Lausanne, Switzerland, May 27, 2017 - Reigning FIVB World League champions Serbia clinched the first of six tickets available this week for the 2018 FIVB Men's World Championship, to be jointly organised by Italy and Bulgaria, after gaining an unsurpassable lead in Pool E of the European qualifiers on Saturday evening with a day to spare. All five remaining berths will be distributed Sunday evening as a week of action across the continent involving 90 matches comes to a climax.Quick links - Volleyball:
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Latest VideosFacebookTwitterInstagramMedia GuidesFrance and Germany clash for one ticket
France and Germany, both undefeated, come head-to-head on Sunday in Lyon for a direct ticket to the World Championship from Pool A, with the loser guarenteed a spot in the next round of the European qualifiers.
This is a rematch of the bronze medal game of the last World Championship in 2014, when Germany swept France in straight sets at Katowice.
Saturday evening in Lyon Gyorgy Grozer led Germany with 17 points, two aces and 14/24 (58%) in attack in their sweep of Turkey 3-0 (25-17, 25-20, 25-23). Denys Kaliberda had 14 kills on 23 swings for 61% and added 15 points.Denys Kaliberda strikes against the triple Turkish block of Baturalp Gungor, Mert Matic and Yigit Gulmezoglu in Lyon.
Hosts France, meanwhile, shut out Azerbaijan 3-0 (25-16, 25-17, 25-15) with coach Laurent Tillie resting most of his starters after the first set and Stephen Boyer scoring 19 points, including three blocks and 15/22 for 68% in attack.
Ukraine registered their second win in the tournament, 3-0 (25-12, 25-19, 25-15) over Iceland but are too far behind in the standings.The Netherlands one set from qualifying
After dropping a point to Austria in their 3-2 (25-22, 22-25, 23-25, 25-22, 15-8) win at home in Apeldoorn Saturday evening, The Netherlands still need two points on Sunday against Slovakia to make it through to the World Championship.Robin Overbeeke of The Netherlands gets stopped by the net in front of the Austrian block of Lorenz Koraimann and Peter Wohlfahrtstaetter in Apeldoorn.
Slovakia remained in contention after stunning Greece with an epic comeback for a 3-2 (22-25, 20-25, 25-21, 25-19, 15-12) win on 19 points from Matej Patak and 14 from Stefan Chrtianky plus a dominating block of 13 stuffs to 5 to counter the 34 points of Greece's Mitar Djuric.
Moldova scored their first win of the tournament, edging winless Luxembourg 3-2 (25-23, 22-25, 25-16, 22-25, 15-12) in the other match of Pool B.Slovenia host Belgium for berth in Italy/Bulgaria
Pool C hosts Slovenia and Belgium will battle it out on Sunday in Ljubljana for a ticket to Italy/Bulgaria after both scored comfortable wins on Saturday. The loser of their head-to-head is assured of a spot in the next round of the European qualifiers.
Slovenia demolished Israel 3-0 (25-11, 25-14, 25-10), despite coach Slobodan Kovac resting most of his regular starters ahead of Sunday's crucial game. Alen Sket was best scorer with 20 points and an 82% kill rate (18/22).
Belgium followed suit with a 3-0 (25-16, 25-21, 25-21) victory over Latvia to also remain undefeated in four matches. As with Slovenia, coach Vital Heynen also rested most of the Belgium starters, with Bram van den Bries emerging top scorer on 14 points.
Portugal beat Portugal 3-0 (25-19, 25-16, 25-14) in the other match of Pool C on Saturday.Russia to play out with Estonia in Tallinn
Russia thundered past Kosovo 3-0 (25-8, 25-8, 25-9) in Tallinn for Pool D and will face off for a ticket to Italy/Bulgaria with hosts Estonia who also remained undefeated after downing 3-1 (20-25, 25-15, 25-20, 25-14). Both sides have secured at least a berth in Round 3 of the European qualifiers.Andrus Raadik of Estonia attacks before the double block of Hungary in Tallinn.
Maksim Zhigalov scored 17 points in Russia's very one-sided game and Oliver Venno led Estonia with 20.
Romania beat Montenegro 3-1 (25-23, 21-25, 25-21, 25-21) in the other match of the day, but are too far behind to catch the pool leaders.Serbia through, three for second place in Zagreb
Nemanja Petric with 15 points and Drazen Lubiric with 12 led Serbia in their win 3-0 (25-12, 25-14, 25-12) over Norway that secured them their ticket to the World Championship. Serbia totally outblocked Norway nine stufs to one and attacked for 76% (38/50) to 32% (19/59). Coach Nikola Grbic even had the luxury to take out some of his starters after the second set, by when it was all over.
Serbia's perfect record of four stratight-set wins means no one can reach them at the top of the standings regardless of Sunday's results in Pool E in Zagreb.
Belarus, meanwhile, are in the race for a berth in Round 3 of the European qualifiers after outlasting Switzerland 3-2 (25-19, 25-21, 22-25, 21-25, 15-10). Switzerland are still in contention for the second place in the pool, as are Denmark who edged hosts Croatia 3-2 (25-27, 25-22, 29-27, 25-27, 15-9) powered by Rasmus Nielsen who scored 27 points.Finland two sets away from World Championship
Finland handed Spain their first defeat, 3-1 (25-19, 21-25, 25-19, 25-22) Saturday and have the upper hand ahead of Sunday's clash with hosts Czech Republic, needing only two sets to qualify to the World Championship from Pool F in Karlovy Vary.
Olli-Pekka Ojansivu led Finland with 17 points and Tommi Siirla added 14 (including an impressive seven stuffs). Andres Villena also scored 17 points for Spain.Spain's Sergio Noda Blanco gets stopped by the Finnish double block of Eemi Tervaportti and Tommi Siirila in Karlovy Vary.
The Czech Republic remained alive in the race for Italy/Bulgaria after sweeping Cyprus 3-0 (26-24, 25-12, 25-17), while Sweden defeated Northern Ireland 3-0 (25-15, 25-13, 25-21) in the other matches at Karlovy Vary.
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 and Poland as defending champions have already secured their participation in the 2018 World Championship.