Nothing decided as Euro qualifiers for World Champs heat up


Triple Serbian block goes up to stop Switzerland's Luca Ulrich as the Balkan side remains undefeated in the race for a ticket to the 2018 FIVB World Championship.

Lausanne, Switzerland, May 26, 2017 - All six tickets up for grabs this week in the European qualifiers for the 2018 FIVB Men's World Championship remain available after all favourites continued their winning ways on Friday, but will settle matters on the last two days of action across the continent, Saturday and Sunday.

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France and Germany thunder on

Pool hosts France registered a convincing win over Turkey 3-0 (25-21, 25-18, 25-17) in Lyon before 3,100 fans, with Earvin Ngapeth getting his first action this week in Pool A, when he came on off the bench in the third set. With exceptional attacking all around France dominated Turkey as Kevin Le Roux scored 10 points, and Trevor Clevenot and Julien Lyneel added another nine each.

Triple block by Turkey's Baturalp Gungor, Batur Emre and Arslan Eksi tries to stop France's Trevor Clevenot in Lyon.

Germany also kept their perfect record, sweeping Iceland 3-0 (25-12, 25-12, 25-14), with Christian Fromm and and Denys Kaliberda scoring 12 and 11 points respectively in two sets, before coach Andrea Giani brought on the reserves for the third.

Ukraine rounded up the day in Lyon with a 3-0 (25-13, 25-23, 25-20) sweep of Azerbaijan for their first win in the tournament.

Belgium, Slovenia close in on top two spots
Slovenia dominated Portugal 3-0 (25-15, 25-19, 25-21) at home in Ljubljana for Pool C with captain Tine Urnaut scoring 16 points and registering 62% (16/26) in attack while Mitja Gasparini and klemen Cebulj added another 13 points each. Portugal outblocked and outserved Slovenia, but struggled to get the ball on the floor.

Belgium are headed to a showdown for first place in the pool with Slovenia after downing Israel 3-0 (25-13, 25-18, 25-21) on the back of 14 points by Sam Deroo and 12 by Francois Leacat.

In the other match of the day in Ljubljana Latvia scored their first win, 3-0 (25-9, 25-17, 25-14) over Georgia.

Russia and Estonia continue on collision course
London 2012 Olympic champions Russia cruised past Hungary 3-0 (25-18, 25-17, 25-16) in Tallinn for Pool D, with several of the regular starters resting for the best part of the game. Maksim Zhigalov with 12 points and Egor Kliuka with 11 led the scoring for Russia.

Ilyas Kurkaev of Russia tries to beat the block set up by Hungary's Roland Gergye and Alpar Szabo in Tallinn.

Estonia are also undefeated and with a perfect record after their 3-0 (25-23, 27-25, 25-23) over Montenegro with Oliver Venno scoring 19 points (including four aces).

Romania, meanwhile, managed their first win of the week after edging Kosovo 3-1 (25-12, 25-15, 21-25, 25-15).

Serbia end Swiss run
Headed by Marko Ivovic's 14 points and Uros Kovacevic's 13, FIVB World League reigning champions Serbia put a stop to the impressive run of Switzerland with a very solid 3-0 (25-15, 25-18, 25-18). The win leaves the Balkan side the only undefeated team in Pool E in Zagreb.

Meanwhile, despite 26 points from Ivan Raic, hosts Croatia fell behind in the race for second place in the pool and a ticket to the next round of the qualifiers, after suffering their second defeat in three matches - this time 3-1 (25-14, 34-36, 35-16, 25-22) to Belarus. Artur Udrys scored 22 and Pavel Kuklinski 20 for the winners.

And Denmark won the Scandinavian derby, beating Norway 3-1 (25-21, 18-25, 25-16, 25-23), for their first win in the pool.

Finland and Spain to sort it out on Saturday
Finland continued their spring to the finish line with yet another comfortable straight-set win, 3-0 (25-14, 25-19, 25-21) over Sweden for Pool F in Karlovy Vary.

But Spain are also undefeated after stunning hosts Czech Republic late Friday night 3-2 (25-22, 20-25, 22-25, 25-21, 15-10) just one day before facing Finland in what could be the decider for the ticket to the 2018 World Championship. Twenty-two points by Andres Villena and 18 by Miguel Fornes secured the win for Spain, leaving the Czech Republic in danger of completely crashing out.

Spain's Andres Villena one-on-one with the Czech Republic's Petr Michalek in the late night thriller in Karlovy Vary.

And Cyprus scored their first win of the tournament with a 3-0 (25-20, 25-16, 25-22) of Northern Ireland in the Small Countries Division derby.

All teams in Pool B had a rest day on Friday, with play resuming Friday in Apeldoorn and hosts The Netherlands closing in on a ticket to Italy/Bulgaria as the only undefeated side in the pool.

The top team of each pool qualifies to the 2018 World Championship, which will be jointly organised by Italy and Bulgaria. The six second-ranked teams advance to Round III of the continental qualifiers for one more ticket to the World Championship.

Italy and Bulgaria as organisers, Poland as defending champions and Brazil as 2015 South American champions have already secured their participation in the 2018 World Championship.


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