In a duel of the two underdogs in POOL A, Ukraine achieved a great win over Greece in Kraków, Poland.
The team commanded by Uģis Krastiņš trailed 1-2 in sets but managed to prevail over the rival that will, given the composition of the pool, be its direct competitor for the fourth place that leads to playoffs: 3-2 (22:25, 26:24, 22:25, 25:19, 15:6).
Oleh Plotnytskyi led Ukraine to the win with 24 points including four aces, closely followed by his team mate Dmytro Viietskyi, who scored 21 points. Athanasios Protopsaltis stood out in Greece with 23 points, while Georgios Petreas made five blocks.
Oleh Plotnytskyi, captain of Ukraine: “The first game is always nervous and really difficult for us. Greece played good and we started slowly, sometimes not believing in ourselves, but later we found our game and we improved our defence, block, attack, serve – all elements. It was a good game for us ahead of tomorrow, when we will face Serbia. Tomorrow we have to start play immediately our volleyball.”
Athanasios Protopsaltis, outside hitter of Greece: ” We expected a good fight. We are a young and new team, so for us it’s very important to play games like this. We fought well against a very strong opponent, but unfortunately in the fifth set we didn’t have luck, it was a bad moment for our team. We had three young players from the U22 team on the court and they played very well, so it’s very promising for our team. Obviously, winning these two sets was also very important for us.”
The Pool hosts Poland also had a good start of the European Championship by winning the first set in a very convincing way 25-16. However, in the second one, the rivals from Portugal managed somehow to surprise the Polish team and to tie the game 25-22.
However, as Poland saw a very good game of their opponents, they decided to take the game much more seriously in the next two sets to take the a deservedly four-sets-win (25:15, 22:25, 25:16, 25:19).
Bartosz Kurek was the top scorer of the match with 18 points, while Wilfredo Leon and Jakub Kochanowski also contributed with 14 points each, and Kubiak ended the game with 12 points. For Portugal, the experienced Alexandre Ferreira scored 15 points.
Piotr Nowakowski, Middle blocker of Poland: “Today’s match was not the easiest one, Portugal played hard especially in the second set pushing us a lot with their service. In the other parts we were playing our game. The atmosphere at the venue is so great that we just decided to play a bit longer. We are well prepared ahead of the match against Serbia, and the fans are our extra player.”
Hugo Gaspar, Outside hitter of Portugal: “I’m happy to celebrate my birthday in one of the greatest volleyball halls in Poland. I’m very satisfied to be here. Twenty years ago I played against Poland at the World Cup in Argentina and now I am still playing and facing Poland again. So I am really happy to compete at EuroVolley and congratulations to Poland.”
The defending champions Serbia have opened their competition with a 3-1 win over Belgium 3-1 (25:13, 25:18, 21:25, 25:20).
Serbia had everything under control after easily taking the first two sets, but in the third there was a reaction by the rivals. However, in the fourth set Kovac’s team raised the level of play and defeated Belgium in four.
Uros Kovacevic (7 points only in set 2 and 86% of success in attack!) has opened the EuroVolley with an amazing performance, scoring 27 points, Marko Ivovic also contributed with 13 points and Aleksandar Atanasijevic with 11. On the other side, Sam Deroo was the most prolific player with 15 points.
Aleksandar Atanasijevic, opposite of Serbia: “It was a very important game for us, because we know that these first games against Belgium and Ukraine might be crucial for the pool standings. It was our first goal to win these two matches and then the game against Poland will determine who will get the first place in the pool. Tonight after two good sets we had some down, but the most important is that we rose up as a team and we showed our quality and we gained three important points.”
Hendrik Tuerlinckx, opposite of Belgium: “I think the difference today was serve and reception. They served a way better than us. You could see in the first set that we had a problem to control this, they won this set easily. After this first set we got a little bit more control, we put a little bit more pressure, but it was still not enough for Serbia.”
In second day of POOL C at Tampere’s Hakametsä Arena (Finland), Turkey took advantage of the fact that Russia came to the 2021 CEV Volleyball European Championship with a weakened squad and achieved a convincing victory in its first match at the tournament.
Already after its first match in the competition, it is clear that Russia will have serious problems to reach one of the top spots. Without several big names including Mikhaylov, Muserskiy, Poletaev, and Zhigalov, who remained home due to injuries, they was outplayed by Turkey in four sets: 27:29, 25:16, 21:25, 19:25).
The young Ramazan Efe Mandıracı (who set the pace for Turkey in the first set with a personal tally of eight points!) and Adis Lagumdžija were the most prominent players on the court with 19 points each for the team coached by Nedim Özbey, while Mert Matić set up four blocks.
The outside hitter Egor Kliuka, who was designated as opposite due to the fact that Russia came to EuroVolley with just one player to whom this position is “regular”, Kirill Klets, top-scored the losing side with 20 points, while Artem Volvich had five blocks.
Murat Yenipazar, Setter of Turkey: “This may look like a sensational victory because Russia is a great team and they played the final of the Olympics only a few weeks ago. However, I can stress that this is just a start and the first match of a long tournament. I did believe in my team when coming here and I still believe that despite today’s good performance and victory, we can still improve our game as the competition progresses. I could sense a lot of excitement among my teammates – and this victory is another boost.”
The team from Netherlands have also scored a victory in Pool C, and they claim a 3-0 (25:23, 26:24, 25:22) against Spain. However it was a very balanced and tight match for both sides.
Nimir Abdel Aziz, who also closed the match with an ace, was the best scorer for the winners with 19 points, while Jesus Andres Villena scored 16 points on the other side of the net.
Robbert Andringa, Outside hitter of the Netherlands: “It was a very close match indeed but I think that we made the difference by claiming a small advantage in each set, mainly courtesy of our service game. Turkey beat Russia earlier today and this may be a surprise for sure – but this is the European Championship and anything can happen here. Our first and main goal is to make it out of this pool in the best possible way and after that, we hope to make it as far as we possibly can in this tournament.”
| CEV EuroVolley 2021 | Day 2 | September 2, 2021
| POOL A 📍 Kraków (POL)
Greece – Ukraine 2-3 (25:22, 24:26, 25:22, 19:25, 6:15)
Poland – Portugal 3-1 (25:16, 22:25, 25:16, 25:19)
Belgium – Serbia 1-3 (13:25, 18:25, 25:21, 20:25)
| POOL C 📍 Tampere (FIN)
Russia – Turkey 1-3 (27:29, 25:16, 21:25, 19:25)
The Netherlands – Spain 3-0 (25:23, 26:24, 25:22)
| September 1, 2021
| POOL C 📍 Tampere (FIN)
Finland – North Macedonia 3-1 (25:20, 25:15, 24:26, 25:22)
| POOL D 📍 Tallin (EST)
Estonia – Latvia 1-3 (23:25, 22:25, 25:16, 21:25)
| September 3, 2021
Source and photos: CEV