Poland edge Belgium to secure semi-final spot in Berlin

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Photo CEV

On Thursday Poland opened the programme of the third competition day at the mens European Olympic Qualifier in Berlin cruising to a 3-0 win (25-20, 30-28, 25-19) over Belgium to secure their promotion to the semi-finals on Saturday. Poland will play hosts Germany on Friday with first place in Pool A being at stake but both these teams are already sure to continue their quest for a ticket to Rio in the final stages of the competition. Belgium will complete their duties on Friday with a third pool match against Serbia but their Olympic dreams were shattered following Thursdays lost to world champions Poland.

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Poland vs. Belgium 3-0 (25-20, 30-28, 25-19)

In a tournament as competitive as the mens European Olympic Qualifier, teams cannot fail twice in a row and therefore the Red Dragons of Belgium were aware they had to fight back from their straight-sets loss to Germany on day one. World champions Poland were standing on the other side of the net and therefore Belgiums mission was not an easy one to accomplish. Poland and Belgium had played each other three months ago at the EuroVolley in Bulgaria and though the White-and-Reds had won 3-1, the Belgians could certainly remember that on that day they had posed a real threat to their star-studded opponents. After a close start up to 9-all, Poland imposed their rhythm and claimed a four-point lead at the second technical time-out (16-12). Belgium tried to respond with a couple of substitutions but these could not change the course of the set which Poland eventually cashed at 25-20 on a spike by their middle blocker Karol Klos.

Poland were off to a flying start in the second period (3-0) and this prompted an early time-out by Belgium head coach Dominique Baeyens. Volleyball superstars Michal Kubiak and Bartosz Kurek continued to leave their mark on the match and as a result the Polish lead was extended to five points at 11-7. The Red Dragons nevertheless kept on fighting and they closed in at 14-13 to almost level the count, which is something they eventually did at 16-all. The lead swung back and forth a few times before Belgium edged ahead for the first time in the set at 19-18. The Red Dragons did not capitalise on two set points at 24-22, a block on Sam Deroo turned the tide and Poland got their first opportunity to go 2-0 up, but a service error restored the balance at 25-all. Belgium had another chance to make it 1-1 following an ace by Pieter Verhees, but like in their match with Germany where they lost two close sets, their efforts were not rewarded and Poland emerged victorious at 30-28.


Photo CEV

Though this was quite a setback, Belgium did not collapse and put on a good fight before Poland changed gear heading towards the second technical time-out leading by four points at 15-11. Their advantage was reduced down to two at 16-14 but the world champions regrouped to break away again at 20-16, this way setting their sight on the finish line. The final section of this set was an easy run for Poland as the Red Dragons made more and more mistakes, this way opening the way for a three-set win the last period ending at 25-19 by the White-and-Reds.

We expected a lot more from this tournament and we are disappointed, said Belgium setter Matthias Valkiers. It is kind of always the same story: we had our chances but we did not use them and if you are not able to do that, at this level you get punished. We probably did not have as many chances as we had in our previous match with Germany where we were close to winning two sets. In general, I can say that we want to change everyones perception of our team as people think Belgium are good but not yet competitive at the highest level. We want to prove that we can beat also the top teams and this is what we were hoping to achieve here. Tomorrow we play Serbia and we both stand no chance of reaching the semis, but we will be try and play our best as this kind of matches are always a good experience for us.

We are happy with being in the semis because we took our opening match with Serbia very seriously and also todays clash with Belgium, said Poland middle blocker Marcin Mozdzonek. It is always difficult against these outsiders who can play without pressure. We now will be playing hosts Germany and see who can use the home advantage as we also have a large number of fans here. I expect a tough game as both teams want to finish first in the pool in order not to play France in the semis. Tomorrows match will be special because I will be playing my good friend and teammate Marcus Bhme. If I am given the chance to play, I will ask my coach if I can try and block Marcus.

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Hinweis: Dies ist ein aktueller Bericht vom 07.01.2016!



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