2018 FIVB World Championship – Men’s European Qualifier
- May 23 to June 4
It took five sets for No. 19 Spain to defeat No. 27 Sweden, but in doing so all three favorites in Pool F were victorious on Day 1 in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic. Finland swept Cyprus and the host Czech’s downed Northern Ireland in three to round out action.
Finland 3, Cyprus 0
The Finnish side trailed just once in the match, falling behind by one early in Set 3 en route to the 25-14, 25-13, 25-21 sweep of Cyprus. Twelve blocks and 11 aces helped lift Finland to the victory.
Finland build large leads in each of the first two sets, going up 16-7 and 16-9 respectively and holding on for victories. Cyprus challenged in Set 3, remaining close throughout, trailing 16-14 midway and 21-18 late, but couldn’t prevent the Finnish sweep.
Antti Siltala and Olii-Pekka Ojansivu managed 10 points apiece to lead Finland. Ojansivu served up four aces and added five kills, while Siltala put up a team-best six kills.
“It was important to win like this, not giving so much energy away because it’s a long tournament,” head coach Tuomas Sammelvuo said. “The big goal was to pay attention to easy things – free balls, speak on the court and so on. I am happy that in the third set we had to find solutions because the opponent came pretty close.”
Gabriel Georgiou led Cyprus with seven points, all on kills.
Czech Republic 3, Northern Ireland 0
The Czechs never trailed in a 25-16, 25-7, 25-6 drubbing of Northern Ireland. The home side was nearly unstoppable, hitting at a 68 percent efficiency and served up 12 aces in the win.
The Czech Republic built an early 8-4 lead in Set 1 and never looked back in the opening set, which featured four aces and 10 Northern Ireland miscues. The Czechs scored eight of the first 10 points of Set 2, setting the tone for the 25-7 win, while an 8-1 start in Set 3 put the stanza and match out of reach.
“It was a hard match because the level of the game was a little bit lower than usual, with all due respect to the opponent,” Czech captain Ales Holubec said. “I hope that from tomorrow, we will be able to start up from the first set and we will focus on the next games.”
Petr Sulista and Michal Finger accounted for 11 points each to lead the victory. Sulista had a match-high nine kills, while hitting at a 90 percent efficiency. Adam Zajicek added eight points, including all five of the team’s blocks. Finger served up four aces.
Graeme Currie managed four points to top Northern Ireland’s scoring.
Spain 3, Sweden 2
Spain kept pace with the group leaders, edging out Sweden in a 25-19, 22-25, 21-25, 25-16, 15-12 win on Wednesday. The match was fairly even with Spain winning the battle at the net with 12 blocks and a 52 percent hitting efficiency, while Sweden served up nine aces and hit at a 46 percent clip.
Errors piled up for the Swedes however to the tune of 35 to just 23 for Spain.
“In general we are happy to win this game because it is very important to start this tournament with a victory and to keep us calm,” Spain coach Fernando Munoz Benitez said. “We had ups and downs during the game because I think that we lost focus at some point, but we regrouped and eventually won the match.”
Spain led Set 1 from start to finish, going up 8-6 early and holding on for the 25-19 win with help from four blocks. Sweden overcame an 8-5 deficit in Set 2 steal away the 25-22 win with 16 kills and a trio of aces. Four blocks aided the Swedish charge in a 25-21 Set 3 win. Spain took advantage of 10 Sweden errors in a 25-16 Set 4 victory to even the match. The Spaniards led 16-11 at the midway point of the fourth set. Sweden went ahead 5-4 early in the final set, but eight errors helped push Spain ahead 12-10 and on to the 15-12 victory.
Andres Villena put up 22 points for Spain, with 17 kills, three blocks and two aces. Sergio Noda Blanco added 14 points, while Juan Manuel Gonzalez chipped in 10, including seven kills and three blocks.
Fredrik Gustavsson led all hitters with 27 points, including 26 kills. David Pettersson (13) and Erik Sundberg (11) rounded out the Swedish attack. Pettersson and Sundberg served up three aces apiece.
Pool F in CZE