2023 Men

Rousing semi-finals to decide who will play for EuroVolleyM crown


Article Thu, Sep 14 2023
Author: Martyna Szydłowska

After almost three weeks of passionate journey, four teams: Poland, Slovenia, Italy and France, reached their final destination at the EuroVolley 2023 - the eternal city of Rome, where the final stage of the quest for the European crown is held. The majestic Palazzetto dello Sport Rome will be on Thursday a stage for two mouth-watering semifinals featuring Poland vs Slovenia and Italy vs France.

Poland vs Slovenia (18:00 CEST)

History repeats itself - same as at EuroVolley 2019 and 2021 - Poland and Slovenia will lock horns in the semifinal. It's safe to say that it has already become a EuroVolley classic, as the encounters featuring these two teams always electrify Volleyball fans. Both Poland and Slovenia arrived in Rome as undefeated teams in this edition, and they are the only teams who have reached the last four at each of the last three European Championships (2019-2023). Both in 2019 and 2021, Slovenia finished the tournaments with silver medals around their necks and Poland with bronze. However, the semifinal in Rome is a new chapter and the teams have everything in their hands. Poland and Slovenia have met five times at the European Championships. Poland won only the first encounter (3-1 in the pool phase of the EuroVolley 2015), and in the next four Slovenia defeated Poland, both in 2019 and 2021, their semifinal wins came in 3-1. The teams regularly face each other also at other major competitions, and there is no such one-side dominance. In the most recent encounter at a major international tournament, Poland beat Slovenia in five sets in the pool stage of the Volleyball Nations League 2023. Then, Aleksander Śliwka and Klemen Cebulj were the top scorers on 20 points each.

The current world ranking leaders and VNL 2023 winners hope to gain their only second European championship title - the first that was only won by Poland in 2009. Now Poland can become the fourth country to win the Volleyball Nations League (or predecessor World League) and European Championships in the same year, after Italy (1995, 1999), Russia (2013) and France (2015). Türkiye achieved this double on the women's side this year. So far, Łukasz Kaczmarek is Poland's top scorer at EuroVolley 2023 on 84 points, including scoring a tournament-high 21 points from kill blocks. And the numbers confirm that block is a powerful weapon of the team around Nikola Grbić. Jakub Kochanowski made the second-most kill blocks at this tournament with 20 stuffs. Also, Poland have scored 4.1 points per set from kill blocks, more than any other team at EuroVolley 2023 (Italy and Czechia follow on 2.7 per set). 

On the other hand, Slovenia aim for their maiden title, having already three silver medals in their cabinet (2015, 2019, 2021). It's worth noticing that, so far, Slovenia have a 100% winning record in the semifinals, taking all three by a 3-1 scoreline: against Italy (2015) and Poland (2019, 2021). Also, the team under the guidance of coach Gheorge Cretu could become the first country to win the European Championships after taking the silver medal in the previous edition, since Italy won in 2003 after second place in 2001. Rok Možič is in third place in the spiker ranking with 98 points at EuroVolley 2023, behind The Netherlands' Nimir Abdel-Aziz (111) and Romania's Alexandru Rata (110).

Italy vs France (21:00 CEST)

The emotions will again run high in the second semifinal at Palazzetto dello Sport Rome when the hosts and reigning European and world champions Italy will face the reigning Olympic champions France. The clash of giants promises to be a thrilling battle. Tonight, Italy and France will face each other for the 20th time at the European Championships. This equals the record for most played fixture on the men's side: 20 matches between Poland and Bulgaria. Alles Bleus won 12 of the previous 19 encounters at the European Championships, once Azzurri only seven. They had never met in the semifinals before. In their most recent match at the EuroVolley, back in 2019, France defeated Italy in straight sets in the quarter-final. Also, Italy lost each of their last four matches against France at the European Championships since their 3-2 win against them in the 2003 Gold Medal Match. However, in their most recent game in a major competition, it was Italy to clinch a 3-2 victory in the quarter-finals of the 2022 World Championships. Back then, Yuri Romano was their top scorer with 22 points, and Jean Patry tallied 16 points for France.

Italy reached this stage of competition as the undefeated team, once France suffered a surprising defeat in the pool stage against Romania. The hosts can win their eighth gold and can earn back-to-back European titles for the third time, after 1993-1995 and 2003-2005. Also, the home favourites can become the first team to win multiple European Championships as hosts, after their victory in 2005, when the final was held also in Rome. Italy, who celebrated their historic milestone reaching 150 wins in EuroVolley as the first team ever, have won 16 successive EuroVolley matches since a 0-3 loss to France in the quarter-final of EuroVolley 2019. Yuri Romanò is Italy's top scorer at EuroVolley 2023 on 100 points. Alessandro Michieletto (95) and Daniele Lavia (90) scored 90+ points as well for the Italians at this tournament.

The reigning Olympic champions France- like Poland - have only one European title so far (2015). Back then, they clinched a 3-2 pool phase victory over Italy in Turin on the road to the gold medal. After an upsetting 1-3 defeat to Romania in the pool phase of the EuroVolley 2023, France quickly came back to the right track, also taking revenge on Romania in the quarter-final game that was won by the team around Andrea Giani 3-0 and came back to EuroVolley semifinals. The last time France reached the last four was back in 2019, when they co-hosted the event, losing the semi-final to Serbia and the bronze medal match to Poland. It's interesting that this century, each of France's four Semifinal matches at the European Championships went to five sets: against Serbia and Montenegro in 2003 (won), Russia in 2009 (won), Bulgaria in 2015 (won) and Serbia in 2019 (lost). Barthélémy Chinenyeze and Yacine Louati are France's joint-top scorers at EuroVolley 2023 on 55 points. Chinenyeze played in five of France's seven matches (16 sets), Louati in six (20 sets). Coach Andrea Giani previously guided Slovenia (2015) and Germany (2017) to the gold medal match at the EuroVolley.