2018 FIVB WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP – MEN’S EUROPEAN QUALIFIER
- May 23 to June 4
Pool C Final Standings
It was an historic day in Ljubljana, Slovenia as the host team claimed its first ever World Championships bid with a 3-1 win over Belgium to grab the top spot in Pool C.
The loss bumps Belgium to second place in the pool and gives the team a spot in the European Qualifying third round, where it will vie against five other teams for the one remaining ticket to Worlds.
In other Pool C action, Israel topped Georgia 3-0 and Portugal edged Latvia 3-1.
France, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Russia, Serbia and Finland earned the automatic berths to the 2018 FIVB World Championships by winning their respective pools at the European Qualifiers.
Slovenia 3, Belgium 1
The crowd of 2,000 got what it hoped for as Slovenia came through with a 28-30, 26-24, 27-25, 25-20 win at Arena Stozice.
The teams were separated by just one point at 16-15 midway through the first three sets and continued on into extra points. After trailing for the majority of Set 1, Belgium stole away a 30-28 win. Slovenia returned the favor, taking the lead late in Set 2 and hanging on for the 26-24 win. Set 3 remained close throughout, but Slovenia took the stanza on its third set point chance. The home side led by as many as eight in the fourth set en route to the 25-20 win and the World Championships berth.
“I told my players that they had to play this match with their hearts and head but at the beginning they played only with their hearts,” Slovenian coach Slobodan Kovac said. “Consequentially, we made too many mistakes, especially with our serve. Fortunately, my players changed the rhythm of their game and got this win. The feeling is fantastic.”
Eight aces aided the Slovenian effort, which also featured eight blocks and a 52 percent efficiency. Mitja Gasparini led all players with 24 points, including 19 kills, three blocks and two aces. Tine Urnaut and Klemen Cebulj each chipped in 18 points. Cebulj managed 17 kills, while Tine added four aces.
For Belgium, Gert Van Walle led the scoring with 15 points, including 13 kills and two blocks. Sam Deroo added 14 points, all on kills, and Tomas Rousseaux managed 14 points with 13 kills and a block.
Israel 3, Georgia 0
Israel had each of the three sets in hand by the midway point, leading 16-8, 16-12 and 16-10 en route to a 25-13, 25-22, 25-19 victory over Georgia to wrap up European qualifiers.
The Israeli side hit 52 percent as a team and got help from 30 Georgian miscues in the match. Georgia won the blocking battle 6-5.
“We have an extremely young team and the experience from this tournament is really beneficial for us,” Israel’s Dmitri Zemlianukhin said. “We came here to do everything we can, we fought hard and this is what is the most important.”
Zemlianukhin tallied a match-high 10 points with nine kills and an ace. Viacheslav Batchkala added eight points, with six kills and two blocks.
Mikheil Jajvani paced Georgia with nine points, including a team-leading four blocks.
Portugal 3, Latvia 1
Hitting efficiency and a strong service game helped Portugal to 26-24, 23-25, 26-24, 25-17 win over Latvia. The Portuguese side hit 49 percent for the match and served up seven aces in the victory.
Latvia led throughout the first set, boasting a 21-18 advantage toward the end, only to fall 26-24. Four blocks aided the Portuguese in the win. Latvia held a 16-13 edge midway through Set 2, and despite Portugal tying it up at 23, managed to hang on for the 25-23 victory to even the match. Portugal answered with a 26-24 win in Set 3, which it led throughout. The Portuguese served up three aces and added three blocks in a 25-17 Set 4 win to close out the night.
“The tournament was organized in a great way, congratulations to the Volleyball Federation of Slovenia,” Portugal head coach Hugo Silva said. “And of course, congratulations to Slovenia for their win and for their first FIVB World Championship appearance! We started the tournament by playing really bad, but now I am satisfied with the way we finished our duties here.”
Portugal’s Alexandre Ferreira put up 20 points with 15 kills, two blocks and three aces, to lead all scorers. Marco Evan Ferreira added 17 points and Gil Marcel Keller chipped in 10, including four blocks.
Edvarts Buivids (13), Rusians Sorokins (12) and Romans Sauss (11) led the Latvian attack with double-digit scoring efforts.