Halle (GER), 19 January 2008 – Poland and Russia will play tomorrow’s final of the Women’s European Olympic Qualification Tournament here in Halle, Germany. In Saturday’s semifinals, Russia beat host Germany in straight sets, whereas Poland defeated Serbia 3:1. Only the winner of Sunday’s final will get the invaluable tickets to Beijing 2008.
2008 Olympics will be without the German national team. Germany failed to spring a major surprise as they missed out on the Olympic qualification following a 0-3 semifinal loss to Russia. For the first time since 1992, Germany failed to qualify for the Olympic Games. In tomorrow’s final (15.30 live on Eurosport), Russia will face Poland. It certainly was a special atmosphere in the GERRY WEBER STADION, with 5.300 fans supporting Germany with standing ovations from the first whistle on. It seemed to help when Germany’s started with some deliberate and precise work. Grün, Dumler and Fürst won the first points; only the serve didn’t click, resulting in three service faults early doors (7-7). Then Russia’s biggest weapon, their block, came to life, and Ssuschke was stopped. Guidetti’s troops hung in there (9-10) but several mistakes allowed the favorites to pull away (11-16). Two great defensive plays from Pachale and Hart brought the crowd back into the match before in-form Gamova took over with her great offensive skills. It was her who converted the set point. The pattern remained the same in the second set. Germany kept close the distance, especially with captain Grün chalking up points, while Gamova and Shashkova did the damage for Russia. After a mistake from Grün, Russia seemed to pull away (15-18), but Germany’s fighting spirit and the frenetic support from the local fans helped them to get back into the match (18-18). A string of mistakes gave Russia a three-point lead, only for Grün to serve an ace and clinch another winner (22-23). Gamova failed to convert the first set point but did better on the next attempt to give her country a two-set lead. Russia quickly pulled away in the third thanks to sharp serves from Shashkova as well as good work from their block (2-8). German coach Guidetti tried to turn the tide with the help of substitutions as he brought on Kozuch and Weiss, then Bouagaa and Radzuweit. But there was no stopping the Russians who cruised into the final, with a misunderstanding between Dumler and Grün ending Germany’s Olympic dreams. "It was a perfect game for Russia. You can only congratulate them on that. We had big problems. Our service was much too weak, our block almost non-existent and we could never really put Russia under pressure. Of course we’re very disappointed not to go to the Olympic Games, but now I have to prepare the team for the next task, the FIVB World Grand Prix”, said Germany head coach Giovanni Guidetti. "I am very proud of my team because we put on a great performance today. Our will and dedication were superb. If my team keeps playing like this, it will be very hard for anyone in the world to beat us”, added Russian head coach Giovanni Caprara.
In the second semifinal, Poland edged Serbia in a high-class match 3-1. Once again, the atmosphere in Halle was great, with both nations’ fans singing and chanting before the match. Poland were off to the better start thanks to Skowronska (5-2, 8-4), but Serbia kept close the distance. After a great defensive play from Cebic and a winner from Djerisilo, the Serbs took the first lead (14-15). When Skowronska had no luck with a lob, head coach Marco Bonitta took a time-out (15-18). The Serbs kept pressing, making it 18-23. Poland saved two set points before Molnar eventually gave her county a one-set lead (22-25). Some good serves from Skowronska and Barnak gave Poland a 7-3 lead early in the second set. Poland’s block had come to life, with Liktoras and Dziekiewicz doing well to anticipate the feeds from Ognjenovic (11-5). Soon it was 16-8 and then 25-18. After a well-balanced opening in the third, Serbia went up 6-11 thanks to brilliant work from middle blockers Citakovic and Veljkovic, with Skowronska falling victim three times. Bonitta made a tactical change, bringing on Skorupa for Sadurek, and Poland moved closer (12-14). After a block from substitute Podolec, a mistake from Nikolic and a nice offensive move from Glinka, Poland had turned the deficit into a lead. Two blocking points against Djerisilo resulted in two set points, with Podolec converting the second one (25-22). Brakocevic came on for Djerisilo in the next set and things remained close (8-7). When Podolec put the ball into Serbia’s field and Molnar sent it out of bounds, the two-time European champs were up by three points for the first time (15-12). Serbia was far from giving in, though, and following a mistake from Podolec; they equalized and even grabbed the lead (18-20). A 5-1 run from Poland, boosted by a strong blocking and defensive effort, turned the tide again (23-21). Baranska earned the match point and converted them to sent Poland through to the finals (25-22). "Poland were better, just as the result suggests”, said Serbia Coach Zoran Terzic. Their advantage is their individual class which helps them to play on a high level also when making substitutions. We still have the chance to qualify for the Olympics and I am sure we will see Poland again in Beijing. Serbia captain Vesna Citakovic added: "It was a good match from either side. We committed more easy mistakes in some very important situations and that’s why we lost.” Poland coach Marco Bonitta was happy: "We played a good match and I am really pleased with our performance. It showed today that we do not just have six or seven good players but twelve, which is a big advantage. Tomorrow, Russia will be favorites, but today we showed just 80 percent of our capability, even though we played very well. If we can do even better tomorrow everything will be possible." “It was an important match for us”, stated Poland captain Milena Rosner, “and I am happy about the win but tomorrow is what counts. Then it will be "to be or not to be."
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Women’s European Olympic Qualification Tournament
Halle, Germany: 15-20 January 2008
Pool A: Serbia, Russia, Romania, Croatia
Pool B: Germany, Poland, Turkey, Nederland
Match results (all times CET)
Tuesday 15 January 2008
GER – TUR 3:0 (25-20, 26-24, 25-19)
CRO – ROU 2:3 (25-21, 14-25, 25-22, 23-25, 5-15)
NED – POL 1:3 (17-25, 28-30, 25-16, 20-25)
Wednesday 16 January 2008
1500: CRO – RUS 0:3 (19-25, 15-25, 12-25)
1730: POL – GER 3:2 (22-25, 25-21, 14-25, 25-19, 15-8)
2000: ROU – SRB 2:3 (27-25, 25-23, 22-25, 15-25, 11-15)
Thursday 17 January 2008
1500: TUR – NED 3:1 (16-25, 25-19, 27-25, 25-19)
1730: SRB – CRO 3:1 (23-25, 25-21, 25-18, 25-22)
2000: ROU - RUS 1:3 (21-25, 24-26, 25-21, 14-25)
Friday 18 January 2008
1500: TUR - POL 1:3 (29-27, 16-25, 26-28, 20-25)
1730: RUS – SRB 3:1 (25-17, 23-25, 32-30, 25-20)
2000: GER - NED 1-3 (25-22, 25-27, 15-25, 23-25)
Saturday 19 January 2008
1730 RUS – GER 3:0 (25-15, 25-23, 25-17)
2000 POL – SRB 3:1 (22-25, 25-18, 25-22, 25-22)
Match schedule (all times CET)
Sunday 20 January 2008
1530 RUS - POL