Serbia Sweeps Its Way to First 2018 Worlds Invite in Pool E

2018 FIVB WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP – MEN’S EUROPEAN QUALIFIER

  • May 23 to June 4
  • Results

Standings After Saturday’s Action:

Pool E in CRO
Matches W L Pts.
4 0 12
3 1 8
2 2 7
2 2 5
1 3 4
0 4 0

With still one day left to play in the pool, the Serbian men became the only team to clinch its spot at the 2018 World Championships with one day of action to go thanks to a 3-0 sweep of the Norwegians. That makes Serbia the 4th team to qualify overall, joining Poland (defending champions), Italy (co-hosts), and Bulgaria (co-hosts) in the 24-team field.

That gives Serbia four-straight 3-0 sweeps, 12 points, and a clinch of Pool E.

Not all is decided, however, with still one day to go of competition. Still up for grabs is a spot in the 3rd and final round of European Qualification, where the runners-up from the 6 pools will play for one final European spot to the World Championships.

Three teams are still in contention there. Belarus, with 8 points and 3 wins so far, will qualify with a win of any score in their match with Denmark.

If they stumble, however, then things get interesting.

Scenarios:

  • Denmark beats Belarus 3-0: Denmark moves ahead of Belarus on set %, the second tie breaker. Then Switzerland just has to win and they’re on to the 3rd round.
  • Denmark beats Belarus 3-1: Denmark and Belarus are tied in set ratio, at 10 wins and 10 losses each. Then it will come down to points ratio, where Belarus currently has a decided percentage. Belarus’ win would have to be a dominant one to have a chance. In either case, Switzerland still needs to win (by any score) to finish 2nd in the pool and advance.
  • Denmark beats Belarus 3-2: Denmark still earns 1 point, and Belarus 2, which means that Denmark still has 9 points and a lead over Denmark’s 7 points. Then, just a win by Switzerland isn’t enough. If Switzerland beats Norway 3-0 or 3-1,  Switzerland is in. Thatseems likely given that Norway has won only 3 sets through 4 matches so far. If Switzerland beats Norway 3-2, then they tie Belarus on wins, points, and sets ratio, which again kicks to the points ratio tie-breaker. Switzerland would probably catch Belarus in that category, but it would be very, very close.

Day 4 Results

Serbia 3, Norway 0

The Serbians sealed up their 10th appearance in the World Championship final with a 3-0 sweep of Norway (25-12, 25-214, 25-12). The dominant victory, 75-38, wrapped in a quick 60 minutes.

Serbia’s Nemanja Petric lead all players with 15 points in the match – 13 kills and 2 blocks.

“I think we have developed the character of a team that imposes its own rhythm, and it is good that we do not depend on what other teams do when playing tournaments like this,” Serbian player Drazen Luburic said after the match. “We depend on ourselves in such games. At these qualifications we have got one of the easiest groups, at least on paper.”

Norway opened with a burst of strong play, in spite of never believing they had a chance. They were within two points of Serbia at 8-6, but 8 straight points on the serve of Marko Ivovic broke their early success and finished the match, psychologically, early.

“We started the game wanting to learn something because we knew we could not beat them,” Norwegian captain Kare Helvik Morken said. “The head coach gave all players the chance to play in order to gain experience from such strong and competitive opponents. We wanted to play better but the team of Serbia was just too strong for us.”

Belarus 3, Switzerland 2

Belarus took advantage of an opportunity to gain a big edge in the battle for 2nd in Pool E with a hard-fought 3-2 win over Switzerland. Switzerland fought back after an 0-2 hole to force a 5th tie-breaking set, but ultimately couldn’t get around Belarus’ block (25-19, 25-21, 22-25, 21-25, 15-10).

Belarus’ pair of Siarhei Busel and Artur Udrys had 13 points each – with 6 and 4, respectively, coming off blocks. In total, Belarus out-blocked Switzerland 15-9. That, along with 19 Swiss hitting errors, helped offset Switzerland hitting slightly better (45%-42%).

Serbia’s blocking was never more apparent than in the 5th and final tie-breaking set, where in spite of only playing to 15 points, they had 5 blocks (as compared to 6 kills and just 4 Swiss errors).

Belarus’ 43 block points so far in the tournament rank tied for 2nd behind only Finland’s 45.

Denmark 3, Croatia 2

3 of the 5 sets went to extra points as Denmark knocked off the hosts Croatia 3-2 (25-27, 25-22, 29-27, 25-27, 15-9) to keep their door slightly ajar for a chance at the 3rd round of qualifying. Croatia, with the loss, will likely finish 4th in the group.

Denmark’s Rasmus Breuning Nielsen put up 27 points, including 23 kills and 4 aces, in a monster effort. He was backed by Peter Bonnesen, who had 19 and is the 5th-leading scorer in the tournament so far.

After scoring just 8 points in the opener, Nielsen’s point total has risen to 15, 14, and 27 in the 3 subsequent games. That includes jumping from 35% hitting in the opener to 59, 70, and 64%, respectively, over the last 3.

The Danes let a point slip away, though, with an error-prone 4th set that left them with only 2 points to be gained in the final.

“My team was very confident and we expected a good result,” Danish captain Axel Jacobsen said. “We wanted to win 3-1, but in the fourth set we did too many unforced mistakes. This is the fourth day of the tournament and tiredness is felt. In the fifth set, we played great and strong, and that secured our victory in the end.”

In the 4th set, Denmark executed on only 40% of their swings offensively, and had only 41% positive service reception.

Day 5 schedule:

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