Russia will face Ukraine in the final of both the men’s and women’s 2017 European Championship after a sensational day of action in Croatia.
Going into the men’s semi-finals, Bosnia & Herzegovina had not lost a set at the European Championships since the final in 2011 and looked on course to win their tenth consecutive European title. Russia, however, had other ideas.
Bosnian number 7, Nizam Čančar, suffered an injury early in the first set which seemed to unsettle his team but Russia seized control of the set to win it 25-18. The champions came back superbly in the second set and many believed that would be the turning point, taking them to victory. Instead, Russia took the third set and after Bosnia had once again levelled, Russia won the deciding set 15-12 to take the match 3-2 (25-18, 18-25, 25-19, 20-25, 15-12) and book their place in the final. The team made very few errors and kept Bosnia under constant pressure which allowed them to progress
In the second semi-final, Croatia played very well in front of their home crowd and were rewarded in the first set as they ran out 25-16. Ukraine responded well and with four of their players scoring 10 or more points in the match, they were able to gain the three sets they needed to qualify for their first ever European Championship final with a score of 3-1 (16-25, 25-15, 25-16, 25-18).
Croatia will take on Bosnia & Herzegovina for the bronze medal. The winner of that match will also claim the claim the last European qualifying place for the 2018 World Championship and will join Russia and Ukraine at the competition.
In the women’s semi-finals, the matches were not as close. Although Finland went into the first semi-final undefeated, it was Ukraine who dominated the match. Elina Bezprozvanna took her points tally for the week to 84 with another 18 points and she helped to make the difference throughout the match. In the end Ukraine won the match 3-0 (25-17, 25-13, 25-16) to send them into the final and leave Finland to contest the bronze medal.
Russia joined Ukraine in the final with their own emphatic display. Iuliia Mednikova scored 16 points, including several blocks, and she is likely to be one of the players aiming to prevent Bezprozvanna shining in the final. Russia secured the match 3-0 (25-19, 25-11, 25-12) which means Netherlands will now play Finland on Saturday morning as they aim to better their fourth place from 2 years ago.
Elsewhere in the competition, Slovenia came out on top against Hungary in the play-off for 5-6th place. The Slovenians took the match 3-0 (25-10, 25-23, 25-17). There was also disappointment for Croatia in the women’s competition as their team lost 3-0 (25-11, 25-17, 25-17) to Germany who claim 8th place.
The semi-finals of the men’s 5-8 place playoff saw the Netherlands beat Poland 3-0 (25-22, 25-18, 25-21) in a match that was closer than the score suggests, whilst Germany overcame Serbia, also 3-0 (25-20, 25-18, 25-14). The winners and losers from these matches will meet on the final day to decide their final places.
In the 9-13th playoff pool, the first game of the day was incredibly close! Georgia won the first set and hoped that they were on their way to their first win at the European Championships but Italy claimed the next two sets to take a 2-1 lead. In the fourth set the Italians were not able to convert 2 match points which allowed Georgia to make the match level again. Italy then won the deciding set to claim their first ever win at this level 3-2 (20-25, 25-19, 26-24, 24-26, 15-8).
Latvia closed the day as leaders of the playoff pool after they recorded 2 wins. First up they played a 5-set match against Turkey which could have gone either way but after winning 15-11 in the fifth set they took the match 3-2 (22-25, 25-18, 25-14, 18-25, 15-11). They also beat Italy 3-0 (25-17, 25-14, 25-10) in their second match to put themselves in pole position for 9th place.
At the end of the fifth day, the following things have been decided:
– Final – Russia v Ukraine
– Bronze-medal match – Finland v Netherlands
– 5th place – Slovenia
– 6th place – Hungary
– 7th place – Italy
– 8th place – Germany
– 9th place – Croatia
– Final – Russia v Ukraine
– Bronze-medal match – Bosnia & Herzegovina v Croatia
– 5-6th playoff – Netherlands v Germany
– 7-8th playoff – Poland v Serbia
– 9-13th playoff – Ongoing