LEIPZIG, Germany, January 8, 2004 - Germany completed the semifinal line-up of the Men's European Olympic Qualification tournament here in Leipzig despite losing their latest Pool A match to tournament favorite Russia 3-0(25-23, 25-17, 30-28) on Thursday. Bulgaria's straight sets victory (25-19, 25-19, 25-18) over Poland in the other Pool A clash gave the home side the late Christmas present.
In Pool B, the Netherlands finished top of the group after comfortably defeating France in straight sets 25-21, 25-18, 25-23. Russia will now face France while Germany plays the Netherlands in Friday's semifinals of the event in which only the winner claims a ticket to the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
While Germany was preparing for their match against Russia, Poland proceeded to lose a match they needed to win to have any chance of making it to the semifinal stage. Like many other events, Bulgaria, led by spiker Matey Kaziyski with 14 points, pulled a fantastic performance out of the bag to extinguish Poland's hopes and hand Germany the final semifinal spot.
"This was the worst match of my career," Polish captain Pavel Zagumny said. "I can't explain what went wrong".
"My team didn't even start to play," Poland coach Stanislaw Gosciniak said. "We performed poor in all elements. I can't explain it. The Bulgarians played very cool and relaxed. I hope that we will play better in May at one of the final tournaments in Portugal, Spain or Japan, where further Olympic tickets can be won".
"I am satisfied with the victory," Bulgarian captain Nikolay Ivanov said. "Finally we performed outstandingly. This victory is a good way to end the tournament for us and we can return back to Bulgaria with a good feeling".
Following Bulgaria's win the match between Russia and Germany was only to decide the group winner and although Russian coach Guennadi Chipouline brought his 'B team' on court, Russia defeated the home side easily.
Meanwhile, the Netherlands extended their impressive winning streak by beating France in straight sets, the third game they have not conceded a set. The only disappointment was the injury to captain Reinder Nummerdor, who had to leave the court at the end of the third set with a nasty ankle injury.
Opposite attacker Richard Schuil topped the best scorers for the Netherlands with 19 points while Nummerdor made 14 points and middle blocker Mike van de Goor 12.
"We have lost more than we have won, because of the injury of Reinder Nummerdor," Dutch coach Bert Goedkoop said.
"We forgot about why we are here," French captain Dominique Daquin said. "First place in the pool is always better than second. However, the Dutch played at a very high level".
Action continues on Friday with the semifinals between Russia and France and the Netherlands and Germany.