Hot favourites remain unbeaten as World Champs qualifiers heat up


Belgium's Charlotte Leys attacks before the Spanish block of Milagros Collar and Maria Jose Corral Bouza in 2018 FIVB World Championship qualifiers action at Kortrijk.

Lausanne, Switzerland, June 1, 2017 - All the hot favourites continued their winning ways Thursday, as five pools across Europe got in full swing for one team from each to qualify for the 2018 FIVB Women's World Championship in Japan.

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Russia retain perfect record
Reigning European champions Russia scored their second straight-set victory in as many matches at Osijek, destroying Georgia 3-0 (25-20, 25-7, 25-5) as coach Vladimir Kuzyutkin gave playing time to every single one of his players. Iuliia Kutiukova, the only player to start in all three sets, was best scorer with 10 points.

As the only other undefeated team in Osijek, Greece also remained in contention after shutting out hosts Croatia 3-0 (25-21, 25-23, 25-18). Once again Anthi Vasilantonaki was top scorer of the game with 19 points as Greece overpwered Croatia on the block with 11 stuffs (four by Katerina Giota and another three by Vasilantonaki) to six.

Hungary suffered their second tie-break defeat in a row, going down to Austria 3-2 (27-29, 25-22, 25-18, 11-25, 15-12) in the other match of the day in Osijek.

Turkey, Bulgaria cruise on
Turkey and Bulgaria continued on perfect records Thursday in Sofia, headed towards what could be a decider on Saturday.

Turkey thrashed Switzerland 3-0 (25-16, 25-11, 25-17), with coach Giovanni Guidetti brining on all of his subs to start the third set. Seda Aslanyurek was best scorer of the Turkish side with 9 points - same as Switzerland's Maja Storck.

Turkey's Seda Aslanyurek and Kubra Akman block Switzerland's Lina Kronenberg in Sofia.

And hosts Bulgaria outclassed Romania in the Balkan derby 3-0 (25-23, 25-15, 25-21), led by Elitsa Vasileva on 17 points and Hristina Ruseva on 14.

Monenegro demolished Kosovo 3-0 (25-20, 25-7, 25-5) in the other match of the day in Sofia.

Italy, Belgium on track for Sunday clash
Italy and pool hosts Belgium both retained perfect records after straight-set wins on Thursday at Kortrijk that keeps them on track for their head-to-head on Sunday that will most likely decided the team that qualifies for Japan 2018.

Italy were led by Paola Egonu who scored 18 points and Raphaela Folie who achieved a kill rate of 92% (11/12) as they shut out Belarus 3-0 (25-12, 26-24, 25-22). Belarus led by 23-21 in the second set, but Italy pulled together to bring the set home on their second set ball.

Belarus led by 23-21 in the second set, but Italy pulled together to bring the set home on their second set ball.

Libero Monica de Gennaro at reception as Italy sweep Belarus in Kortrijk.

And Belgium were powered by Lise van Hecke who scored 18 points in their 3-0 (25-21, 25-18, 25-14) win over Spain. Belgium were overpowering on the net with 10 stuffs (five by Freya Aelbrecht) to three and 45% (41/92) to 37% (37/100) in attack.

Bosnia & Herzegovina beat Lavia 3-1 (25-11, 25-21, 25-27, 25-12) in the other match of the day in Kortrijk.

The Netherlands, Azerbaijan head for showdown
The Netherlands and Azerbaijan are also head for a decider on Saturday, after both scored their third wins in Baku - though The Netherlands did struggle a bit. The Baku tournament began a day earlier than the other groups.

Hosts Azerbaijan were powered by Polina Rahimova who attacked for 72% (18/25) and scored 29 points as the hosts shut out Denmark 3-0 (25-12, 25-14, 25-14).

Ayshan Abdulazimova of Azerbaijan hits past the Ukraine block in Baku.

The Netherlands, silver medallists in the last European Championship, faced a harder timebut managed to come out unscathed in their 3-1 (25-19, 25-11, 22-25, 25-15) win over Israel. With 17 points Celeste Plak, one of only two players to start in all four sets, led The Netherlands who dominated on the net, but Anna Velikiy was top scorer of the game with 22 for Israel.

The Ukraine beat Norway 3-1 (25-21, 22-25, 25-14, 25-17) in the other match of the day in Baku.

Germany lead race
Germany played a bit of catch-up in the third set but easily overcame Estonia 3-0 (25-18, 25-19, 25-20) in Viana do Castelo Thursday night.

Maren Brinker with 14 points was top scorer of the game as Germany outplayed Estonia across all skills.

Hosts Portugal are also undefeated after two games, following their 3-2 (25-23, 27-29, 17-25, 25-22, 15-12) win over Finland on Thursday on the back of 31 points by Julia Kavalenka. It was Portugal's second tie-break win in as many matches, after the opening match with France.

Piia Korhonen scored 30 points for Finland, but the home side produced superior receiving, blocking and attacking, despite conceding 13 aces to 9.

France remained winless in Viana do Castelo after going down to Slovenia 3-0 (25-17, 25-15, 25-16) in the other match of the day.

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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