Euro 2021 volleyball: an unexpected final between Slovenia and Italy at the European Championship

The Slovenians will play their third final after their setbacks in 2015 against France and in 2019 against Serbia while Italy, around its excellent passer Simone Giannelli, will try to win a seventh continental title, the last coronation in the big championship already dating back to 2005 (Euro), an eternity!

In Katowice, the more than 10,000 Polish spectators at the Spodek Arena probably did not expect their players to lose against Alberto Giuliani’s Slovenia, especially since the first leg turned into a demonstration by Wilfredo Leon and Bartosz Kurek.

But the Slovenians, who had already blocked the road to the reigning double world champions (2014, 2018) in the semi-finals of Euro-2019, repeated the feat by reversing the meeting.

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Klemen Cebulj (17 points) and Toncek Stern (20 points) were the heroes of this meeting, which reached a dramatic peak in the interminable fourth set (57 minutes): at 29-28, the Slovenians thought they had won the match , but a video challenge saved the day for the Poles, on a counter fault.

However, this was only to postpone the fatal outcome for the hosts, finally defeated in four sets (17-25, 32-30, 25-16, 37-35) on the 10th match point.

In the final, the Slovenians will face Italy, which arrived at this European Championship without its two aging stars Osmany Juantorena (36, retired) and Ivan Zaytsev (32, operation). But the Nazionale can count on its young shoots, like Alessandro Michieletto, not yet 20 years old, and who confirms all his talent during this Euro, with 23 points on the clock in the semi-finals.

Eliminated in the quarter-finals by Argentina at the Tokyo Olympics, the Italians have not lost a single match of this Euro, and have already outclassed Slovenia in the first round in Ostrava in three straight sets (27-25, 25-20, 25-23). A psychological advantage, even if the level of play of the Slovenians displayed in quarters and halves is much higher than that proposed in the 1st round.

In the Euro semi-finals, Giannelli’s teammates dominated the proceedings in the first two sets and got off to a flying start in the fourth set (5-0) on the services of their passer, a gap that Serbia, then two innings to one, never managed to complete.

Italy in defense mode against Serbia in the semi-finals of the 2021 European Volleyball Championship

Credit: Imago

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