Volleyball fever mounts in Ankara on eve of #EuroVolleyW opening day
As the anticipation is mounting in Turkey’s capital for the 2019 edition of CEV EuroVolley Women starting on Friday at Ankara Sports Hall, the coaches and captains of the six teams competing in Pool A had the opportunity to discuss their feelings and expectations with a large number of media and TV stations.
Turkish Volleyball Federation President Mehmet Akif Üstündag attended the event as well, where players, coaches and media could take photos from the iconic golden trophy that the eventual winners will be lifting on September 8.
Team captain Eda Erdem Dündar: “I can say that we are very happy and excited to play this tournament in our country. Everyone in our team is incredibly excited for the European Championship, which will be taking place in our country 16 years after the 2003 edition. There is no member of our team who has attended such an event on home soil before. We have been working hard and the summer period was productive. Now we are ready for the tournament. When we look at our group, we start with Greece. Afterwards, the journey continues with Finland, Bulgaria, France and Serbia. We know most of the teams. We think we should start the first game as good as we can. If we start well, the tournament will continue the same way. We focus only on Friday’s game with Greece for now. Our current goal is to finish the group first or second in the worst scenario because this would give us a great advantage. After that, we will fight bravely until the last day of the event.”
Head coach Giovanni Guidetti: “We are very excited to be here in Ankara and very grateful of the great organisation that the Turkish Federation have done so far. We are ready and we are excited to start. We know it will be an extremely difficult tournament. We want to do our best, we want to enjoy it, and we want the people in Ankara to come and support us. There are many strong teams and we should not forget that there are so many European teams in the top ten, top twelve of the world. Therefore, the level of the competition will be amazing, especially since the tournament will be lasting for so long with this revised formula. It will make a big difference. Two weeks are really a long term. I remember that I saw some European Championships lasting just one week. This one lasts more than two weeks. It will be a very difficult tournament for everybody. I hope we can take advantage from the fans. Of course, it is always very nice and inspiring to play in front of many spectators. We want to inspire people, we want people to have fun watching us and the people will help us to play better. Our goal is to stay in the tournament for as long as possible. Of course, our dream is to make it to the last day of the competition here in Ankara. This is our goal but as I said, it is a long tournament with so many good teams. The only thing we can do is to go match by match and day by day.”
Maja Ognjenovic, team captain: “I have to say that we are really excited about #EuroVolleyW, and that we have been waiting for this tournament for a long time after playing Volleyball Nations League and the Olympic qualifiers earlier this summer. We need to improve our game day by day. As you know, we are the reigning World and European champions. We are ready for this tournament and even though we are missing some players, we can say that we are still a good team. We have good and strong opponents in the pool like Turkey and Bulgaria. If play as good as we can, I think we can take a medal from this tournament.”
Zoran Terzic, head coach: “We have high expectations because we are the defending World and European champions and everybody expect from us that we take a medal here as well. Of course, it will not be an easy thing to achieve. We have many strong and good teams at EuroVolley Women like Turkey, Russia, the Netherlands, Italy and some others. Turkey especially have a strong team and we know that many fans will come to cheer for them and I am sure that they will create a great atmosphere, so we are going to have an even more difficult game against Turkey.”
Team Captain Elitsa Vasileva: “I am so happy to be here. We will focus on the games in our group and take it day by day. We want to play like a team and move on to the next round with an advantage. Serbia and Turkey are two of the main favourites of the tournament but the other teams from the group have good players too. We hope that we will show our best. EuroVolley is the last tournament of this summer for us and we aim for a happy end of the season.”
Team Coach Ivan Petkov: “Our team has many players from a rather young generation. Therefore, this tournament is a very big opportunity for them to gain experience. We will try to give our best against strong opponents. We prepared very well for EuroVolley and we are confident that we can show what we are capable of; every tournament has its own story and I hope to say something nice about our story at the end of this #EuroVolleyW.”
Team captain Styliani Christodoulou: “We are very proud to represent our country in the finals after so many years. We feel very welcomed in Ankara and everything is very well organised. We want to have fun and take the best out of every game to see if it is possible to proceed to the next round. We know that we have to face very good opponents. We respect everyone but we are not afraid of anyone. Whatever happens we will be glad because we are at the EuroVolley after 18 years, which is a big success.”
Head coach Guillermo Naranjo Hernandez: “All of our girls have big hearts. They fought hard to be here last year. We have little experience and we do not know when we will be at such an event next time. We are completely ready to fight for points in our group. We had a good run but only the best teams of Europe are here. This makes it difficult. In our pool, it looks like we have two groups, three teams have a very high level and the other three will fight for the fourth position. I think we have our chances and we are ready to compete.”
Tapio Kangasniemi, head coach of Finland: “We have been working for quite some weeks ahead of this tournament, with a camp held in Kuusamo, in the north of Finland, before travelling to Slovakia to play some friendly matches there. I believe we have a strong style of playing and we have become even stronger in attack compared to last year when we played at the European Golden League Finals, even though one of our top players, Pauliina Vilponen has retired and now works as a lawyer. Serbia, Turkey and Bulgaria are obviously the favourites in the pool but the fourth place is there at stake for us, France and Greece. We obviously want to make it to the next stage of the competition.”
Laura Pihlajamäki, captain of Finland: “It is the first time since 1989 that Finland play at the European Championship. It is important for us to make it as far as possible in this competition and try to show our best level right from the first match in the pool. Moreover, it is important that our matches will be available live on TV back home, so that we can inspire even more young girls to play Volleyball and hopefully one day represent the national team on such a big stage.”
Juliette Fidon Lebleu, captain of France: “This is the first stage of a long-term project taking us to the Paris 2024 Olympics. The summer has been long and we used many young players for the Golden League, as we wanted to provide a pool of girls as large as possible with the opportunity to gain experience and compete internationally. This accounts for positive competition inside the group and stimulates everyone to work hard and improve. EuroVolley with 24 teams provides many with the chance to play at the highest level, against some of the best teams in the world. Maybe the top teams in our pool could underestimate us but we want to reap the fruits of the hard work we have been doing since earlier this summer and possibly cause a surprise.”