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Finland join Russia in Youth European Championship semis

Finland wrote history on Wednesday by making it to the semis of the Youth European Championship and booking a ticket to this year's World Championships in Mexico.
Belgrade, Serbia, April 17, 2013 – Finland defeated Bulgaria in straight sets on the last competition day in Pool II. They secured the second semifinal spot at the 2013 CEV Boys Youth Volleyball European Championship. Russia had taken the first spot on Tuesday.

France did not win a single set against Turkey in the first match in Belgrade and left itself wide open to not making it to the next round at all.

However, Bulgaria did not take advantage of this offer and will be traveling home, leaving Turkey and France to battle in Laktaši (BIH) for the fifth place in the Championship and a ticket to the 2013 FIVB Youth Volleyball World Championship in Mexico – or at least for a place in the 2013 European Youth Olympic Festival in the Netherlands. 

In the last match of the pool, with no impact on the qualifying list for Laktaši, Russia were able to stay unbeaten, defeating Serbia by 3-1, thus leaving the reigning champions and co-hosts without a single win in the tournament.

France versus Turkey 0-3 (19-25, 18-25, 10-25)
In the opening match of the last day of competition in Pool II, Turkey crushed France 3-0 (25-19, 25-18, 25-10). Yasin Aydin and Ogbai Cansin Enaboifo of Turkey topped the scorers’ chart with 11 points each, including seven aces combined, while Stephen Boyer was the best scorer in the losing team with eight. 

The teams were evenly matched throughout the initial stage of the first set, but then Turkey created a gap at 12-9 with a couple of good blocking plays, and preserved it until the second technical time-out (16-13). After the break, Turkey made a great effort in defense, reaching for almost every ball, and France struggled to score. An excellent blocking kill by Melih Siratca made it 25-19 and 1-0 in sets for the Turkish side.

Turkish players created all sorts of problems for the French receivers from the serving line in the second set. Patiently, the Turkish boys were creating a gap and by the second technical break they earned a three-point lead (16-13). France did not shine in attack, and their balls were often an easy prey for Turkey’s players. 

By the end of the set the French game plan completely fell apart and Turkey easily doubled the lead winning the second set by 25-18. Turkey continued with a good defensive play and tricky serves in the third set as well. They got off to an early 8-1 lead and right from the start crushed any hope for the French in this match. It was a matter of routine for the Turkish youngsters to wrap this match up at 25-10 for the sweep in straight sets.

Finland versus Bulgaria 3-0 (25-17, 25-22, 27-25) 
In the second match of the day, Finland overpowered Bulgaria in straight sets 3-0 (25-17, 25-22, 27-25) and qualified to the semifinals. This was by far their best result at the Boys' CEV Youth Volleyball European Championships, as on the previous two occasions they finished 8th (1997) and 12th (2011). Finland’s Sakari Mäkinen topped the scorers’ chart with 19 points, while Yani Georgiev was the best scorer in the losing team with 14.

Finland started the match knowing that they had a historic opportunity to qualify to the semifinals with the victory against Bulgaria. The Finns were very vigilant through the first stage of the initial set. They were slightly ahead, but Bulgaria kept the close distance. At the second technical timeout it was just a two-point lead for the Finnish team (16-14). However, after the break Finland used a couple of mistakes made by the Bulgarian players to seize control of the match and storm to a 25-17.

In the second set, Bulgaria put pressure on the Finns and got off to a 16-12 lead by the second technical break. However, after the pause, Finland started to play much better and Bulgaria could not respond to such a sudden change of pace by the Finnish side. Quickly, the Finns tied the score at 16-16, then turned it in their favor and never looked back. In the end, they wrapped it up at 25-22 to go 2-0 up in sets.

The biggest drama in the match was seen in the third set. Once again, Bulgaria took control over the scoreboard from the very beginning, but as the closing stage was approaching they were losing their focus, and the Finns won the tie. The teams entered an exciting finish, and Finland was a little bit on the lucky side to score a 27-25 win.

Serbia versus Russia 1-3 (30-28, 16-25, 24-26, 26-28)
In the last match in Pool II, departing European champions Serbia faced Russia. The only unbeaten team of the pool remained with a perfect record by defeating the co-hosts 3-1 (28-30, 25-16, 26-24, 28-26). Russia’s Victor Poletaev topped the scorers’ chart with 28 points, including four blocks. The best scorers on the losing side were Luka Velickovic and Miodrag Milutinov with 17 points each.

Before the start of the match, Jury Secretary of the European Championship Aloys Fischer from Switzerland presented Nenad Golijanin, First Vice President of the Volleyball Federation of Serbia, with a special CEV plaque for the successful organisation of the tournament.

As there was nothing at stake in this game, both teams were relaxed. The fans in the stands enjoyed some nice moves by both teams. However, the home side had an extra motive as they were playing for honour, and their first victory of the championship. The first set went deep into extra time but Serbia snatched it by 30-28.

In the second set, Russia came back with a vengeance. They absolutely dominated throughout and deservedly equalised the score in sets winning by 25-16.

The third set was conducted in the same fashion as the first one. The teams were close from the beginning until the end, only this time Russia was a bit luckier in the end and won by 26-24 for 2-1 in sets.

The fourth set was all about Serbia. The home side put pressure on Russia right from the start, and that resulted in a convincing 16-9 lead at the second technical time-out. However, by the end of the set Russia managed to close in and reach the tie at 23-23. After an exciting finish, Russia’s strongest weapon, which is the impenetrable block, ended the competition for Serbia at 26-28.

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