LEIPZIG, Germany, January 7, 2004 - Russia, France and Netherlands all sealed their semifinals spots at the Men's European Olympic Qualification in Leipzig, Germany after all three teams registered straight set victories on Wednesday. In Pool B France beat Finland 25-20, 26-24, 25-21 and the Netherlands defeated Spain 25-20, 25-14, 25-12 while in Pool A Russia walked over Poland 25-19, 25-16, 25-18.
France, the European Championship runner's-up, were the first team to claim a semifinal spot despite not playing their best Volleyball against the winner of the pre-qualification tournament, but they did enough for victory. Finland held a 16-8 lead at one stage in the second set but France bounced back, saving two set points before claiming the set on the first attempt 26-24. The French spiker Laurent Capet and the Finnish attacker Olli Aakula both scored 14 points apiece while French captain Dominique Daquin again played a key role by scoring 13 points of which ten were from blocks.
The Netherlands, with opposite attacker Richard Schuil scoring 15 points, were the second team from Pool B to reach the semifinal stage with victory over Spain and will now fight against France on Thursday for the group victory.
"We were very nervous before the match, but after Richard Schuil had a series of aces we became more relaxed," Dutch captain Reinder Nummerdor said.
"It was one of the easiest victories against Spain we ever had," Dutch coach Bert Goedkoop added. "We were very strong, especially in blocking and attacking. The next matches will be the most important ones. The Russians are the only favorite of the tournament but we hope that they will have their bad day on Friday."
Russia again booked an impressive victory cruising past Poland with Stanislav Dineykin top scoring with 13 points.
"It was important to win this match," Russian captain Vadim Khamuttskikh said. "We saw Poland play against Germany on Tuesday and therefore took this match very seriously. I think we performed well."
"This victory was another step to the top," Russian coach Guennadi Chipouline said. "Not only because of the points but it also helps in our preparation for the decisive matches. We want to improve match by match and we are doing quite well with that here in Leipzig."
Germany and Poland, both with one victory apiece, will fight for the last semifinal spot in Pool A on Thursday with Poland having the best chance against the winless Bulgarian side while Germany has to defeat unbeaten Russia.