KARLSRUHE, LEIPZIG, Germany, September 10, 2003 - The Netherlands have put Russia's European Championship aspirations on ice after causing the upset of the tournament when they beat the vice-World Champion on the fourth day of the Men's European Championship here in Germany. The 1997 European Champion defeated the world no 2 3-0 to put themselves in contention of reaching the semifinal stage of the event where the best 12 teams of the world's strongest continent meet, while favorites Russia is now capable of missing out on the Final Four. After Wednesday's action, Serbia & Montenegro (3-0 winners over Greece) is the only team assured of a semifinal spot.
The Netherlands now need to defeat Bulgaria on Thursday to secure a semifinal spot, a position they haven't reached in a major event since 1997.
From the first point of the match, Netherlands put enormous pressure on the Russian team in this Pool I clash played in Karlsruhe. Like in the other matches, Richard Schuil was the best player on the court, collecting 20 points. Middle blocker Mike van de Goor also played an outstanding match, scoring 11 points.
'It is hard to explain why we won so easily,' an extremely surprised Schuil said. 'I know my team is capable of winning against everyone, but over the past few years we never did it. We came here hoping to reach the last eight and now we are even playing for the semifinals.'
In the same group, Serbia & Montenegro extended their winning streak, defeating Greece 3-0. With this victory, the defending champion and Olympic gold medalist is already assured of winning this pool, even with one more match to play. In other Pool I action, Bulgaria won its first match of the tournament by defeating Poland 3-2 and erasing any hope Poland had of reaching the semifinals.
In another big clash France became the first team to defeat Germany in the European Championship. The home crowd favorite needed the victory in this Pool II clash played in Leipzig to guarantee a place in the semifinals. After the German team won the first set, the home side was leading 23-22 in the second set. This was the moment for France to bounce back. The World Championship bronze medalist leveled the match and charged through to a 3-1 win watched by almost 6,000 spectators, which gives Philippe Blain's men still a chance to reach the last four.
Germany has to defeat Italy 3-0 on Thursday, otherwise the home team will be forced to play for the fifth till eight position.
Luc Marquet and Franz Granvorka were the leading scorers for France, by making 13 and 12 points respectively. Germany's Christian Pampel was the player of the match as he added 32 points to his tournament total to lead the Top Scorers rankings.
'Winning the second set was the key to our success,' the French coach Blain stated. 'This changed the match completely. We put the German receivers under a lot of pressure.'
'I am happy with today's performance,' the French captain and middle blocker Dominique Daquin added. 'We only needed the first two sets to find our rhythm.'
Although Italy demolished Slovakia 3-0, the Squadra Azzurra is still not assured of a place in the semifinals. Italy is the only undefeated team in Pool II, but has to win at least a set against Germany on Thursday to be sure.
In other Pool II action, Spain claimed its first victory by beating the Czech Republic 3-1.
The preliminary pool phase of the Men's Senior European Championships will come to a conclusion on Thursday before the semifinals and finals will be played in Berlin on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 September.