OPAVA, Czech Republic, 11 July 2004 - Czech Republic is the surprising winner of the first ever European League after nailing tournament favorite Russia in the final played here in Opava, Czech Republic on Sunday. The Czech team, who had no opportunity to play any Olympic qualification tournament, defeated the favorites for Olympic gold 3-1. Netherlands claimed the third position after a 3-1 victory over Germany.
Czech Republic surprised the more than 3,000 fans by winning against Russia in the final of the European League. Although Russia was the favorite for the title, the Czech players tried to overpower the opponent with great serves, huge blocks and giant attacks. This way of playing was the key to success. Russia already had problems in the first set, which was won by the home crowd favorite.
After Russia won the second set, the match was open again. But when Czech Republic won the third set with just two points difference (26-24), the Czech players started to believe in winning the match again. Czech Republic almost didnít make any mistake in the fourth set and claimed the European League trophy after an ace of Martin Lebl.
One of the problems for the Russian team was the absence of opposite attacker Stanislav Dineikine, who had to stay on the bench because of a shoulder injury.
Czech lefthander Jakub Novotny was the best scorer with 17 points. On the Russian side, Serguei Tetioukhine also scored 17 points. Czechs Lebl (15), Michal Rak (14) and Peter Platenik (11) also put double figures on the scoreboard.
It is a pity for Czech Republic that the team will not be able to play at the Athens Olympic Games. The Czech team was not allowed to play any Olympic Qualification tournament, because the team didnít reach the last eight during the 2003 European Championship. Now Czech Republic defeated Russia, together with Brazil the major favorite for the Olympic Gold, in Europeanís most important competition this year, the team proved to be among the best teams of the world.
Netherlands claimed the bronze medal after defeating Germany in earlier Sunday action. The Dutch squad lost the first set 29-31, but came back and clinched the victory by winning the next three sets easily. Richard Schuil was the main responsible for the Dutch victory. The opposite attacker made 27 points. On the German side, Bjorn Andrae was the best scorer with 14 points.
Schuil was crowned as best scorer of the event, while Lebl was awarded as best attacker. Dutch Mike van de Goor received the award for best blocker.
The European League is organized for the first time by the European Volleyball Confederation CEV. This competition for the European menís national teams was created with the support of the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB), and in collaboration with the National Federations, the CEV created a new playing field for those wishing to compete in European competitions.
European League Final Four
CZE Ė RUS
3-1 (25-20, 21-25, 26-24, 25-19)
NED Ė GER
3-1 (29-31, 25-18, 25-19, 25-23)
CZE Ė NED
3-0 (25-23, 25-21, 25-19)
RUS Ė GER
3-0 (25-22, 25-13, 25-14)
Best scorer: Richard Schuil (NED)
Best spiker: Martin Lebl (CZE)
Best blocker: Mike van de Goor (NED)
More on the web at www.cev.lu
Enjoy & Be There:
22-25 July 2004: Under 20 European Beach Volleyball Championships, Koper, Slovenia.
29 July - 1 August 2004: Under 23 European Beach Volleyball Championships, Brno, Czech Republic.
5-8 August 2004: Under 18 European Beach Volleyball Championships, Myslowice, Poland.
2 September 2004: Drawing of lots 2004-2005 Indesit European Championsí League, Vienna, Austria.
3-11 September 2004: Womenís Under 19 European Championships, Bardejov, Presov, Slovakia.
4-12 September 2004: Menís Under 20 European Championships, Zagreb, Croatia.