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Slovenia and Italy are the last teams standing in the race for the men’s 2021 CEV Volleyball European Championship title. In Saturday’s semifinals in Katowice, they produced four-set upsets of reigning world champions Poland and defending European champions Serbia, respectively, to advance to Sunday’s final at the Spodek Arena.

The first semifinal, between Slovenia and hosts Poland, offered the packed house of over 10 thousand spectators an epic duel that lasted two hours and 37 minutes as two of the four sets were dramatically pushed deep into overtime. Inspired by the home crowd, Poland dominated the first set, but Slovenia fought back to rejoice with a 3-1 (17-25, 32-30, 25-16, 37-35) victory. Their opposite Toncek Stern spiked the winner to up his tally to 20 points and lead the match scorers together with Poland’s outside Wilfredo Leon.

For this year’s semifinalists in the FIVB Volleyball Nations League, it will be the third EuroVolley final within the last four editions of the championship, after finishing runners-up in 2015 and 2019. In each of these four editions, Slovenia were the team to put a stop to Poland’s campaign to win the continental crown.

"The games against Poland are always big battles and you don't play such matches every day,” Stern said after the match. “It was a hard match, but we played as a team, one for all and all for one. We are happy that we won over Poland in front of their thousands of fans. Now we have to recover and prepare for the next match."

Triumphant Simone Giannelli and Fabio Balaso (source: cev.eu)

Triumphant Simone Giannelli and Fabio Balaso (source: cev.eu)

Led by talented setter Simone Giannelli, the young Italian squad continued their winning streak at the tournament to reach the final. They outplayed Serbia’s stellar line-up to claim a 3-1 (29-27, 25-22, 23-25, 25-18) win. 19-year-old Italian outside hitter Alessandro Michieletto scored the match high 23 points, including an ace and four kill blocks.

It will be Italy’s 11th participation in a European Championship final, first since 2013. Previously, they claimed six gold and four silver medals, in addition to their three bronze-decorated podium finishes.

The gold medal match between Slovenia and Italy on Sunday evening in Katowice is set to start at 20:30 local time. The last competition day at the Spodek will get underway at 17:30 with the bronze medal game between Poland and Serbia.