PRESS RELEASE 05.09.2003


Men's Senior European Championships 2003 - Tough opening matches for favourites

KARLSRUHE, LEIPZIG, Germany, September 5, 2003 - Favorites Serbia & Montenegro and Russia both had a tough opening day on the Men's Senior European Championship here in Germany on Friday. Russia gained revenge for their World League Finals loss and defeated Bulgaria 3-1, while Serbia & Montenegro booked a 3-1 victory over the Netherlands.

They were extremely hard matches for the defending champion Serbia & Montenegro and vice-World Champion Russia in their Pool I clashes, played in Leipzig. In Pool II, Italy had major difficulties in defeating the Czech Republic, but also clinched a 3-1 victory.

The matches between Russia and Bulgaria are always spectacular clashes as witnessed in Spain in July when Bulgaria beat Russia to effectively end their hopes of defending their World League title. The clever Bulgarian players always perform well against the best teams in the world. During the 2002 World Championship, the event in which Russia finished second, Bulgaria even defeated the Russian Rockets.

This time, however, Russia won but it wasn't exactly the start Russian head coach Guennadi Chipouline wanted. "The first match is always the most difficult one and in this tournament there was no exception. I'm happy that we won and I hope that we will be able to improve in the upcoming matches," Russian captain and setter Vadim Khamouttskikh said.

Roman Iakovlev played a key role, scoring 26 points for the Russian team. On the Bulgarian side, Vladimir Nikolov made 22 points.

In late Friday action, Serbia & Montenegro had the same problems to dismiss the Netherlands. All four sets were extremely tight. The young Dutch squad played without any pressure, while the current Olympic champion wanted to win the match without losing too much energy. At the end, it was Serbia & Montenegro that won the match 3-1. In other Pool I action, Poland walked over Greece 3-0.

France made a flying start in Pool II of the European Championship. The bronze medallist of the 2002 World Championship cruised over Spain in the clash played in Karlsruhe. In the second set, France was in trouble for some minutes when Spain had three set points in a row, but after some great serves from the French setter Loic de Kergret and blocks of Olivier Kieffer, France claimed the set on the seventh occasion and never gave the momentum away anymore.

Laurent Capet was, with 15 points, the best scorer. Franz Granvorka and Stephane Antiga also played a great match. On the Spanish side, super star Rafael Pasqual didn't play very well, but still scored 12 points.

'A victory in the first match of such an event like this is very important,' the French head coach Phillipe Blain said. 'My team was very well organized and that made a big difference.'

Hosts Germany only had problems with Slovakia in the third set in the Pool II clash played in Karlsruhe. In front of more than 3,000 fans, Germany won the first two sets, but couldn't finish the match in three straight sets. The comeback of Slovakia didn't last long. After Germany lost the third set, head coach Stelian Moculescu pushed his players to perform better. The Germans didn't disappoint their coach and the fans and clinched the 3-1 victory.

Eugen Bakumovski played an important role. He had to replace the injured Bjorn Andrae and scored 13 points. Top scorer was Christian Pampel with 21 points.

'With the rally point system, you can always lose a set,' Moculescu stated. 'We wanted to win 3-0, but we rushed things a bit at the end of the third set.'

In later Friday Pool II action, Italy jumped over Czech Republic in the first two sets. Czech Republic didn't give up and proved that there are many teams in contention for the three medal spots. The Czech team, number four in 1999 and 2001, came back and won the third set. At 15-16 in the third set, Italy started to play as concentrated as during the first two sets and this was enough to claim the 3-1 victory.

The Men's Senior European Championships will continue on Saturday when six more matches are scheduled. After the single round robin preliminary pool phase, the best two teams of each group will proceed to the semifinals. The third and fourth ranked teams will fight for the fifth till eight position. The semifinals and finals will be played in Berlin on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 September.


Pool I:
GRE - POL 0-3 (14-25 22-25, 19-25)
BUL - RUS 1-3 (22-25, 25-23, 26-28, 20-25)
SCG - NED 3-1 (30-28, 21-25 25-22, 25-18)

Pool II :
ESP - FRA 0-3 (17-25, 30-32, 19-25).
GER - SVK 3-1 (25-20, 25-16, 25-27, 25-16)
CZE - ITA 1-3 (19-15, 21-25, 25-22, 23-25)