Bologna, Italy, September 21, 2018 – In a re-match of the first round of the FIVB Men’s World Championship, Slovenia stunned once again the team of Belgium, seizing a straight 3-0 (28-26, 28-26, 25-19) victory over the Red Dragons. This time the players coached by Slobodan Kovac, who found in Klemen Cebulj (17 points) their top scorer, turned out to be an even tougher opponent for the Belgians. Despite the real battle between both sides during the first two sets, Slovenia showed they deserved more to emerge victorious from this matchup.
Cebulj, together with Mitja Gasparini (14 points) and Tine Urnaut (13 points) were the main heroes in the Slovenian team, showing not only good volleyball skills but also leadership spirit in the decisive moments.
In this much-anticipated repeat, Belgium could not take the best out of their opportunities. Although Bram Van den Dries (11 points) gave his best, supported by captain Sam Deroo (14 points in the match), this was not enough to claim the victory that the Red Dragons were longing for.
Supporters of both Slovenia and Belgium made the atmosphere in PalaDozza amazing, cheering for their teams with much passion and enjoying the volleyball show of the year in the city of Bologna.
Slovenia took a small lead in the beginning of the first set, as Belgium seemed to be more nervous, letting unforced errors affect their performance. A good series on the service line by Tomas Rousseaux (one ace as well) helped the Belgians come back at 10-10 and 11-11 and even lead at 13-11. The Red Dragons kept on leading after good play on block and defence until the 19th point, when Tine Urnaut & Co. took the initiative for 21-20. Sam Deroo responded with a block and much fighting spirit in those moments but Mitja Gasparini’s strong serve made it difficult for Belgium. Klemen Cebulj (seven points in the set) was just excellent in attack and Urnaut closed the set in Slovenia’s favour at 28-26 with a sharp attack.
It was a close affair in the second set, but Slovenia tried to take control of the game with strong play in attack. Belgium’s players did not give in and equalised at 14-14. Good play by Urnaut and Alen Pajenk in the centre helped Slovenia take a small two-point lead (19-17). Both sides were fighting for each point, entertaining the fans with fast rallies. Once again, Pajenk was outstanding with an ace for 24-19, but Belgium saved the first set point. Sam Deroo’s ace brought back the intrigue in the set. The good performance by the Belgian captain continued and the fight was on, as Slovenia lost a little bit of concentration (two serve mistakes as well), but eventually closed the set in their favour at 28-26.
‘The usual suspects’ in the team of Slovenia during this match - Tine Urnaut, Mitja Gasparini and Klemen Cebulj - were the main leaders in the third set as well (Urnaut and Gasparini with aces). Belgium could not find a response to this well-organised play and Slovenia emerged victorious at 25-19 to seal their fourth victory in the tournament.