Turkish women to take on host Azerbaijan in volleyball semis
CİHAN photoTurkish women’s volleyball team continues its good run at the European Games in Baku, ready for a semifinal clash on June 25 against host Azerbaijan.
Turkey beat Russia 25-18, 23-25, 25-22, 25-19 on June 23 to advance to the semifinal, while the host nation beat the Netherlands 25-21, 25-23, 25-14 on June 24 to claim a spot.
Turkish women, dubbed “Sultans of the Net,” beat Azerbaijan in straight sets in the tournament’s group stage on June 21, but Azerbaijan’s Polina Rahimova said they had learned from the loss and the semifinal game would be a different story.
“Conclusions after that game were made. We have worked on our mistakes and we are ready to beat them up,” said a confident Rahimova after her team’s quarterfinal victory.
In June 24’s second quarterfinal, Serbia beat Belgium 25-22, 19-25, 25-14, 21-25, 19-17.
Belgium squandered three match points in the final set, before Serbia, which topped Pool B with four wins in five games, finally prevailed 19-17 after being awarded a controversial point for a net touch.
“I want to congratulate Belgium. They are always difficult to play against and never give up,” said Serbia’s Tijana Malesevic.
“It was a very emotional game and very tiring, but now we have one day to rest, to prepare our minds and our bodies for the semifinal. We are looking forward to playing again.”
Serbia will take on Poland June 25 for a place in the gold medal match.
Poland beat Germany 25-23, 27-17, 18-25, 14-25, 15-10 in a five-set thriller on June 23 at Baku’s Cyrstal Hall, booking their ticket to the semifinals.
Poland’s Katarzyna Skowronska-Dolata said she would have “cut her hands with a plastic knife” if Poland had lost after being two sets up.
Skowronska-Dolata’s side was up 2-0 an hour into the match, thus forced to salvage the match in the fifth set. The opposite, who plays club volleyball in Baku, said she would have taken drastic action if they had not come out on top.
“For both teams, it was crazy but I enjoyed it,” Skowronska-Dolata said. “I was so angry in the third and fourth that I was thinking that I would cut my hands with a plastic knife if we did not win.
“I was so angry that we had played so badly. We had to fight in the fifth set.”
Meanwhile, European Olympic Committees President Patrick Hickey has praised the inaugural European Games, which features over 6,000 athletes and 20 sports, including the innovative 3-on-3 basketball, which appeals to younger audiences.
“The first Games are on the way to being extremely successful,” Irishman Hickey, the main driving force behind the creation of the Games, told Reuters in an interview.
“We had our doubters because in the beginning, because people said this was a new thing and could not work but I reminded everyone that the Asian Games, which is the most successful continental games, started with seven sports and I think they now have something like 47.”
Hickey said it was always known that athletics and swimming, traditionally blue ribbon events, would “not be the real deal” in Baku.
The third-tier athletics team competition attracted low crowds to the Olympic stadium because of the more high-profile European Team Championships in Cheboksary, Russia, taking place at the same time.
Hickey, however, was more than encouraged by comments from European Athletics President Svein Arne Hansen that there could be a more high-profile format for track and field at the next Games in four years’ time.
“We were happy with what we had and we had hoped to improve on it in 2019,” Hickey said.
“I have a good relationship with Svein and the two of us agreed on finding a way forward to have a meaningful athletics event in 2019. They are fully co-operative on his side, fully on our side... there is room for both sides to do something innovative.”