Matosinhos, Portugal, June 24, 2018 - Portugal came back from a set down and triumphed over the Czech Republic at home before almost 3,500 thrilled fans in the final of the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Challenger to claim the sole available ticket for the 2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League.
Captain Alexandre Ferreira from the outside with 22 points and opposite Marco Ferreira with 19 spearheaded Portugal in their 3-1 (18-25, 25-22, 25-19, 25-16) win. They produced a far superior attacking efficiency of 60% (53/88) to the Czech Republic's mere 44% (36/82), while pushing the visitors to concede as many as 38 errors.
"This is a moment that marks the life of those present in the competition hall," said Portugal coach Hugo Silva after his team's historic win. "It's the most important moment for the national team, since the win in the 2010 European League because it places us in the top of the European teams and grants us access to the Volleyball Nations League. It will be a challenge for us to bring here the major world teams. I don't believe in miraculous formulas, only in daily hard work and a very strong will from this group to leave something that stays in the memory of all, and that helps overcome the stigma that the others are better than we are."
"Today was an easy win for Portugal that presented a better sideout and a more effective attack than ours, which made the difference in this match," concluded Czech coach Michal Nekola."
Estonia take bronze
Earlier in the day at Matosinhos, Estonia shut out Cuba 3-0 (30-28, 25-21, 25-16) for bronze, allowing for a clean sweep of the podium by the European sides in the tournament.
Renee Teppan with 14 points and Rauno Tamme with 12 led the scoring for Estonia to counter the 15 from Cuba's Miguel Gutierrez who emerged top scorer of the game.
Estonia were dominant in blocking and serving, but also took good advantage of as many as 24 errors conceded by Cuba.
Robert Taht attempts to get over the Cuban block of Livan Osoria and Roamy Alonso as Estonia take bronze at the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Challenger Cup in Matosinhos.
"It's true that we aren't completely satisfied with the third place, since we came here to win the competition," said Estonia outside hitter Robert Taht after the game. "Today we played better and had a good performance from the players that usually aren't our initial lineup. This competition has a good level and the Czech Republic yesterday defeated us, qualifying to the final - but I still believe that our team is better than the Czech Republic."
"I think that today we played better than yesterday," suggested Cuba coach Nicolas Coffigny. "It was very difficult to face Estonia, who have very tall players and a good block. As I mentioned before, we have a very young team but one that is constantly growing."
Quick links: FIVB Volleyball Challenger Cups