Favourites all show their might in World Champs qualifiers


Bosnia & Herzegovina's Verica Simic gets stopped by the Italian block of Raphaela Folie and Ofelia Malinov at Kortrijk.

Lausanne, Switzerland, May 31, 2017 - All top favourites and hosts scored comfortable wins Wednesday as 24 teams vie for five tickets to the 2018 FIVB Women's World Championship this week across Europe in Round 2 of the continental qualifiers.

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Russia show their might
Seven-time world champios Russia thundered into the qualifiers with a dominating 3-0 (25-14, 25-13, 25-15) in Osijek as coach Vladimir Kuzyutkin made his debut on the bench.

With player coming on and off the court all the time, Kseniia Parubets scored 9 points, and Mariia Frolova, Irina Vornkova andTatiana Kosheleva added another 8 each. Despite the easy win, Russia struggled to get their reception spot on.

Greece remained in contention after a five set thriller lasting over two hours, as they beat Hungary 3-2 (25-18, 20-25, 20-25, 25-21, 15-13). Greece were outserved 11 aces to 3, but dominated on the net.

Anthi Vassilantonaki scored 20 points to lead Greece, as Gina Lambrousi got 11 kills in 15 swings for a 73% attack rate from the middle. Hungary's Greta Szakmary was joint top scorer of the game, also on 20 points.

Hosts Croatia wrapped up the day in Osijek with a 3-0 (28-26, 25-11, 25-18) over Gerogia.

Turkey, Bulgaria lead the way
Turkey demolished rookies Kosovo 3-0 (25-5, 25-13, 25-10) in under an hour in Sofia, with coach Giovanni Guidetti marking his first appearance on the bench, after moving from The Netherlands following the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Guidetti spared most of Turkey's regular starters the full match, giving playing time to every single one of his 14 players. Meryem Boz, who came off the bench midway through the second set, was top scorer of the game on 9 points.

Pool hosts Bulgaria also scored a dominating win in under an hour, destroying Switzerland 3-0 (25-8, 25-9, 25-20). Emilya Nikolova and Nasya Dimitrova, both of whom only played two sets, were joint top scorers of the game with 7 points each.

Bulgaria's Lora Kitipova sets to Hristina Ruseva in the match against Swizterland in Sofia.

Romania wrapped up the day in the Bulgarian capital with a 3-0 (25-23, 25-15, 25-16) win over Montenegro powered by 13 points from Ana Cristina Cazacu and 11 from Roxana Iancu.

Italy set off on right foot
Powered by Raphaela Folie's 15 points Italy opened their campaign with a 3-0 (25-12, 25-12, 25-13) sweep of Bosnia & Herzegovina in just over an hour in Kortrijk, as coach Davide Mazzanti made his debut on the bench.

Pool hosts Belgium followed up with their own straight-set win, as they downed Latvia 3-0 (25-17, 25-13, 25-12). Kaja Grobelna with 16 points was top scorer of the game as Belgium served 12 aces (five alone by Angie Bland) to Latvia's two.

Britt Herbots of Belgium punches through the Latvia block of Alise Petersone and Elvita Dolotova in Kortrijk.

Belarus beat Spain 3-0 (25-14, 25-20, 25-13) in the other match of the day at Kortrijk with Hanna Kalinouskaya scoring 12 points including six of her team's 14 blocks.

The Netherlands, Azerbaijan break away
Pool favourites The Netherlands scored their second win in as many matches in Baku, downing Norway 3-0 (25-11, 25-14, 25-13) with coach Jamie Morrison again resting most of his players some of the time.

It took the Dutch just an hour to completely dominate Norway with Maret Grothues top-scoring at nine points.

Hosts Azerbaijan, meanwhile, handed the Ukraine their first defeat in the tournament 3-0 (25-17, 25-17, 25-21) with Polina Rahimova attacking for 70% (16/23) and scoring 19 points, and Natalya Mammadova (5 aces and 3 blocks) another 18.

Nadia Kodola of the Ukraine strikes past the Azeri block of Aynur Karimova and Natalya Mammadova in Baku.

Azerbaijan and The Netherlads are the only undefeated teams in Pool E, which began a day before the other groups, headed for a final showdown on Saturday.

In the other match of the day in Baku Israel bagged their first win with a 3-0 (25-22, 25-19, 25-18) sweep of Denmark.

Germany have early advantage
Germany took an early lead in Pool F at Viana do Castelo after beating Slovenia 3-0 (25-18, 25-20, 25-22) with Louisa Lippmann scroing 21 points.

Hosts Portugal, meanwhile, struggled to beat France 3-2 (25-21, 13-25, 23-25, 27-25, 15-13). Juia Kavalenka led Portugal with 25 points and Juliette Fidon scored 19 for the visitors, who faltered in reception.

Estonia outlasted Finland 3-1 (25-17, 17-25, 25-23, 25-20) in the closing match of the day at Viana do Castelo.

The top team from each pool advances directly to the 2018 FIVB Women's World Championship in Japan. The second-ranked team of each pool continues in Round 3 of the European qualifiers for two more tickets to Japan 2018.

Last week Rio 2016 silver medallists Serbia became the first team to qualify for the 2018 World Championship when they dominated their pool in Warsaw with an absolutely perfect record. The Czech Republic finished second in Warsaw after stunning hosts Poland for second chance in Round 3.

Japan as hosts and USA as defending champions have already secured their tickets to Japan 2018.


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