2018 FIVB World Championship – Men’s European Qualifier
- May 23 to June 4
Finland earned the final automatic berth from the European Qualifier pool play with a four-set win over the Czech Republic on Sunday. Meanwhile, Spain topped Northern Ireland in a sweep to sew up second place in the group and advance to the third round of qualification.
Sweden wrapped up its tournament with a five-set win over Cyprus.
Finland 3, Czech Republic 1
Needing to win just two sets to sew up their spot in the World Championships, Finland celebrated as such after taking the first two stanzas, but the Czech Republic continued to put up a fight with second place on the line. The home side gave the crowd hope with a 25-23 Set 3 victory, but fell short of completing the comeback win.
“The game went exactly the way we planned – to take two sets and be sure that we will go to the World Championship,” Finnish captain Eemi Tervaportti said. “The home team was really great, and they have something I have never seen before.”
The Czechs boasted an 8-7 lead in the opening set, but Finland grabbed the lead at 16-15 and held on for the 25-23 win. The Finnish dominated Set 2, 25-14, utilizing six blocks and five aces in the win. The Czech Republic overcame an early 8-5 deficit to go up 21-18 and extend the match with the 25-23 Set 3 win. Finland closed the door with a sharp 25-14 Set 4 win, riddled with 12 Czech miscues.
Finland outblocked the Czechs 12-6 and served up nine aces in the match.
“Well, we played an amazing tournament,” Finnish coach Tuomas Samelvuo said “The idea was to grow with each match, moment by moment and today we needed to leave everything we had on the court. We have really amazing players and they really enjoyed playing together. I think that it’s amazing to see how they played. Also, I have to thank the fans, they were really great. I’m very happy for them! We played a solid tournament… I can’t find any more words now.”
Tommi Siirila led the scoring with 18 points for Finland, including seven blocks and four aces. Sauli Sinkkonen added 14 points, including four blocks and three aces.
Michal Finger paced the Czech Republic with 11 points, including a match-high eight kills.
Spain 3, Northern Ireland 0
Spain hit at a 67 percent clip for the match and served up 10 aces in a 25-15, 25-20, 25-12 drubbing of Northern Ireland to clinch its spot in the third round.
The Spaniards never trailed in the match, leading by as many as 10 in Set 1, four in Set 2 and 13 in the final stanza. Twenty-three Northern Ireland errors helped the Spanish cause in the win, including 12 in Set 2.
Daniel Rocamora Blazquez posted a match-high 12 points, with 11 kills and an ace. Alejandro Vigil added 10 points, with seven kills, two blocks and an ace.
Spain then had to wait for the result of the Finland/Czech Republic match to see if they would finish second or third in the group.
“I think we played a good tournament,” Spanish team captain Jorge Fernandez Valcarcel said. “We lost only one game. Now we have to wait for the other match. I hope Finland will win. I think that we controlled the game from the beginning to the end. We played the way we wanted, so I’m happy with the result.”
Peter Stewart tallied eight points with seven kills and a block to lead Northern Ireland.
Sweden 3, Cyprus 2
Cyprus had a chance to grab its second win of qualifying, but could not finish off the sweep, leaving the door open for a game Swedish squad, which responded to take the final three sets 27-25, 25-21, 15-13 for the win.
“The end of the match is a little bit bitter for us because if you check the points scored, we have the very same number of points,” Cyprus coach Evangelos Koutouleas said. “But that’s volleyball, it’s a great sport. We had a chance to win 3-0, but we didn’t close the third set and that’s it. We have many positives to take from this tournament. There was always a great atmosphere and it was very supportive. We did not play that many games before the tournament so for us it was a big and good preparation for the Games of the Small States of Europe, which we will contest from tomorrow.”
Cyprus led Set 1 throughout and rallied from down four to steal away Set 2 27-25. Cyprus led 21-18 late in the third set after overcoming a six-point deficit early on, but could not close out the match, allowing Sweden to score nine of the final 13 points and grab the 27-25 win. Sweden carried the momentum into a pair of nearly wire to wire wins in the final two sets.
Both teams registered strong blocking performances with Sweden edging Cyprus 19-16 in the category. Sweden registered 8 aces, while allowing just five. The teams each scored 111 points in the match.
Erik Sundberg posted a match-high 24 points, including 18 kills, three blocks and three aces, to lead Sweden. Fredrik Gustavsson (14) and Viktor Lindberg (12) followed.
Vladimir Knezevic put up 17 points for Cyprus, while Christos Papadopoulos added 14.