World Champs qualifiers taking shape across Europe


Kay Van Dijk, Thomas Koelewijn and Thijs Ter Horst block Greece's Andreas Frangos as The Netherlands close in on ticket to the 2018 FIVB World Championship.

Lausanne, Switzerland, May 25, 2017 - Things being to shape up across Europe as action continued on Thursday with 18 matches in six qualification pools for as many tickets to the 2018 FIVB World Championship in Italy and Bulgaria.

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France and Germany headed for showndown
Both hosts France and 2014 FIVB World Championship bronze medallists Germany doubled their wins in Lyon, retaining perfect records and headed towards a showdown on Sunday.

After a very hard-earned first set, coach Andrea Giani completely switched his team around with Jochen Schoeps and Moritz Reichert coming on off the bench to score 10 points each and wrap up the game against Azerbaijan 3-0 29-27, 25-18, 25-18).

Reigning European champions France followed up later ijn the day with pressure from the service line, great receiving and highly efficient attacking as they thrashed Ukraine 3-0 (25-20, 25-8, 25-15). Thibault Rossard was top scorer of the game with 13 points and 11/18 for 63% in attack.

France's Kevin Le Roux beats the block of Ukraine's Kostiantyn Riabukha in Lyon.

Turkey are also on a perfect record, after edging Iceland of the Small Countries Division 3-0 (25-18, 25-23, 25-17).

The Netherlands close in on ticket to Italy/Bulgaria
The Netherlands survived quite a scare in the second set and cancelled eight set points of Greece (who had led 22-24) to take the game 3-0 (25-13, 32-30, 25-16) and take a huge step towards returning to the World Championship for the first time in 16 years.

Kay Van Dijk scored 14 points and had 11/15 kills for 73% as The Netherlands outblocked (9 stuffs to 4) and outserved (6 aces to 1) Greece to remain the only undefeated team after three matches in Pool B in De Koog.

In other Pool B action Austria just pushed past Luxembourg 3-0 (26-24, 25-23, 25-20) and Slovakia defeated Estonia 3-0 (25-9, 33-31, 25-23).

Slovenia, Belgium carry on
In Ljubljana hosts Slovenia counted on Tine Urnaut's 17 points and Mitja Gasparini's 15 to finish off Latvia 3-0 (25-14, 25-14, 25-19), while Bram Van Den Dries scored 14 and Ruben Van Hirtum another 13 as Belgium swept Georgia 3-0 (25-18, 25-11, 25-10).

Triple block by Slovenia's Mitja Gasparini, Alen Pajenk and tine Urnaut tries to stop Latvia's Romans Sauss in Ljubljana.

Slovenia and Belgium are also on track for a Sunday head-to-head that may well decide first place in Pool C.

In other action in Ljubljana Portugal downed Israel 3-1 (25-19, 25-21, 24-26, 25-12).

Russia, Estonia undefeated
Russia continued their winning ways in Tallin, led by Maxim Mikhailov who scored 13 points as the 2012 Olympic champions beat Romania 3-0 (25-18, 25-20, 25-21).

Led by Timo Tammemaa who scored 16 points (including 4 blocks) Estonia demolished rookies Kosovo 3-0 (25-13, 25-15, 25-7) as they llok ahead to their FIVB World League debut next week. The hosts are set to meet Russia on Sunday in the Estonian capital.

Montenegro wrapped up the night in Tallinn with a 3-2 (23-25, 25-13, 25-23, 26-28, 15-10) win over Hungary.

Switzerland stun Croatia
Aleksandar Atanasijevic with 14 points led reigning FIVB World League champions Serbia to a tough 3-0 (25-23, 34-32, 25-19) win in Pool E over Denmark, who had Peter Trolle Bonnensen and Rasmus reuning Nielsen share top-scoring honours with 15 each.

But Switzerland scored the upset of the day in Zagreb, beating hosts Croatia 3-1 (26-28, 25-20, 25-18, 25-23) with 23 points by Sebastien Steigmeier (including two aces and three blocks) to remain the only other undefeated side in the pool, while Belarus beat Norway 3-1 (25-19, 25-20, 25-22).

Three in contention at Karlovy Vary
Finland who beat Northern Ireland 3-0 (25-8, 25-8, 25-9), hosts Czech Republic who swept Sweden 3-0 (25-19, 25-16, 25-20) and Spain who downed Cyprus 3-0 (25-17, 25-14, 25-22) all remain undefeated after two matches and very much in contention in Pool F.

Sweden's Linus Ekstrand gets past the block of the Czech Republic's Adam Bartos in 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, 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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