Bulgaria outlast Czech Rep. to win World Grand Prix Group 3
They eventually beat Czech Republic 3-0 (25-16, 25-13, 25-17) in a one-way match showing all their grit against opponents that probably used all their strength during the semifinal against Croatia. They climbed with a huge smile the podium, where the prize for the first place was awarded by the Minister of Sport Evgeniya Radanova - Olympic silver medalist, World and European Champion in the short-track.
In the first match of the day, Croatia managed to get the third place by defeating Kazakhstan 3-0 (25-20, 25-22, 25-17). A great day of Samanta Fabris (21 points) together with her teammates killed Kazakhstan’s dream to get a better position in the next edition of the World Grand Prix.
Bulgaria on podium's highest step
Bulgaria withdraw the at most of being host of 2014 FIVB World Grand Prix Finals Group 3 and promoted the team to the next level. In 2015 Vladimir Kuzyutkin and his girls will play in Group 2 after a fantastic victory over Czech Republic in front of excited audience in Samokov 3-0 (25-16, 25-13, 25-17). Czechs, by many considered favorites of the group, seemed to be not in condition after the exhausting match against Croatia in the semifinals and didn't offer much of a resistance.
· Bulgaria clinched 21st place in front of a home crowd in Samokov. In 2013, their only prior season in the World Grand Prix, they finished ninth.
· Bulgaria end their World Grand Prix 2014 campaign being the only unbeaten team in Group 3, thanks to their perfect preliminary round and despite the automatic qualification to the final weekend.
· Czech Republic close the event with seven wins. In their only previous season in the competition, they won just two of nine matches.
· Aneta Havlickova is both the most prolific scorer (153 points) and best spiker (135, 47.70%) in Group 3.
· This will be the last official match for Bulgaria, before the World Championship in Italy. After three resting day, the team will get back together in Sofia. A first friendly match is set with Azerbaijan.
· Being a very balanced team, Bulgaria has no players among the “three best” individual statistics of Group 3.
Bulgaria coach Vladimir Kuzyutkin (who is the winner of the last World Championship with Russia) could not hide his emotions: “I am very happy that we won this final match. I am really satisfied not only with the result but also with what my players showed on the court. I said that Czech Republic team deserved to be in this final, but we did too. I think that they could play a lot better. I am never comparing my players, we want to play like a team. Bulgaria should just try to match the best three teams in the world“. He was echoed by his captain, Strashimira Filipova: “This win and this whole tournament could be one good gift for my upcoming birthday tomorrow. I am really happy that so many volleyball fans came here to support us, this really helped us. We followed the coach’s instructions and this led us to the good result. Now we have to prepare for the World Championship“.
A third place for Croatia
Croatia is the bronze team in the 2014 FIVB Volleyball Grand Prix Finals - Group 3 in Bulgaria. Red & Whites easily defeated Kazakhstan 3-0 (25-20, 25-22, 25-17). There was no problem for Angelo Vercesi and his team to clinch a victory with every Croatian playing on top level. It was not hard for them to start 6-1 in the first set and keep the distance almost until by the end of the match. Samanta Fabris scored 21 for the winners, and Mudritskaya 12 for Kazakhstan.
· Croatia were the only debutants in Group 3 to have made it to the finals.
· Kazakhstan remain winless in 21 World Grand Prix matches against European teams.
· Almost a full set was given to Croatia by Kazakhstan’s errors in the final match: 24 points overall.
· Croatia Samanta Fabris is the second best of Group 3 among scorers, with a 112 record just behind Aneta Havlickova
· Despite their fourth place in the weekend, Kazakhstan had the best world ranking placement ahead of this tournament, being No.23. Bulgaria was the worst, with their 35th position.
Croatia coach, the Brazilian Angelo Vercesi, congratulated his team about the victory but was not completely satisfied at the very end: “We are very happy about today’s win but there is still some bitterness in our team because of yesterday’s match. Today we all played like a real team and presented character in the most important moments of the match. Anyway, I think that we will have higher aims in the future but we have to work harder“. His captain Maja Poljak confirmed the feeling: “It was a very intensive and interesting game. Kazakhstan had some very good plays, very high and fast balls, but I am very happy that we used our opportunities in the best possible way. Third place in this competition is the deserved one for our team. Yesterday Czech Republic were just better than us and I would like to congratulate them once again“.