Bulgaria

FIVB Volleyball U21 Men’s World Championship 2021 co-hosts Bulgaria will play for the fifth place in the final standings of the competition. On Saturday, they started on the wrong foot against Czechia, losing the first set, but were able to seize the victory afterwards. To get the fifth place, the young Bulgarian Lions will have to face Belgium, who later on Saturday outperformed Brazil, after a similar scenario, losing the first set, and coming back to win the next three. Czechia and Brazil will meet to determine who will finish seventh.

Both Czechia and Bulgaria fought hard in the first set, keeping the intrigue alive until the very last point. As many as four blocks in this first part were not enough for the Bulgarians to take the lead, as the Czech Republic showed a slightly better performance in attack (15 to 14) and opened in their favour. The young Bulgarian Lions came back in the match, taking the second set, with one block and one ace more making the difference for them. The Czechs, on the other hand, let more unforced errors affect the score. Czechia did not give up, stayed more concentrated and took an early lead in the third set. Bulgaria suffered with some unforced errors, but found their way back to take the lead, and move forward to grab the victory.

Overall, the Bulgarian players were better in the different elements, except for blocking, where the Czech team outplayed them with 10 successful actions, compared to eight by the winners. The players around head coach Nayden Naydenov dominated in attacking (59 to 50), on serving (nine to seven aces), and scored more on their opponents’ errors (26 times).

“I felt good on the field today. I just can’t explain to myself how I let the mistakes from the serving line. If we play Brazil for the fifth place, we will be extremely motivated, because we want to erase the bad memory from our match in Bulgaria, and we will give everything to win,” Samuil Valchanov, outside hitter of Bulgaria, told Volleyball World.

Brazil dominated on all the counts in the beginning of the match, while Belgium could not find their game, not able to record a stuff block or an ace. Ferre Reggers and Sepe Rotty tried to give a proper answer (Rotty scoring as many as six times), but Arthur, Eduardo and Leonardo made the difference on the block. А point-for-point race marked the second set, and despite Brazil’s successful blocks, Rotty, with some good pipes, helped the young Red Dragons tie the set score. The same scenario unfolded in the third set, with Belgium putting the focus of the game in the middle. The Belgians showed a 73% efficiency in reception that helped them get closer to the victory. Even though Brazil fought hard in the last set, showing improvement on the block, Lennert Van Elsen recorded two important blocks in deciding moments, turning things around. Darlan Souza impressed throughout the set, but then made important mistakes towards the end of the game.

Overall, ten more successful attacks sealed the deal for the Belgian team (59 to 49). The better performance in blocking (13 by the Brazilians compared to eight by the Dragons) and in serving (four aces to two by Belgium) were not enough for the South Americans. Seppe Rotty topped the charts, hammering as many as 26 points.

“Both teams played really well today, we delivered a great level. The passing of both teams was perfect. We had a great passion for the game today, and you could see it. Now, we go for the fifth place, although I think we could have reached the semifinals,” Seppe Rotty, outside hitter of Belgium, told Volleyball World.