blocked, the guests could seal the final 3:0.
Serhat Coskun top scored tonight for Turkey with 16 points while Schneider totaled 15 for Austria.
After the win Turkish head coach Veljko Basic expressed his joy as well as his compassion for the Austrians. “We didn’t make as many mistakes as yesterday. We finally managed to serve strong and well. Tomorrow there will be a completely different match as we now can play without pressure. This win will give my team some confidence as we have a lot of young players who compete for the first time at such an important tournament. I wish for Austria that this team will come back very fast. They have to look forward and stay loyal with what they have been doing. I know that they need more time because I’m in a similar situation. They are trying to build something which takes some time“, he said.
“The team was focused, but it is also about international experience. In the third set, when we were in front, we made the wrong decisions. We still have a lot to learn”, explained Austrian head coach Michael Warm.
Pool C in Innsbruck
Belgium vs. France 3:1 (31-29, 34-36, 25-20, 26-24)
Alfred Hitchcock couldn’t have written a better screenplay than the game story for Sunday’s first match in Innsbruck. Not less than 23 set balls were played in the game before Belgium had the better end and beat France 3:1 after 125 minutes.
Belgium caught the better start in the game (12:8) before France came up and even took the lead (16:19) in the opening set. But the Belgians didn’t give up and worked hard for their first two set points in this long and thrilling game (24:22). France tried everything to counter back, but Belgium finally used its seventh opportunity to seal the first set (31-29).
Those who thought that the game couldn’t get more exciting were disabused. France set the pace almost all the way in set two. Belgium closed the gap twice (14:19, 21:23) and had the chance to come out on top. This time France converted its seventh set point to go for the 1:1 (36-34) after Belgium had missed 5 opportunities for the provisional 2:0.
Despite winning the second set, France couldn’t keep momentum on their side and they quickly saw themselves trailing down by 7 in set 3 (6:13). France committed 11 mistakes (compared to 6 for Belgium), too many to take home this set.
The pre-decisive moment of the game was a 6-0 mini-break for Belgium in middle of set 4 as they suddenly took the lead (10:12, 16:12). Although France’s top scorer Earvin Ngapeth (23) served two aces and brought his team back on track (23:23), France couldn’t prevent Belgium from winning their first match at the EuroVolley 2011.
Gert van Walle top scored for Belgium with 22 points followed by Pieter Verhees (16).
Belgium’s coach Claudio Gewehr was “really satisfied with my team’s performance. In my opinion, the deciding moment was the second set when we fought back and almost stroke it”.
Philippe Blain emphasized his team’s big problems in reception. “With a reception like this, it’s really hard to side-out. Our middle blockers couldn’t be used for almost the whole game”.
Belgium’s captain Frank Depestele said that “the great start in the third set (13:6) was the key to our success. France looked mentally tired and we used that chance. Now it’s up to us to claim the second place in Pool C”.
Pierre Pujol expressed his congratulations to Belgium. “We played really bad today. Our reception and service was terrible. Belgium deserved to win. Now we need to prepare well for our next match against Italy”.
Italy vs. Finland 3:0 (25-23, 27-25, 25-21)
The “Azzurri” claimed this afternoon also their second game of the prelims at the “Olympiaworld” in Innsbruck and they did so in straight – although very close – sets.
Frankly speaking nobody expected that there could be more Finns than Italian fans in attendance in Innsbruck. It seemed that even the Italian players were surprised by this fact, as they started the match pretty nervously. The “Suomi” calls from the stands helped Finland take an early lead and they almost maintained that until the end. Everything was ready for a big surprise when Italy suddenly stormed back to score 4 in a row and fix the final 25-23 on the scoreboard.
The second set started as the first one had ended before, i.e. with a 4-0 mini-break that put Italy to the front. It took some time till Finland recovered from the shock resulting from losing the opening set. Only via some strong services by Mikko Oivanen (3 winners), Finland was able to keep the game open till the end. They had the chance to win (23:22), but Italy countered again and used its third chance to secure the second set (27-25).
In the third set, Italy finally played more constantly and with fewer mistakes than the sets before. Also Italy’s service was putting more and more pressure on Finland’s receiving players whose efficiency dropped down quite dramatically. Finland tried to fight back but was not rewarded for their strong efforts.
36-year old Luigi Mastrangelo scored 18 points for Italy (8 blocks!) while Cristian Savani contributed 13. Like in Finland’s first match, Antti Siltala was the top scorer for his side with 10.
Italy’s coach Mauro Berruto, who worked in Finland for six years, had mixed feelings during the game. “To me the most important thing is that we played a fair game. It was very strange for me, because I know the Finnish players so well. If you ask me for the deciding moment, I would answer that this was the end of the first set”.
Daniel Castellani was again not happy with the way his team played in the deciding moments of the match. “Like yesterday, we were unable to use our opportunities. That’s why we lost the game. Our performance was o.k.”
Italy’s captain Cristian Savani emphasized the importance of the result for his team. “We wanted to get some energy for our last match against France. We won 3-0, so that’s a good game”.
Mikko Oivanen, Finland’s leading service player and second best scorer (9) was also very disappointed with the result. “We should have won the first set. I guess that in this case the match would have developed in another way for us. Now we have to win 3-0 against Belgium to remain in contention for the next phase”.