Opposite Nimir Abdel-Aziz led the Netherlands to the top of the final standings in Pool C of the men’s 2021 CEV Volleyball European Championship as the best scorer of the tournament so far, while Poland, Italy and France cruised undefeated through the other three pools. 16 out of the 24 participating teams advanced to the knockout stages of the continental competition.

Russia overcome opening match upset

With a number of Tokyo 2020 Olympic silver medallists on the squad, Russia suffered a four-set upset at the hands of Turkey in their opening match in Pool C, played in Tampere. The Russians recovered by snatching a tie-breaker victory over the Netherlands in their next game, despite a 32-point tally by Abdel-Aziz, and winning all of their remaining games in Finland, to finish pool runners-up on a 4-1 win-loss record and 11 points.

The point claimed by the Dutch in the match against Russia and the three-point victories in their other games pushed the Netherlands to the top of the standings. Nimir piled up as many as 122 points across the five matches to lead the scorers chart of the pool stage. His 11-ace tally is the second highest in the tournament. Turkey and pool hosts Finland, each on 3-2, finished third and fourth, respectively, to advance to the eighthfinals, while Spain and North Macedonia were eliminated.

Nowakowski by far the best blocker

Piotr Nowakowski contributed a total of 22 kill blocks towards Pool A hosts Poland’s five wins in Krakow to stand eight clear on top of the tournament’s blockers ranking. In the key clash for the top of the pool, the reigning world champions dramatically edged defending European titleholders Serbia in five sets. The Serbs finished pool-runners up on 4-1.

Poland’s Piotr Nowakowski and Wilfredo Leon ready for another block (source:

Poland’s Piotr Nowakowski and Wilfredo Leon ready for another block (source:

Belgium were also among the main candidates for the eighthfinal spots in this pool, but after upsets from Ukraine and Portugal ended up below the cut-off, along with Greece. Ukraine (3-2) and Portugal (2-3) progressed to the next round.

Favourites Slovenia suffer two upsets, but survive Pool B scuffle

Slovenia, the silver medallists of the previous EuroVolley edition in 2019 and semifinalists in this year’s FIVB Volleyball Nations League, made a bad start in Ostrava as Pool B hosts Czechia defeated them in four sets. Later on, they were also stunned by Italy in a straight-set duel, but took the second place in the final standings on a 3-2 win-loss record.

Italian blockers stop the attack of Slovenia’s Tine Urnaut (source:

Italian blockers stop the attack of Slovenia’s Tine Urnaut (source:

In addition to upsetting Slovenia, Tokyo 2020 Olympians Italy won all their other games in the pool and occupied the top of the table on a perfect record of 15 points. Bulgaria placed third on 3-2 and a point short of Slovenia. Despite losing to Belarus in four sets, Czechia (2-3) managed to stay alive in the competition as the fourth-placed team in their home pool, sending Belarus (also 2-3) and Montenegro (0-5) home.

Olympic champs impeccable in Tallinn

Olympic champions France lived up to their newly earned status of heavy favourites and cruised to the top of Pool D losing only a set in the five matches played in Tallinn. In the game against their main contender in the pool, Germany, coach Bernardo Rezende’s side celebrated a four-set victory, with Tokyo 2020 MVP Earvin Ngapeth contributing France’s match high of 21 points.

Earvin Ngapeth spikes through a three-men German block (source:

Earvin Ngapeth spikes through a three-men German block (source:

Pool runners-up Germany won their remaining matches. Croatia’s Leo Andric delivered 14 aces to top the servers chart of the pool phase, while his team finished third in the pool on a 3-2 win-loss record. The remaining three teams each registered a 1-4 record, with Latvia edging into the next round ahead of Slovakia and pool hosts Estonia.

Knockout stage to start on Saturday

The eighthfinals start with two matches in Sopot on Saturday, Russia against Ukraine and Poland against Finland. On Sunday, the Polish city will welcome the duels between the Netherlands and Portugal and between Serbia and Turkey.

The other four matches of the first elimination round will be played in Ostrava, with Italy taking on Latvia and Germany challenging Bulgaria on Sunday, and Slovenia facing Croatia and France going against hosts Czechia on Monday.