2023 Men

Poland and Italy to play for EuroVolley gold!


Article Thu, Sep 14 2023
Author: Martyna Szydłowska

EuroVolley 2023 - Men reaches its climax as only two teams stay in the race for the European crown. A year ago, Italy and Poland battled it out for the world championship title in Katowice (Poland), and on Saturday these teams will meet again to fight against each other for the EuroVolley 2023 trophy at Palazzetto dello Sport di Roma. Poland, who faced Slovenia in the EuroVolley semifinals for the third consecutive time, finally found their way to the final, after defeating the silver medalists of the previous two editions 3-1. Later on Thursday night, in a full house, Italy silenced France, beating the Olympic champions in straight sets and will have a chance to defend their title in front of the home crowd. France and Slovenia will play for bronze medal also on Saturday.

Poland vs Slovenia (23-25, 25-21, 25-20, 25-21)

Poland and Slovenia met in the EuroVolley semifinals for the third consecutive time, and the third time was a charm for Poland, who finally managed to overpower their rival and book a spot in the gold medal match for the first time since 2009, when they claimed their maiden European title. From the beginning, the game was intense. Although Poland was the first to gain a slight advantage (8-6) after powerful hits from Łukasz Kaczmarek, Slovenia answered immediately, scoring three in a row. Kaczmarek and Wilfredo Leon (6 and 7 points, respectively) were the main guns of Poland, and made the team leading by two points at 15-13, however, again, Slovenia - led by Rok Mozic (5 points in the opener) erased the gap quickly after own good plays and mistakes from the rivals - 12 own errors on the side of Poland - which in the decisive moment of the set cost them a lot, thus Slovenia won the set 25-23. 

The second set was full of dramatic turnarounds. Three excellent plays from Klemen Cebulj - including one ace - moved Slovenia to 6-2. It was a cold shower for Poland, who quickly geared up and not only tied at 6-6, but also took initiative on the court. Killing attacks from Leon gave them a 14-10 lead, and they kept improving it further to 20-15. This time it was Slovenia being far from a flawless game (13 own mistakes!) and even if Slovenia tried hard to come back, reducing the gap to 20-18. Poland proved better, closing the set 25-21. Wilfredo Leon once again hammered 7 points. A fierce point-by-point race was delivered by both teams in the third set, but at 12-12, an ankle injury eliminated from the game Gregor Ropret. This visible affected Slovenia's game, once Poland started completely dominated on the court (17-13). Poland's playmaker - Marcin Janusz led a well-balanced game, once Norbert Huber was unstoppable in the middle scoring 5 points (83% success in attack). A smart play from Aleksander Śliwka closed the set 25-20.

In the fourth part, Slovenia kept the pace with Poland until 11-11, then the team around coach Nikola Grbic enjoyed a streak of six points in a row scored by Wilfredo Leon - including two aces that moved them to 17-11. But determined Slovenia did not lay down their guns and shorten the distance to 22-20 with Tine Urnaut on serve, the hopes of the silver medalists of the two previous editions were quickly smashed by the Poles who, after successful plays from Kaczmarek and Huber stamped the ticket to the final. Wilfredo Leon topped the scorer's chart with 25 points, including 2 aces, 3 blocks and 20 killing spikes (47% of success in attack and 52% positive receptions). On the Slovenian side, Klemen Cebulj and Rok Mozic tallied 15 apiece. 

"It's a big win for our team, but the most important game is still ahead of us. So we need calm down and stayed focused on our goal."

Wilfredo Leon
outside hitter of Poland

Italy vs France (25-21, 25-19, 25-23)

The reigning European and world champions, Italy, vividly supported by an 11-thousand-crowd at the sold-out Palazzetto dello Sport di Roma entered the court highly-motivated, so they were also the Olympic champions, France. Thus, the game started with an absolutely fascinating point-by-point race. Both sides, with full determination and strength, hit hard, delivering spectacular play. Daniele Lavia and Yuri Romano were scoring leaders (6 and 4 points, respectively). Once on the French side, Antoine Brizard distributed the balls to all his teammates frequently. The status quo ended at 18-18, when Riccardo Sbertoli went to the service line, taking Italy to 22-18. Shortly after, at 25-21, the set was closed by the local heroes. Italy kept the momentum, opening perfectly the second part with a 9-5 lead. The hosts played almost flawlessly, keeping the score safe (16-11). Super duo Lavia & Romano were constantly impressing with his powerful plays, but in the end of the second set, also Tommaso Rinaldi excited the crowd with his great run from the service run that helped the team to close the set 25-19.

The third - and as it later turned out the last - set was a show of the Italian force that flamed up the crowd even more. Yuri Romano did not slow down (contributing 7 points) and, along with the Italian superstar Alessandro Michieletto (6) the hosts led 12-6 and then 19-14. However, having a ticket to the gold medal match, France didn't give up and with Nicolas Le Goff on serve, they made it up to 21-20. Then a fierce fight started again, and although France denied the first match point, Italy took a win in straight sets to progress again to the gold medal match. Top scorer honour went to Yuri Romano - 15 points (14 kills, 1 block and 58% success in attack), he was followed by his teammate Daniele Lavia who had 13 to his name (13 kills - 59%). 

"It's an amazing victory, to play here in front of such a crowd in Rome is unbelievable. Now we have to rest and get ready for the final. We played against Poland last year in the world championship final and we want the same result this year in Rome!"

Yuri Romano
opposite of Italy