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Series of world class matches coming up Sunday to assign European tickets to 2014 Worlds

A full house of more than 3,000 fans cheered on Team Germany at the World Champs qualifier in Ludwigsburg as the players mentored by Vital Heynen claimed their second victory by routing Estonia in straight sets to make a step closer to the 2014 Worlds
Luxembourg, Luxembourg, January 4, 2014 – The third and last stage of the European 2014 FIVB Volleyball World Championships qualifying process is spreading a real volleyball fever across the continent as a series of exciting matches remain on Sunday to determine the final composition of the European contingent for the FIVB Volleyball Men's World Championship Poland 2014 and FIVB Volleyball Women's World Championship Italy 2014 scheduled for September and October respectively.

With the host countries already pre-qualified together with the gold and silver medalists from the 2013 European Championships – Russia and Italy (men), plus Russia and Germany (women) – there are another six and seven berths still at stake for the Men’s and Women’s World Championships respectively.

On Saturday the major surprise was contributed by Ukraine that in Poprad upset the home heroes of Slovakia cruising to a straight-set victory whereby the chances of the Slovak national team to make the Final Round of the Worlds look heavily compromised. A series of world-class clashes are scheduled for Sunday afternoon as teams with two wins so far will battle for first place in their respective Pool and that much desired ticket to the World Champs.

In the men’s division the winners of the five third-round qualifiers plus the second-placed team with the best score across all Pools will book a ticket to Poland 2014 (September 3-21) while in the women’s division the sides topping the charts of each Pool will be joined by the two second-placed teams with the best score to fill in the European vacancies for the event scheduled for September 23-October 12 in six Italian cities.

After their straight victory over the Netherlands (25-19, 27-25, and 25-14), Bulgaria tops the charts in Pool I in Opava where the fourth-ranked from last year’s European Championship still haven’t dropped a set after two rounds. After losing their opening game to the “Oranjes”, the hosts of the Czech Republic got back on track with an easy straight victory over underdogs Cyprus (25-18, 25-21, and 25-16) and will play Bulgaria on Sunday for what looks like a “mission impossible” as they still hope to be able to claim a ticket to the World Champs.

On Saturday the European bronze medalists of Serbia beat Slovenia in straight sets (25-20, 25-19, and 26-24) in their second match at the Cair sports hall in Nis and with this result – combined with Portugal’s straight victory over the F.Y.R. of Macedonia – they cemented their leadership in Pool J. On Sunday, as they play Portugal they will need to take only one set to book their spot in the Final Round of the 2014 FIVB Volleyball World Championship. The match starring Serbia and Slovenia was attended by more than 5,000 fans and with this home victory Serbia also got their revenge for the defeat they had suffered to Slovenia in the pool phase of the 2013 CEV VELUX Volleyball European Championship last September in Herning, Denmark.

3,123 enthusiastic fans celebrated an outstanding performance by the German national team on the second day of the World Championship qualifier – Pool K in Ludwigsburg. The players of head coach Vital Heynen demonstrated their strength with a 3:0 (25-18, 25-18, and 25-17) victory over Estonia and are now only one win away from making the Final Round of the 2014 FIVB World Championship in Poland. In the second match of the day Turkey won a dramatic five-setter with Croatia (25-21, 19-25, 25-27, 30-28, and 15-13) to keep alive their chances to make it to the World Champs. In the fourth set Turkey survived to four match balls for Croatia and fought back to claim their second consecutive victory in Ludwigsburg. After two consecutive setbacks, Croatia and Estonia are out of contention for a ticket to the World Champs.

France and Belgium will clash on Sunday night for a World Champs spot after their respective victories against Spain and Belarus on the second day of action for Pool L at the Carpentier hall in Paris. The hosts of France opened the program on Saturday by sweeping the Spaniards in three straight sets (25-16, 25-17, and 25-18). The Belgians then took the stage in the French capital and overcame a one set deficit to edge Belarus 3:1 (21-25, 25-22, 25-19, and 25-20).

Finland is the only team with a perfect record of two victories in as many matches at the World Champs qualifier – Pool M. On Saturday the Finns beat Greece 3:1 (25-21, 25-23, 19-25, and 33-31) to top the table with six points after two rounds while the home heroes of Slovakia suffered a real setback losing in straight sets to Ukraine (20-25, 23-25, and 20-25) thereby disappointing 2,800 home fans that had packed the local arena in Poprad. This means that with one round still to go three teams – Finland, Slovakia, and Ukraine – still can finish first in the group and take the much desired ticket to the Final Round of the 2014 Worlds.

Turkey and Romania will play for first place in Pool I on Sunday after these sides edged Ukraine and Cyprus respectively on the second day of the World Champs qualifier in Ankara. The home heroines of Turkey scored on Saturday their second straight victory at the Baskent Volleyball Hall as they beat Ukraine in straight sets (25-7, 25-12, and 25-21) in 62 minutes of play to re-assert their ambition to make the Final Round of the 2014 FIVB Volleyball World Championship. Romania also claimed their second win in the tournament as they easily got past Cyprus in straight sets as well (25-15, 25-17, and 25-9).

Azerbaijan and Serbia prolonged their winning streak at the World Champs qualifier taking place in Baku (Pool J) as on Saturday they scored a second victory in the tournament and will fight for first place on Sunday as they cross their ways in the last round of action. The bronze medalists from the 2013 FIVB World Grand Prix, Serbia routed Israel in three straight sets (25-9, 25-12, and 25-20) before the hosts of Azerbaijan downed Estonia with a similar score line (25-17, 25-19, and 25-13).

On Saturday, the second day of the tournament at the Atlas Arena in Lodz, Belgium crashed Switzerland 3:0 (25-11, 25-16, and 25-12) to keep an immaculate record in the competition. A few hours later the hosts of Poland did the same with Spain (25-13, 25-12, and 25-18). With these results the Poles and the Belgians are set to go for a big match on Sunday for first place in Pool K whose winners will make sure they qualify to the Final Round of the 2014 FIVB Women’s World Championship.

On Sunday Croatia and the Netherlands will contribute a very exciting last act of the World Champs qualifier – Pool L in Rovinj after they scored on Saturday their second consecutive victory. Croatia beat France 3:1 (25-19, 18-25, 25-15, and 25-10) coming back strong after losing the second set while the “Oranjes” cruised to their second straight-set victory as they easily routed Hungary in straight sets (25-15, 25-19, and 25-11). The final showdown coming up on Sunday will determine who finishes first and second in the Pool and will qualify to the Final Round of the 2014 FIVB World Championship.

In what was the most anticipated match in Pool M, on Saturday the home heroines of Bulgaria beat the Czech Republic in straight sets (25-14, 25-19, and 25-22) at the Arena Samokov thereby making a huge step forward on their way to the qualify to the Final Round of the 2014 FIVB Women’s Volleyball World Championship. In the other match of the day, Slovakia beat Belarus 3:1 (18-25, 25-18, 25-20, and 25-16) to stay in contention for second place in the Pool and also for a spot in the Final Round of the World Champs.

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