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Finland shocks Belgium (3-0)

Finnen-topInnsbruck, Austria, September 12, 2011. After Monday’s first match in Innsbruck in Pool C, the „Suomi“ certainly thought – „he laughs best that laughs last“. Finland beat Belgium 3-0 (25-21, 25-22, 25-22) and secured their ticket for the playoff matches in Vienna.

2011 CEV Volleyball European Championship – Men

Finland seems to be a real expert in lighting starts. Like in yesterday’s match against Italy they took an early lead. Well-prepared by Coach Daniel Castellani, they exactly knew what to do and showed an amazing block-performance in first set (5 points). Belgium started very poorly and played with less fighting spirit than the days before. Finland didn’t get in any troubles to win the first set (25-21).

In the second set Belgium finally realized the seriousness of the situation, tried to come back, but seemed helpless. Belgium’s defense wasn’t able to adapt to Finland’s opposite Mikko Oivanen, who scored just as he liked. Even though there were some critical moments for Finland in the second set (23-22), they managed to seal the deal (25-22).

Just one set away from their massive comeback in the tournament, Finland’s players found themselves in a real flow, well-supported by the large group of finnish fans in the stands. Belgium on the other side, totally lost the thread and were early behindhanded. When they got back in the game, there already had been a 6-point-gap (14-20) between them and Finland. Too late for Belgium – they lost the game (22-25) and didn’t use their chance to reach playoff matches under their own power.

Mikko Oivanen top-scored for Finland (12), followed by Annti Siltala (11). Gert Van Walle and Pieter Verhees each contributed 10 points to Belgium.

Finnish Coach Daniel Castellani was “very happy for his players”. “We knew that the last game would be the most important one, but we didn’t expect it to be an “all or nothing” situation. Our side-out worked very well today, that was the key to success.”

Claudio Gewehr disappointedly admitted that „his team had spent too much energy in the first pool matches. Our legs were not fresh enough to play on a high level again. The relaxation time obviously was too short for us.“

„It was our last chance, so there was no reason to conserve our energy. We knew what we had to do in this match and it worked out. Our biggest accomplishment is, that we played on our best level in the most difficult situation,“ said Finland’s Mikko Oivanen.

Belgium’s captain Frank Depestele totally agreed with his coach. “We didn’t have enough power to play like yesterday. Finland was too good for us today.”