2018 FIVB World Championship – Men’s European Qualifier
- May 23 to June 4
Pool E play of the European Qualification for the 2018 FIVB Men’s World Championships got under way Wednesday in Zagreb, Croatia. Switzerland scored the biggest upset of the day, while third ranked Serbia and No. 20 Croatia also posted victories. The 33rd-ranked Swiss upset No. 22 Denmark in four sets, while Serbia recorded a sweep of Belarus and Croatia held on for a four-set win over Norway.
Switzerland 3, Denmark 1
After a back and forth affair early in Set 1, Switzerland gained a three-point edge at 16-13. Denmark battled back to tie it up at 23, but the Swiss held on for the 25-23 win. Denmark led from wire to wire in a 25-19 Set 2 win, leading by as many as six. The Swiss rebounded with a 25-20 Set 3 win, boasting a 16-7 advantage midway through. Denmark held the early edge as the teams traded point the first half of Set 4, but Switzerland came on strong in the end for the 25-18 win.
“I am really excited because this is my first match at helm of the Swiss national team,” Swiss coach Mario Motta said. “Both teams made many mistakes but when we were able to reduce ours, we could break away. Keeping calm and concentrated were the key to our success today.”
The teams were even in blocks (8) and aces (4), but Switzerland managed 10 more kills and hit at a 50 percent efficiency in the match for the win.
“I am not happy with the performance of my team,” Denmark coach Mikael Trolle said. “We did not serve as we wanted and should, and that gave our opponent an opportunity to turn the game in their favour.”
Sebastien Steigmeier put up a match-best 21 points, including 17 kills, two blocks and two aces. Luca Ulrich (15), Jovan Djokic (11) and Marc Walzer (10) also registered double-digit point performances. Ulrich managed a match-high four blocks and added 10 kills alongside Djokic.
Peter Trolle Bonnesen led Denmark with 14 points, including 12 kills and two blocks. Axel Jacobsen followed with nine points, including four aces.
Serbia 3, Belarus 0
Serbia made good on 71 percent of its offensive chances, downing 44 kills, and got help from 22 opponent miscues in a sweep of Belarus to kick off pool play Wednesday. Serbia won the match 25-17, 25-22, 25-15 in front of its home crowd.
The teams split the first 10 points of the match, before Serbia surged ahead taking an eight-point lead at 16-8 en route to the 25-17 win. Belarus led by as many as three (8-5) in the early going of Set 2, but Serbia boasted a 16-13 edge at the midway point and boosted its lead to as many as five in the 25-22 win. Serbia led Set 3 from start to finish, turning an 8-6 lead into a 16-9 advantage en route to the 10 point victory at 25-15 and the match.
Drazen Luburic paced the Serbian attack with 14 points, including 10 kills, two blocks and two aces. Uros Kovacevic chipped in 13 points, including a match-high 12 kills.
“I think it was not easy because we played against a top team,” Serbia’s Vadzim Pranko said. “In the second set, we played well. I think my team did not give their 100 percent, and we should do that in a match against such a strong opponent.”
Pavel Kuklinski and Artur Udrys each managed eight points to lead the Belarus effort.
“We played with maximum concentration and this is something you could see,” Serbian coach Nikola Grbić said. “We did not relax at any time and I am very happy about it. If we play the next matches with the same concentration and at our level, I am convinced that no opponent can disrupt our plan to qualify straight to the World Championship.”
Croatia 3, Norway 1
The host team held serve with a 25-23, 22-25, 25-19, 25-15 win over Norway. Croatia used 13 blocks and six aces to throw off the Norwegian game, while pounding down 51 percent of its offensive attempts.
Norway led at the first two breaks of Set 1, but the teams were knotted at 20 late, before Croatia managed back to back points to create a little breathing room and held on for the 25-23 win. Set 2 saw Norway turn the tables snapping a 20-all tie with three of the next four points en route to a 25-22 victory. Croatia returned to form in a 25-19 Set 3 win and sealed the match, using a late rally to cruise to the 25-15 win. Norway committed 12 errors in the final set, while Croatia hit at a 67 percent clip.
“We were visibly nervous in the first official game we had after a long break, and this is something you could obviously see, especially in the second set,” Croatian coach Ivan Rančić said. “When we got together, and we served well too, we achieved the goals we had set before the start of the game.”
Ivan Raic dominated the stats sheet with a match-high 27 points, including 20 kills, four blocks and three aces. Ivan Mihalj followed with 10 points, including four stuffs.
“We have been preparing our team for the game with Croatia through a series of friendly matches,” Norwegian coach Scott Olsen said. “We are not happy with what we did at blocking and attacking. We have to make a better transition and be prepared for tomorrow.”
Vetle Hylland managed a team-best 16 points, including 15 kills, while Lars Fredrik Tvinde and Mathias Loftesnes added 11 points each.
Pool E in CRO