LEIPZIG, Germany, January 9, 2004 - Former world number one Russia and 1996 Olympic champions the Netherlands will play in Saturday's final of the Men's European Olympic Qualification tournament in Leipzig, Germany after both sides recorded straight sets victories in Friday's semifinals. Russia were too strong for France beating the 2002 World Championship bronze medalists 25-23, 25-16, 25-23 while the Netherlands ended Germany's hopes 25-21, 25-23, 25-17. Only the winner of the final between two teams who have yet to concede a set will claim a ticket for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games; the loser will leave with nothing.
In the first semifinal Russia overcame a disappointing French side without really looking as though they would to lose the match. The 2002 World League champions started the match extremely well and won the first set at the first set point and were never in danger during the rest of the match. It was the excellent kill block of Serguei Tetioukhine that finished the match for the tournament favorites while Stanislav Dineykin, who returned to the Russian national team after a period of absence, was the best scorer of the match with 14 points. Three other players scored 11 points each: Stephane Antiga (FRA), Serguei Tetioukhine (RUS) and Philippe Barca-Cysique (FRA).
"It was not a nice match, but in the final we want to play as well as we did now," Russian captain Vadim Khamuttskikh said.
"It was the fourth day of competition without any break," Russian coach Guennadi Chipouline said. "That is very hard, but we have enough power to win the final too".
"The Russians played very well," French captain Dominique Daquin said. "I hope to meet them again in Athens, but first we have to play another qualification tournament. I am disappointed, because I thought that we would give everything after our bad match against Netherlands."
In the second semifinal the Netherlands, playing without the injured captain Reinder Nummerdor, made a lot of serve errors, but their experience saw them overcome a strong German side playing in front of 6,000 home fans. It was 'power house' Guido Gortzen and Richard Schuil who top scored for the Netherlands with 14 points.
"We have won a match, but that is still not enough," the Dutch coach Bert Goedkoop said. "The hardest match will be the final".
The final between Russia and Netherlands will be played at 1530 CET.