Netherlands, Ukraine, and Belarus all keep winning momentum also on last day of action in Almere
The “Oranjes” did so by routing Romania in straight sets (25-18, 25-23, and 25-16) and were emulated by Ukraine that swept Israel in three sets as well (28-26, 25-11, and 25-14). Belarus had to fight hard but eventually stormed back from two sets down to beat Sweden at the tie-break (18-25, 16-25, 25-14, 27-25, and 15-12).
The Netherlands, Ukraine, and Belarus will continue their campaign via the third and last qualification round scheduled for this coming January 3-5 and whose venues – as well as the relevant pool composition – will be announced soon. There will be five round robin tournaments with four teams each; the winners of each tournament plus the second ranked with the best score across all pools will get the right to compete at the World Championships coming up next year in Poland.
Belarus started out strong in their last match of the tournament (7:4) but Sweden played without any pressure and a spike killed by Jakob Wijk Tegenrot flipped the charts around (15:14). Sweden dominated the second half of the opening set and it was once again Wijk Tegenrot who sealed the final 25-18. Belarus got an early lead in the second set (5:4) but Sweden this time was very quick in asserting their supremacy (8:6, 18:12) and eventually cashed the provisional 2:0 (25-16). After that, Belarus was able to regroup in the third set (8:5, 19:12) and comfortably claimed that section of the game with the score of 25-14. Belarus set the pace of the game right from the start of the fourth set but Sweden clawed back to make it 22 all and that neck-to-neck race continued up to 25:25. Belarus showed good composure to score the next couple of points to call for the tie-break (27-25). The guys from Minsk were not to stop anymore there and easily stormed to the final 15-12 to finish the tournament in third place after taking two more points from this game. Sweden’s Fredrik Gustavsson registered a terrific haul of 44 points in this game while Pavel Audochanka was Belarus’ most prolific player with 20.
As their star Rob Bontje (pictured) celebrated his 300th cap with the national team, the hosts of the Netherlands bounced back from Saturday’s defeat to Ukraine to claim their last match of the tournament easily routing Romania in straight sets. With 800 fans cheering from the stands of Topsport Centre in Almere, the Netherlands could compensate for a slow start and got to the front at 20:18 in the opening set, before scoring another five consecutive points to bring it home at 25-18. Romania caught a good start also in the second set going up 8:6 but the “Oranjes” responded by scoring four in a row to get back control of the game and widen their lead up to 19:14; they still had to stand the comeback of their opponents but eventually wrapped it up at 25-23. With their opposite player Robin Overbeeke top scoring in the end with 14 points the hosts dominated the scene in the third set from the start up to the end (25-16) sealing a 3:0 win to finish second in the final standing of the tournament.
Ukraine followed up on yesterday’s straight victory over the Netherlands with another classy performance as they beat Israel in three sets to finish the tournament in first place. The first set was actually very close and Israel had their chances to seize it, but as Guy Ben Gal spiked off the bounds, Ukraine cashed the final 28-26. After that everything went easy for Ukraine that stormed out to a 14:6 lead in the second set and did not look back cruising straight to a massive 25-11. The plot of the game did not change also in the third set where Ukraine got an early lead (7:3) and still had a very reassuring margin also by the time the second mandatory stop was called (16:11). Once the game re-started, Ukraine scored four in a row and a spike by Ian Iereshchenko sealed the final 25-14 and 3:0 win. Yuriy Tomyn top scored in the end with 18 points while Iereshchenko contributed 15; Guy Ben Gal paced Israel with 12.