Turin, Italy, October 9, 2015. The gold medal winners from this year’s FIVB Volleyball World League, France, comfortably claimed their opening match in Pool B of EuroVolley 2015, which is being contested at the iconic Palavela in Turin. Les Bleus cruised to a fairly compelling 3-0 (26-24, 25-14, 25-22) victory over Croatia to cement their status as one of the potential contenders for the podium. Later in the evening, hosts Italy made their debut in the competition cruising to a 3-0 (25-19, 26-24, 25-15) victory over underdog Estonia in a match where they had to come back from behind in the second set but, apart from that circumstance, their supremacy was never to be questioned.
Croatia vs. France 0-3 (24-26, 14-25, 22-25)
France claimed their first match in Pool B cruising to a 3-0 victory over Croatia. The first set was a very close race (26-24) with the players mentored by Laurent Tillie having the upper hand only after a dramatic end. The second set was fully controlled by Les Bleus, thus resulting in a landslide 25-14 win. The score was quite close for most of the third set, but in the end France used their technical skills to take their first three points in the competition.
“It was important to win,” said Antonin Rouzier. “It does not really matter how you win, but we really wanted to record a 3-0 and to take three points from this match. I think we played quite relaxed in the second and third sets, something we were not quite able to do in the first set because we started the match with too much self-confidence thinking that we would have performed at the same level as we did in the World League. However, we were able to fight back and stayed cool, which is what we were supposed to do. On Saturday Estonia will be a hard nut to crack and so we have to be very careful when entering the next match.”
Croatia’s mentor Igor Simuncic: “We know that we can play at a good level. But for my players the question is how long we can perform at this level in one game when we are playing again strong teams like France. Today we definitely showed a good game, but that is definitely not enough to win even one set or the game. We knew that France would give us a chance in the first game, because the first, opening games for the favorites of these tournaments are always difficult; for us it’s not the same, because we can take risks and we have no pressure.”
Italy vs. Estonia 3-0 (25-19, 26-24, 25-15)
Italy claimed its opening match in Pool B downing Estonia in three straight sets. The local heroes were off to a flying start and controlled the game right from the opening stages of the first set where they claimed an early 13-6 lead which was then extended to 21-14 following a kill spike by their Cuban-born star player Osmany Juantorena. Estonia tried their best to fight back but another spike, this time by Ivan Zaytsev, finished the first set off at 25-19 to the home side. In the second set Estonia seemed to take control of the game as Italy made a number of mistakes and did not quite perform at the same level as in the opening stanza. Italy and Estonia fought hard to break away in the score but they could not quite succeed in doing this. Estonia seemed on their way to taking the set as they moved the charts to 22-19 but Italy responded well and Juantorena leveled it at 22 all. As the score stood at 24-24, Estonia served off the bounds and Italy immediately capitalized on their chance closing the set out at 26-24. After that everything went just easy for Italy that cashed the third and final set by a landslide 25-15. Ivan Zaytsev was just unstoppable and well supported by Juantorena and Filippo Lanza, as Italy’s attack was masterfully orchestrated by the only 19-year-old setter Simone Giannelli.
“We started off very well but Estonia caused us some troubles in the second set,” said Italy’s team captain Simone Buti. “We do not have to lose focus as we did there and we were about to pay a high price for this. Our physical condition is excellent even though we have played a very long and demanding tournament - the FIVB World Cup in Japan - only a couple of weeks ago.”
“Estonia performed really well in the second set and they exploited our lack of focus,” said setter Simone Giannelli. “We have been preparing very well for this tournament, our condition is good and this is a good omen for this European Championship. We are not afraid of anyone, our main strength is the group and we have been building our achievements and success on this asset. To play for the first time in such iconic venue as Palavela has been quite emotional.”
“Matches which on paper look easy can become quite complicated at some point and this is what happened tonight,” said Italy’s mentor Gian Lorenzo Blengini. “I quite liked the approach and attitude showed by my team tonight and also their determination to win. We played good in defense and such actions were then finalized with good spikes. We are taking this tournament one match at a time. France is one of the major contenders for the medals and the title, but first we will think about and prepare for the next match with Croatia.”
“We have to fight if we want to make the next round since this is not an easy group,” said Estonia’s mentor Gheorghe Cretu. “We have to push a lot. Italy performed well tonight, especially in attack, and for the next match I hope that my players will be playing better, mainly in this fundamental. We need to stay more focused and do so on every single ball from start to end of each set. We have to keep the same energy and intensity we showed in the second set of the match with Italy.”
For more information on the 2015 CEV Volleyball European Championship - Men in social media, please use the competition’s official hashtag #EuroVolleyM.