Poland recovered from a set down against Slovenia to become the second team who secured a ticket in the Volleyball Tournament of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics via FIVB International Qualifier.
The hosts Poland needed to take only one set in the last round match of Pool D in Gdańsk against Slovenia to mathematically secure a top spot and a place in the Olympics Games.
For Slovenia were “a bit” hard: they had to record a straight-set victory and a point difference of 17 or more overall to advance to Tokyo. Even the outcome of the first match in the pool suited them, as Tunisia ripped off one set from France.
At first, Slovenia silenced 10,000 spectators at the Ergo Arena by winning the opening set against the hosts, reducing the necessary gap to 13 points. However, Poland reacted quickly and tied in sets at 1-1, and despite the final result, the ticket was already in their pocket!
In the third set, Poland head coach Vital Heynen changed all players on the court except libero Zatorski and middle blocker Bieniek. The bench players did their best to take the victory. Mateusz Bieniek was the top scorer of Poland with 12 points including 3 aces, while Karol Kłos added 4 kill blocks. Klemen Čebulj scored 20 points for Slovenia, while Alen Pajenk added 4 winning blocks.
Alberto Giuliani (Slovenia head coach): “It was really a good game, I’m happy about the first two sets. We knew that our goal here was very difficult to reach, so it was not easy to open the match. We were really close at the beginning of the game. My guys were very motivated on the court and I’m proud of them. I think I saw very good volleyball. In the second set we made too many mistakes on serve, but I’m satisfied with performance of my team.”
Tine Urnaut (Slovenia captain): “We played well in the first and second set. We had a great chance, but we made too many mistakes, especially in serve. It’s a positive tournament considering the fact that we proved we can play high-level volleyball. Other teams had more hard games, they consistently play more high-level matches, we don’t have experience with too many games like this.”
Vital Heynen (Poland coach): “Slovenia’s chances were really low, so they could play without pressure. They started with advantage of 2-3 points in the first set and for the whole part we were few points behind. In the second part we played better as we started equal, but it was a lot of fight during this set. This is volleyball, pressure plays a role. And we were on pressure as we wanted to qualify here. I feel very satisfied that we secured qualification to Tokyo 2020 using the first round.”
Maciej Muzaj (Poland captain): “We knew that we cannot disregard Slovenia, because they can be a tough opponent. We didn’t manage to win the first set, also the second was difficult but at the end of this part we managed to get the crucial points. We were focused and stayed in fighting spirit to win this game. They served well and we struggled with reception, also our block didn’t work perfectly. The tournament is over, we don’t have to analyse it now, because we reached our goal in 100% – we qualified for the Olympic Games.”
On the other match in Pool D, France took a victory over Tunisia 3-1 (25:21, 20:25, 25:19, 25:22). Thus, the African champions ended the tournament winning only one set.
Antonio Giaccobe (Tunisia head coach): “I’m happy about our game today. We won one set and we were in the game during entire match. We eliminated some mistakes. I gave all my players a chance to enter the court. I think that our team is still ‘in progress’, but I can see that we have improved our game.”
Laurent Tillie (France head coach): “It’s always difficult to play this kind of games. We lost our dream by suffering a defeat yesterday. It’s tough to play the last game when you don’t have anything to fight for. We did our work, it was important for us as a team to win. It’s a lesson. We have to find some elements to work on and to improve, because we have to be a perfect team if we want to win.”
Benjamin Toniutti (France captain): “It was difficult to find motivation, but we had to win this match and we did it. It’s good to finish the weekend with a victory. We are going back to France, take some rest and then prepare to the European Championship.”
FIVB Volleyball International Qualifier, Day 3:
POOL A (Varna, Bulgaria):
Egypt – Puerto Rico 3-0 (25:17, 31:29, 25:17)
Bulgaria – Brazil 2-3 (25:23, 25:19, 30:32, 16:25, 11:15)
POOL B (Rotterdam, the Netherlands):
Netherlands – USA 1-3 (18:25, 20:25, 25:17, 21:25)
South Korea – Belgium 0-3 (25:27, 21:25, 24:26)
POOL C (Bari, Italy):
Cameroon – Australia 0-3 (17:25, 16:25, 18:25)
Serbia – Italy 0-3 (16:25, 19:25, 19:25)
POOL D (Gdańsk, Poland):
France – Tunisia 3-1 (25:21, 20:25, 25:19, 25:22)
Poland – Slovenia 3-1 (21:25, 25:23, 25:23, 25:21)
POOL E (Saint Petersburg, Russia):
Cuba – Mexico 3-0 (25:18, 25:23, 25:22)
Russia – Iran 3-0 (25:19, 25:23, 25:23)
POOL F (Ningbo, China):
Canada – Finland 3-0 (25:16, 26:24, 25:20)
China – Argentina 2-3 (25-19, 22-25, 21:25, 25:18, 9:15)
Source and photos: volleyball.ioqt.2019.fivb.com