Florence, Italy, September 15, 2018 – Belgium and Slovenia locked horns for the first time in a major competition doing so in Pool A in Florence. The Red Dragons wasted a 2-0 lead as Slovenia fought back to claim a 3-2 victory (22-25, 21-25, 25-19, 25-23, 15-13) and keep a clean sheet with three wins in as many matches they have played this far at the FIVB Men’s Volleyball World Championship. Alen Sket was by far the most valuable player with 21 points even though he played for three and a half sets only. Substitute setter Gregor Ropret made the best out of some very difficult situations to pave Slovenia’s way to victory. Belgium outside hitter Sam Deroo and opposite Bram Van den Dries fought until the end to score 17 and 18 times, respectively.
It was a close affair at the beginning before Slovenia made the first break (10-7) thanks to a couple of excellent combinations and a block by Jan Kozarmenik. Belgium levelled the score at 15-all with Deroo’s spike and eventually edged ahead to secure the first set by virtue of their insurmountable block.
Stijn D’Hulst helped Belgium set the pace in the early stages of the second set (9-5). Slovenia changed a couple of players, as Ropret and opposite Toncek Stern replaced Dejan Vincic and Mitja Gasparini, respectively. Two monster blocks by Van den Dries and Simon Van de Voorde extended Belgium’s lead to 16-9; Slovenia attempted a late comeback but Belgium doubled their lead in the match with the help of Deroo (25-21), with Belgium’s block making the difference as Slovenia made as many as nine errors in this set.
Slovenia changed their starting six with wing spiker Sket and setter Ropret stepping in and it seemed to help since they edged ahead at 8-7. Gasparini showed his class and Slovenia claimed a 16-11 at the second technical timeout. It was a close race but Slovenia simply had more to offer and won the set 25-19, this time making only two mistakes vs. 9 for Belgium and successfully closing 14 of their 20 attempts in attack.
Never change a winning team and this is exactly what Slovenia did in the fourth set (7-4, 16-14). Belgium drew level at 17-all and the score was close up to 22-all. Slovenia scored two in a row for 24-22 and closed the set 25-23 on a service error by Francois Lecat. Ropret orchestrated Slovenia’s game very well even though their reception was far from being perfect.
The tiebreak was an incredibly close affair until Slovenia scored three times in a row following great defence actions from their libero Jani Kovacic. Sket did a superb job in attack and even though Tomas Rousseaux cancelled a Slovenian match point, once again a mistake by Lecat sealed Slovenia’s win.