Ljubljana, Slovenia, July 7, 2019 – The Arena Stozice was lucky for the Slovenian national team who claimed victory in front of their home fans  against Cuba 3-0 (26-24, 25-21, 25-21) winning the 2019 FIVB Men’s Volleyball Nations League and earning a much-anticipated place among the world’s elite. Slovenia will replace relegated Portugal in the 2020 FIVB Men’s Volleyball Nations League.

It was a fierce race for a ticket to the 2020 VNL. Slovenia played very well having a positive reception of 59% (Cuba 41%) and 55% in attacking efficiency. In the decisive parts of the match the Slovenes impressed with blocks and great serves, and the Cubans couldn’t find a way to stop the hosts supported by the home crowd. Klemen Cebulji scored a match-high 18 points (13 from attack, 3 blocks and 2 serves), followed by Toncek Stern (14). Marlon Yang Herrera of Cuba tallied 11.

Tine Urnaut, captain of Slovenia said: “This tournament was an important chance for us to fight for a place in the Volleyball Nations League. In front of our crowd we showed that we are the best team of this tournament and that we deserve a place among the world’s best teams. Cuba are a very athletic and young team, they have a difficult serve, they have great blockers and good spikers. We knew that we had to push them with our serve and then play block-defence-counterattack and it’s what we did.”

This is the first success of Slovenia under the guidance of their new head coach Alberto Giuliani, who said: “We showed a great level in this game. Also our opponents played very well, they fought, but today we played with heart achieving this extremely important victory. The Volleyball Nations League is an important tournament and it lets players gain valuable experience.”

In the match for third place Belarus defeated Turkey 3-1 (25-20, 20-25, 25-16, 25-20). The team led by coach Viktar Beksha opened the match fully motivated, making only four unforced errors in the first set (Turkey 12). The Belarusian side was again weakened due to an injury of their main opposite Radzivon Miskevich, however Artsiom Kudrashou stepped in to replace him. Turkey played without their captain and setter Arslan Eksi.

Belarus managed to outspike their opponents (50-44) displaying 47% efficiency in attack; Turkey achieved only 37% being successfully stopped by the Belarusian block 11 times. Belarusian outside hitter Andrei Radziuk was the best scorer of this encounter with 17 points; on the other side of the net Adis Lagumdzija collected 15 points.

“Today’s victory is a historical achievement, it’s the first ever podium place for Belarus at the world level, it was also the first tournament for us when we competed with teams from other continents, so it’s a perfect ending,” said captain Siarhei Busel.

“After losing a semifinal 3-2 with such a small point difference, it’s always hard to come back and find motivation. Especially as we were not fully ready to play here, we didn’t perform at the same level as in the European Golden League. I think we should have played much better, we couldn’t make basic things right,” admitted Adis Lagumdzija of Turkey.

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