2018 FIVB World Championship – Men’s European Qualifier
- May 23 to June 4
A pair of sweeps put Belgium and the home team Slovenia in the driver’s seat at 2-0 after two days of competition in Pool C in Ljubljana on Thursday. Portugal also outlasted Israel in four sets to round out the day’s action.
Belgium 3, Georgia 0
Belgium never trailed in a 25-18, 25-11, 25-10 sweep of Georgia that took just 58 minutes.
“Georgia fought hard, and they tried to be a decent opponent, but the difference in quality is too big,” Belgium coach Vital Heynen said. “I am always happy after games like this one. We won, all players are healthy and we can focus on what is next.”
A steady offensive attack, including a 63 percent hitting percentage, carried the Belgian side in the win. Four blocks and five aces also aided the effort. The three-headed hydra of Bram Van Den Dries, Ruben Van Hirtum and Arno Van De Velde carried Belgium to the win. Van Den Dries and Van Hirtum added 12 kills a piece, while Van de Velde managed eight kills on an 80 percent hitting effort to go with a team-best three aces.
Badri Nutsubidze led Georgia with nine points, including eight kills and a block.
Slovenia 3, Latvia 0
After cruising to a pair of 25-14 wins in Sets 1 and 2, Slovenia broke through late in Set 3 to grab the 25-19 win. Latvia led 8-7 after the teams traded points to start the final set, but after taking a 16-14 lead, Slovenia closed out the win.
“In the first two sets we stuck to the tactics we had agreed upon, but later on our opponents raised the level of their game and kept the rhythm high,” Slovenia middle blocker Alen Pajenk said. “However, already in the middle of the third set, we took matters in our hands again and eventually claimed the victory.”
Slovenia hit at a 63 percent clip in the match, while holding their foes to a 35 percent effort. Slovenia also racked up 10 blocks and six aces in the win.
Tine Urnaut and Mitja Gasparini posted double-digit point tallies to pace Slovenia. Urnaut managed 17 points, including 12 kills, three blocks and two aces. Gasparini tallied 15 points, including a match-high 13 kills.
Reinis Pekmans led Latvia with nine points.
Portugal 3, Israel 1
It was an up and down affair but Portugal came through in the end for a 3-1 win over Israel on Thursday.
Israel led 8-6 in Set 1, but couldn’t hold off Portugal, falling 25-19 after committing 11 miscues. Portugal faltered midway through Set 2, but pulled out the 25-21 win. In Set 3, Portugal went up 16-10 and led by as many as 10, but Israel stole away the 26-24 victory to extend the match. Portugal bounced back with five aces in the final set to cruise to a 25-12 win to sew up the match.
“It was quite a strange game,” Portugal’s Valdir Sequeira said. “We won two sets quite easily, but we relaxed too much in the third. We had a 10-point advantage, but we still lost and that is what we can’t afford in future. We have to keep going, to keep fighting. We can give and deliver much more than this.”
Portugal made good on 55 percent of its hitting attempts and used six blocks and 11 aces to keep Israel off balance.
Sequeira racked up 25 points, including 22 kills and three aces to top all scorers in the match. Lourenco Martins added 17 points, with 14 kills and two aces to aid the Portuguese effort.
Dmitri Zemlianukhin led Israel with 12 kills.
Pool C in SLO (Through 5/25/17)