Turkey dethroned reigning European champions Russia as they delivered a startling performance – by far their best in the tournament – to progress to the 2017 women’s EuroVolley semi-finals and play 2015 bronze medal winners Serbia for a spot in the ‘grand finale’. After a rough start to the tournament, losing to Russia and Bulgaria in their pool, Turkey finally found their best game and will be vying later this weekend for their third #EuroVolleyW medal in history after taking silver in 2003 on home soil and bronze in 2011 in Belgrade. Even though they put up a fight, Russia did almost not stand a chance in the second and third sets – with Turkey’s show producing a compelling 3-0 victory (27-25, 25-18, 25-20) over the 2013 and 2015 gold medallists.
Turkey enjoyed the loud support of quite many fans in their effort to reverse the result of their previous matchup with Russia in Pool C (1-3) and they were off to a promising start before Russia clawed back and edged ahead at 19-17 on a couple of mistakes by the players in red shirts. The audience was almost equally divided between pro-Russian and Turkish supporters – and much to the disappointment of the latter ones, Turkey failed to cash their first set point before Naz Aydemir Akyol secured a second one and it was at their third attempt where they were successful – thus securing a first edge in the match (27-25).
Many had anticipated this would be a close game – and so it was, even though Turkey stormed to a 16-10 lead in the second set as they delivered their most consistent performance in the tournament so far. Meryem Boz continued her show from the Playoff matchup with Poland and Turkey as a whole looked reinvigorated compared to their previous showings. With Turkey three points away from doubling their lead in the match, Russia coach Konstantin Ushakov stopped the game but to no avail – as the ‘Sultans of the Net’ secured a 2-0 advantage over the reigning European champions after a Russian mistake in defence (25-18).
At this stage, Russia were with their back against the wall – and could only hit back if they wanted to defend the continental crown they had claimed in 2013 and 2015 as well. The multiple European champions had changed almost their entire starting six with the only exception being Nataliya Goncharova but Turkey were flying on the wings of enthusiasm as they powered to a 17-12 lead in the third set. The sensation seemed about to materialise as Turkey scored point after point with Gözde Kirdar and Boz on fire – and their fans did not have to wait too long to start the party as Boz stopped Voronkova to seal a 3-0 win.
Eda Erdem Dündar, team captain of Turkey: “It’s an amazing result because we respect Russia a lot. They are a great team. Today we served very well and we did very well in block and defence and did not make too many unforced errors. We won 3-0 and are very happy but now we have to face Serbia, so we have to quickly forget this victory and focus on the next match.”
Giovanni Guidetti, head coach of Turkey: “I am incredibly thankful to this team. We were probably not playing amazing Volleyball – but we played the best match of the tournament. When you have a team that plays the best match of the tournament in the quarterfinals, then you have to be thankful to your team. I am extremely proud and happy, they did a great thing but we do not have too many hours to think of anything other than Serbia, so now our focus is there.”
Konstantin Ushakov, head coach of Russia: “I do not have any words and there is nothing I can say about this match.”