Czech Republic, Portugal for one ticket to 2019 Men's VNL


Matosinhos, Portugal, June 23, 2018 - Portugal and the Czech Republic advanced to the final of the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Challenger Cup, the winner of which gets to replace Korea for the 2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League. In Saturday's semifinals of the VCC Portugal beat Cuba in straight sets and the Czech Republic followed suit with a four-set win over Estonia.

Cuba will meet Estonia for third-place honours at the VCC.

Portugal opened the day in Matosinhos with captain Alexandre Ferreira leading the charge and scoring 13 points, as the hosts produced highly more efficient attacking of 57% (45/79) to 49% (33/67) to seal the deal 3-0 (25-22, 25-21, 26-24). Another three Portuguese players scored in double digits.

Cuba's Miguel Gutierrez was top scorer of the game on 21 points - though not enough to make a real impact.

Portugal celebrate semifinal win over Cuba for a shot at making the 2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League.

"This presence in the final is a fair reward for these players and for the path that this team as taken," said Portugal coach Hugo Silva. "The Czech Republic are more used to the finals - they played the European Golden League final - but we also were able to beat them two times in the pools phase. We are prepared to win the final and to join the elite of the world volleyball."

"Our players are very young," countered Cuba coach Nicolas Coffigny. "They have a good future ahead but still lack experience. Tomorrow will be yet another match to add to their growth as players. We still have to work a lot with this team to win matches of this level."

Czechs come back to take Estonia
Earlier in the day at Matosinhos, the Czech Republic recovered quickly after losing the first set to knock out Estonia 3-1 (29-31, 27-25, 25-18, 25-21). It was a rematch of the European Golden League final, earlier this month, which Estonia had won in straight sets.

It was a tight first set, before Estonia captain Kert Toobal brought it home with an ace. But the Czechs picked up as Jan Hadrava set the pace with his 27 points. The Czech Republic struggled a bit in reception, but outblocked their opponents 13-8 and also took advantange of 39 unforced errors from the Estonians.

Jan Hadrava tries to get the ball past Estonia's Oliver Venno and Timo Tammemaa,as he leads the Czech Republic to the final of the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Challenger Cup in Matosinhos.

"I'm very pleased with the way we played," said Czech coach Michal Nekola after the game. "We served very well, pressured their reception and were safe in our low defence. Tomorrow is a new match but regardless of our opponent in the final, we are here to win and advance to the VNL."

"It was a very difficult match for us," commented Estonia's Oliver Venno. "We came from a long competitive path and it's very hot in Matosinhos... We are disappointed, but that's volleyball - in the beginning of the matches all are equal and with a chance to win. Today the Czechs have won because they played better. In the match for 3rd place, we will see what happens. Between today and tomorrow we will study our opponent better and try to win the game."

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