Turkey pull off surprise and will face familiar foe Russia at Volleyball Men’s Under 23 World Championship

Turkey beat traditional volleyball powerhouses Cuba 3-0 in the semi-finals to set up a title clash with Russia, who beat Italy 3-0 in the second semi-final, reports Ahmed Rizvi.

DUBAI // Emanuele Zanini, the Turkey coach, has hailed his team’s foray into the final of the Volleyball Men’s Under 23 World Championship as a “historic” achievement, but warned his players against celebrating a match too early.

Turkey on Sunday beat traditional volleyball powerhouses Cuba 3-0 (25-19, 25-18, 27-25) in the semi-finals on Sunday to set up a title clash with Russia, who beat Italy 3-0 (25-20, 25-18, 27-25) in the second semi-final.

It was a commanding performance by Turkey, who are making their first appearance at the championships, as they ran the Cubans ragged. Zanini said he believes the performance is due to the growing confidence of his players.

“Teams like Cuba, Brazil, Argentina, Russia and Iran, they have a really strong volleyball tradition,” said Zanini, who took over the reins of Turkish men’s volleyball in 2013 after a successful four-year spell with the Slovakian men’s national team.

“So for us to be playing in this tournament and to be playing in the final, it is a dream come true.

“For all my players, it was a dream to play in the final. Dreams are important because without such big dreams you cannot have goals, or the motivation to achieve those goals.

“But it is one thing being optimistic and another to go out and get the job done. This is what I believe in and so, while this is a historical result on the men’s side for Turkish volleyball, we cannot start celebrating yet.

“We have to make sure we remain focused for tomorrow’s final. We have been gaining in confidence and spirit as a team playing against these strong opponents here, and the players now have this feeling inside them. They have this spirit to do something together.”

Turkey will also be playing against familiar opponents – they have played the Russians four times in the past two weeks and the score is tied 2-2.

Russia coach Mikhail Nikolaev says he is looking forward to the fifth clash.

“We will play against Turkey for the fifth time inside two weeks and I enjoy playing against teams I know,” said Nikolaev, whose squad includes five members who won the U21 world championships two years ago.

“They are a very good team and it should be a very good match.”

He said he was also pleased with the victory over Italy in the semis as it brought their two-year losing streak against them to an end.

“We are the (world U21) champions but still lost three matches on the trot to Italy,” the Russian coach said.

“So today I wanted revenge. We were strong physically today and this was the main reason for the win.”

arizvi@thenational.ae

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Published: August 30, 2015 04:00 AM

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