Lausanne, Switzerland, January 7 2020 – Germany and Slovenia became the first two teams to advance to the semifinals of Europe’s continental Olympic qualification tournament in Berlin, after Tuesday’s two five-setters in Pool A polarized the standings ahead of the last match on Wednesday. Bulgaria are well on track to joining them after shutting out the Netherlands for their second win in Pool B, but still need to win at least two sets against European champions Serbia in a crucial game on Wednesday.
With Thomas Edgar contributing as many as 30 points, Australia opened their campaign in Asia’s continental qualifier with a win over Korea in a nail-biting five-set thriller in China. Qatar, Iran and the host team also recorded victories, all in straight sets, on day one of the tournament in Jiangmen. Hosts Egypt managed a four-set win over Algeria to get Africa’s qualifying event underway in Cairo.
Outside spiker Klemen Cebulj top-scored 25 points, including four aces, in Slovenia’s 3-2 (32-34, 25-20, 19-25, 25-21, 15-12) victory over Germany in the last match on Tuesday’s schedule in Berlin, supported by opposite Toncek Stern with another 20, while Simon Hirsch, who replaced injured German opposite Gyorgy Grozer for the game, produced an 18-point tally. In fact, a few of the German starters received some rest time as the team had already secured their advancement following Belgium’s dramatic 3-2 (21-25, 28-26, 25-20, 22-25, 19-17) win over Czech Republic earlier in the day, with an incredible 41 points from Jolan Cox. The home squad leads the Pool A standings on a 2-1 win-loss record and seven points. Slovenia are next on 2-0, five points and a game with winless Czech Republic at hand. Belgium finished the tournament with one win and two defeats, currently in third position.
Bulgaria registered their second victory in Pool B. They mastered a speedy 3-0 (25-19, 25-16, 25-15) shutout of the Netherlands to take the lead in the standings and put the Dutch out of contention. Dutch opposite Nimir Abdel-Aziz was the best scorer of the match with 15 points, while his counterpart Tsvetan Sokolov piled up 13 for the winning side. To secure a spot in the semis regardless of the outcome of Wednesday’s late match between France and the Netherlands, Bulgaria will need to win at least two sets against Serbia.
Egypt started their campaign in Africa’s single round-robin qualifier with a victory. In front of 1,500 spectators in Cairo, they managed a 3-1 (25-18, 25-17, 21-25, 25-20) win over Algeria. Opposite Ahmed Abdelhay contributed 21 points to the home team’s success and topped the scorers’ chart of the match.
In the other match on the first day’s programme, Tunisia won against Ghana by forfeit.
In a rollercoaster Pool B game, Australia persevered through five sets of tense action to emerge with a 3-2 (23-25, 25-23, 26-24, 20-25, 19-17) victory over Korea. Four of the five sets were resolved by the smallest of margins, with the Volleyroos snatching the wins of the third set and the tie-breaker in overtime. Thomas Edgar was by far the best scorer of the match with a total of 30 points, including four aces. In the deciding set alone, the Australian opposite contributed as many as eight points to the eventual success. With four aces towards a match total of 16 points, sub-in Gyeong-Bok Na was Korea’s most prolific player.
In the other Pool B match on the first competition day, Qatar managed a 3-0 (25-22, 25-20, 25-23) shutout of India on a 17-point contribution from Geraldo Graciano Da Silva Filho to take the early lead in the pool standings.
Pre-favourites Iran hammered out an emphatic 3-0 (25-16, 25-17, 25-14) win over Chinese Taipei in the Pool A opener. Porya Ali topped the match charts with 14 points for the winning side.
China left no doubts over their superiority in their opening game against Kazakhstan. The home side mastered a 3-0 (25-19, 25-14, 25-18) victory with Chuan Jiang firing six aces towards a total tally of 16 points, one short of that of Kazakhstan’s Maxim Michshenko, the best scorer of the match.