KARLSRUHE, LEIPZIG, Germany, 11 September - Russia beat Greece 3-2 on Thursday to join Serbia and Montenegro, France and Italy in the semifinals of the Men's European Championship after Thursday's action here in Germany.
The vice-World Champion defeated Greece 3-2, while Netherlands spoiled its chances against Bulgaria with a 0-3 loss that ruined their chances to advance.
'We had the great opportunity to reach the semifinals, but unfortunately missed that chance,' Dutch captain Reinder Nummerdor said.
Netherlands simply played a bad match. Richard Schuil wasn't at his best and made 12 points. Nummerdor and power spiker Guido Gortzen both scored 13 points each but Bulgaria's Vladimir Nikolov was best player with 20 points.
Russia was almost out of the final four after Wednesday's defeat against the Netherlands and had to succeed against Greece to advance.
Nevertheless it was tough going for the World Championship silver medalist who had to play without mainstay Roman Iakovlev, who was left off the side by coach Guennadi Chipouline for disciplinary reasons.
Russia was trailing Greece 1-2 but Serguei Tetioukhine saved the day with some spectacular spikes and jump serves and Russia ran out 3-2 winners to finish second in the group table.
Tetioukhine was the best scorer with 24 points, while Sergey Baranov and Greek spiker Nikolaos Roumeliotis made 20 points each.
'It was really difficult for us to get through to the semifinals, but we have achieved it,' Russian captain Vadim Khamouttskikh said. 'We will play better in Berlin than we did the last two days here in Karlsruhe.'
In later Pool I action, Poland upset European and Olympic Champion Serbia & Montenegro 3-2, however the Balkan side were already table winners after Wednesday's action.
In Pool II, France secured a place in the semifinal by dismissing Czech Republic, one of the most disappointing teams of the event. France, well supported by Laurent Capet (16 points) and Franz Granvorka (13 points) needed barely an hour to secure the victory.
'The performance of my team was not good, but we reached our goal: winning the match and qualifying for the semifinal,' said French head coach Philippe Blain, adding that his team's goal was to qualify for the coming World Cup.
Italy spoilt host Germany's slim chances of advancement as they wouold have needed a 3-0 victory over the Squadra Azzura to move into the semis.
But it was Italy that finished 3-0 to finish undefeated and group leader. Germany now plays off for places 5-8.
Spain defeated Slovakia 3-2 and will also play off for places 5-8.
For results and standings go to www.volleyball2003.de