The pool stage of the women’s 2021 CEV Volleyball European Championship was completed on Thursday with 16 teams set to shape the path towards the continental crown. The national teams of Serbia, Bulgaria, Italy and Turkey topped the final standings of the four pools played in four different countries over the past nine days.
Serbia, Bulgaria, Italy, Turkey win EuroVolley pools
Last 16 bracket set
Published 07:32, 27 Aug 2021
World champs stay unbeaten on way to defending continental title
At home in Belgrade, defending European titleholders, reigning world champions and Tokyo 2020 Olympic bronze medallists Serbia won their five matches in Pool A. They opened their campaign with a straight-set victory over neighbours Bosnia & Herzegovina in a match highlighted by a sibling clash between top international star Tijana Boskovic and her older sister Dajana. The Serbs dropped only two sets in their five matches, both of them in their thrilling win over Russia.
Despite Russia’s rising star Arina Fedorovtseva’s six-ace tally, her team also lost to Belgium. The Belgians looked set to finish pool runners-up, but were dealt a surprising upset by France in the last match of the pool to finish fourth, leaving the second place to Russia and the third to France, with all three teams on a 3-2 win-loss record. 17-year-old Fedorovtseva also impressed with 11 aces in her team's three sets against Azerbaijan towards a total of 28 aces for her so far, 12 clear at the top of the tournament’s servers’ ranking.
Home crowd helps lift Bulgaria to top of Pool B
A fantastic home crowd in Plovdiv inspired hosts Bulgaria on the way to winning Pool B, especially in the last match of their pool campaign when the Lionesses delivered a 3-1 upset of favourites Poland. Having lost in five sets to their other main rival in the pool, Germany, and the first set against Poland, the Bulgarians were left with no other options but to win the next three sets to snatch the coveted first place in the standings. Their middle Hristina Vuchkova produced five kill blocks towards that win to lead the current blockers’ chart of the championship on a total of 17.
Poland, undefeated until that last match against Bulgaria, finished pool runners-up, while Germany took the third place with all three sides on a 4-1 record. Czechia, on 2-3, were the fourth team to advance to the eighth finals from that pool.
Impeccable Italy dominate pool in Croatia
2018 FIVB World Championship silver medallists Italy cruised to the top of Pool C, winning all five of their matches in Zadar. Led by their prominent opposite Paola Egonu, the second best server of the pool stage on a total of 16 aces, the Italians accumulated the maximum amount of 15 points, losing only a set along the way, in their game against Slovakia.
Other than falling in straight sets to the eventual pool winners, pool hosts Croatia also maintained a near-perfect record in their other four matches to finish second on 4-1 and 12 points. Belarus took the third place on 3-2. No team remained winless in this pool - Hungary, Slovakia and Switzerland all finished on a 1-4 win-loss record - with the Hungarians staying alive in the competition as the fourth-placed team on five points.
Turkey stumble at start, but then cruise confidently to top Pool D
In the very first set in the Pool D programme in Cluj-Napoca, hosts Romania surprised favourites Turkey with a 25-23 upset, but that was the last set the 2021 FIVB Volleyball Nations League bronze medallists lost throughout their pool campaign. The Turks confidently won the next 15 sets to shoot up to the first place in the pool standings. In the deciding match for the top of the table, they mercilessly shut out the Netherlands.
Having won the three points in each of their other four matches, the Dutch ladies claimed the runner-up position. Ukraine shut out Sweden in the deciding game for the third place in the pool. Featuring EuroVolley’s top scorer so far (Isabelle Haak, 131 points or an 8.19 average per set) on their squad, the Swedes, who last appeared at European Championship finals 38 years ago, finished fourth to stay alive and advance to the next round.
Knockout stage to start on Saturday
Four of the eighth finals will be played in Plovdiv, with the Netherlands taking on Germany and Sweden challenging hosts Bulgaria on Saturday, and Turkey facing Czechia and Poland going against Ukraine on Sunday.
Also on Sunday, Croatia and France will lock horns in Belgrade, before hosts Serbia entertain neighbours Hungary. Monday’s knockout games in the Serbian capital will set Italy against Belgium and Russia against Belarus.