Prague/Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic, September 11, 2011. Slovakia, Russia and the Czech Republic have already booked a ticket for the next phase of the EuroVolley 2011 after they all claimed their second win this afternoon. Slovakia backed up yesterday’s splendid game with Bulgaria by edging Germany in four sets while Russia and the hosts of the Czech team quite comfortably cruised past Portugal and Estonia respectively with more than 5’000 fans in attendance in Karlovy Vary. Their always colored and passionate supporters could not make the difference in Prague for the 2009 European champions of Poland who did not play well at all – apart from the opening set – while Bulgaria and its star Matey Kaziyski got immediate redemption for their defeat to Slovakia.
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Pool B in Karlovy Vary
Portugal vs. Russia 1:3 (15-25, 25-23, 22-25, 13-25)
Portugal is certainly a side you have to take very seriously and Russia – the absolute pre-favorite of this European Championship – learnt this lesson as well this afternoon in Karlovy Vary.
Russia started the game by lining-up all of its stars and with the help of Biryukov immediately claimed a massive 7:1 break in the opening set. The Russian blocks looked like a kind of wall that the Portuguese players were not able to find a way through; Russia’s performance was absolutely terrific and a real delight for quite many Volleyball fans that had got together at the “KV Arena”; the winners of this year’s FIVB World League could afford the waste of four set balls but still finished it with an impressive 25-15.
However, Portugal did not surrender that easily and after drawing level at 15, the guys mentored by Juan Diaz stormed out to set the pace at 23:18 in set 2. Russia mobilized all strengths in blocking and started spiking with more accuracy but could not avert the final 25-23 for Portugal.
Portugal was having some fun and used every single opportunity to test out the Russian reaction; Flavio Rodolfo Cruz and Valdir Sequeira did even trick the Russian block but after changing the starting six, Russia clawed back vigorously to score the final 25-22.
Portugal was completely knocked down in set 4 by the strong services of Maxim Mikhailov and Nikolay Apalikov, and Russia closed the match with a very symbolic block.
Portuguese captain Joao Miguel José commented: “In today’s game we didn’t get too many chances. In the second set they started losing grip and making mistakes so we were able to pressure our opponents. We fulfilled our goal to perform well. Now we must think about tomorrow’s game with Estonia that we have to win to qualify for the next round”.
His mentor Juan Diaz added: “Russia was very strong today. In the final part our game went away, we lost our stability and it became the kind of match Russia can only rule”.
Taras Khtey, Russia’s captain: “Portugal was as strong today as it was yesterday against the Czech Republic. I am glad we have pulled ourselves together after losing the second set and that we finally won”.
Russian coach Vladimir Alekno confirmed: “We have been preparing for a difficult match and a difficult opponent. Portugal gave us no right to make any mistake. We made an important step towards to the qualification for the next round”.
Czech Republic vs. Estonia 3:0 (25-20, 25-14, 25-20)
After their long match with Portugal on Saturday, the home guys of the Czech Republic enjoyed today a relatively easy task as they edged Estonia in straight sets for the joy of more than 5’000 fans in Karlovy Vary.
The Czechs looked extremely determined to make their way to the next phase of the competition while Estonia was supported by a loud and colorful crew and responded with good blocks to the attacks of the home guys. Jan Stokr and middle blocker Jakub Vesely contributed many points for the Czech team in the opening set which eventually ended at 25-20 for the home side.
Estonia did not really adjust to the Czech game in set 2, as the group around Stokr displayed quite many options in attack; Estonia’s libero Asko Esna was excellent in defense but the blue attackers regularly crashed against the Czech block, with Popelka and Konecny being outstanding in this fundamental. Quick hits and excellent distribution in attack paved the way for the final 3:0 whereby the home team is automatically qualified for the next round of the competition, most probably for the Playoffs depending on the result of the last match of the prelims against Russia.
Estonia’s team captain Kert Toobal said: “Congratulations to the Czech team, they have qualified for the next round. Today we had many ups and downs, making many stupid mistakes. If you are trailing down by 4-5 points it’s hard to come back. We hope we will show our best play tomorrow against Portugal”.
His mentor Avo Keel added: “If you look at the efficiency in attack, one team was a bit worse, one a bit better. But what we couldn’t do is to prevent their middle blockers from attacking. That is what influenced and determined today’s result. The most important day for us will be tomorrow as we play Portugal”.
Ondrej Hudecek, captain of the Czech Republic, said: “This victory is significant. Tomorrow we can play without stress against Russia and hopefully get a good result. As for the next phase, in my opinion everything is possible against the teams coming from Prague”.
Czech coach Jan Svoboda concluded: “It was an important day. We played much better than yesterday. I never look back and deal with past matches, balls or exchanges. I always concentrate on the future. We have evenly good players on various positions: 3 outside hitters, 2 diagonal players, 2 middle blockers and 2 setters. I am convinced we have a very balanced team”.
Pool D in Prague
Germany vs. Slovakia 1:3 (23-25, 26-24, 24-26, 25-27)
Slovakia claimed this afternoon a spot for the Playoffs of the EuroVolley 2011 after edging Germany 3:1 at the end of a very tough game. After causing quite a sensation by beating Bulgaria in the opening game of Pool D, Slovakia opened well by clipping the first set but Germany was able to fight back and draw level. Slovakia committed some errors but this was compensated by the stellar performance of Lukas Divis. Very nice attacks were to be seen in set 3 which unfolded as a tough battle ending up in a 24-26 for Slovakia. Germany moved up by 4 points in the fourth but once again the game was extremely tight. The Slovaks’ enthusiasm was growing rally after rally; they turned the score around from 9:12 to 15:13 and closed the game by silvering their third match ball. They really deserved the victory and with this also a ticket for the next phase of the tournament. “I want to congratulate Emanuele Zanini because his guys played well after the tough game they had with Bulgaria. We played better than yesterday with Poland but it was not enough” stated Germany’s mentor Raul Lozano. “I am really proud of my players” added Zanini. “Yesterday they made a tremendous effort to beat Bulgaria and today they played well again. We have seen many good blocks, attacks and great actions in defense. We are definitely in a good spirit”.
Poland vs. Bulgaria 1:3 (25-19, 22-25, 22-25, 23-25)
Although the O2 Arena was once again packed with fans dressed in red and white, Poland could not repeat yesterday’s classy performance and eventually suffered a setback to Bulgaria that got its share of redemption for Saturday’s defeat to Slovakia.
Poland started the game magnificently and was one of a kind for the first set that was sealed with the score of 25-19. Bulgaria got finally rid of all tensions and fears in set 2 and with some great play in attack drew level for the provisional 1:1. After that it looked like Poland’s concentration had completely gone and the team trailed down for the remainder of the match. Head coach Andrea Anastasi changed his line-up almost entirely but Bulgaria could celebrate its win after exploiting a second match ball.
“Bulgaria played an excellent game” admitted Anastasi. “We have a tough match with Slovakia tomorrow and we have to be fully concentrated to play better than we did today”.
“I am glad that after losing the first set we started playing differently. We were really focused and that contributed this victory” added Bulgaria’s mentor Radostin Stoytchev. “I do not agree with Piotr Gruszka who says that our service was good, as we can perform and do much better”.