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Serbia is the 2011 European champion!

Serbia was crowned European champion in Vienna at the end of a classy final match that with 9’750 spectators registered a record-breaking attendance for a Volleyball game in Austria. Italy was defeated in four sets (17-25, 25-20, 25-23, 26-24) with captain Ivan Miljkovic being absolutely outstanding and taking by the hand his young teammates for what was the well deserved climax of a memorable EuroVolley.
Serbia and Italy also claimed the two slots at stake to represent Europe at the FIVB World Cup scheduled for this coming November in Japan and where tickets will be assigned for the Volleyball tournament of the 2012 London Olympics.

SerbientopClick here for a comprehensive gallery

The final game of the EuroVolley 2011 attracted a massive crowd at the “Wiener Stadthalle” with Italy and Serbia extending their rivalry although both teams have been totally rejuvenated in comparison with the past years. Luigi Mastrangelo and Ivan Miljkovic are the only guys who battled already in the beginning of the past decade as Italy and the Yugoslavia – later Serbia and Montenegro – were among the dominant forces of international Volleyball.

After playing a fantastic game with Poland in the semis, probably the best by an Italian national team in the past 5 or 6 years, the guys mentored by Mauro Berruto controlled the game in the opening set by dictating the tempo at both mandatory stops, once again with a lot of pressure resulting from their terrific serves and the block always well placed to stop the Serbian attackers.

The “Wiener Stadthalle” was completely packed this afternoon for the final act of the EuroVolley, mostly with Serbian fans having traveled directly from Belgrade or having settled in Vienna in the past. Italy coped pretty well with the tension that was to be perceived in the air (20:15) especially as the block was evidently a weapon that even Serbia had enormous problems to handle. Ivan Zaytsev aced to call for 7 Italian set balls and Cristian Savani scored another block to clip the first set of a final that was certainly going to deliver many more emotions and great actions.

Serbia’s well known fighting spirit was back in the opening of set 2 (5:2) as the atmosphere was getting quite “hot” after a controversial call of the first referee. Luigi Mastrangelo did not care at all about the “boos” of the Serbian fans coming down from the stands as he pocketed two winning serves for his side to draw level at 5 all. Dragan Stankovic blocked Emanuele Birarelli – winner of the past three editions of the CEV Volleyball Champions League with Italy’s TRENTINO Volley – to stamp the 8:6 that asked for the first mandatory stop of the game.

Serbia gradually widened the gap (18:14) by using the same array of lethal weapons that Italy had unfolded in set 1; Marko Podrascanin was absolutely outstanding in blocking while Ivan Miljkovic looked like the diagonal player that any Volleyball team would dream of. The well-deserved 1:1 was finally there (20-25) after Italy averted two set balls and Michal Lasko served well off the court.

Serbia extended that great momentum also to the opening of set 3 (4:1) but Italy stormed back immediately anchored by its super athletic captain Cristian Savani (6:5). As his guys were trailing down 7:12, Berruto asked for a break in an attempt to stop the Serbian march and after a long chase they ultimately clipped the -1 on the scoreboard.

It was a game packed with continuous turnarounds but finally Savani chartered the 17 all that sent the Serbian team back to head coach Igor Kolakovic. Simone Parodi – on a single block – moved Italy to the front for the first time since the start of the set and some errors from the serving line followed before Podrascanin stopped Parodi for the 22:20 in favor of his side. Cristian Savani – whose popularity recently sky-rocketed even outside the Volleyball arena after he was featured in a couple of popular fashion and style magazines – accompanied his team as a real leader, spiking for the 23 all but a lucky ace of Mihajlo Mitic out-footed the Italians to seal the final 25-23 for Serbia.

With the only exception being a tie at 13, Italy controlled the game all the way through in the fourth set, first opening the gap by moving from 5:3 to 9:5 always with a great help of Savani; as the Italian captain received a yellow card for his protests, Serbia almost leveled the count but Cristian stayed cool enough to ace for the 19:17 that restored the Italian leadership. Ivan Miljkovic was not agreeing with the scenario of a tie-break, the perfect climax for such a memorable Championship, and he turned the odds around once again (19:20). The “Wiener Stadthalle” was literally boiling and a winning serve of Milan Rasic let the Serbians see the finish line. It was not yet time to call for the winner, as Italy found back its best play to chart three in a row (22:21). Italy had a first set ball at 24:23 as Miljkovic spiked off the long line, but only a few seconds later an ace of Milos Terzic bounced the audience into heaven as Serbia claimed the European title 10 years after the then Yugoslavia had accomplished the same success in Ostrava.

Final standings

  1. Serbia *
  2. Italy *
  3. Poland
  4. Russia
  5. Slovakia
  6. Bulgaria
  7. France
  8. Finland
  9. Slovenia
  10. Czech Republic
  11. Turkey
  12. Estonia
  13. Belgium
  14. Portugal
  15. Germany
  16. Austria

* Qualified for the 2011 FIVB Men’s World Cup in Japan

In bold the teams already pre-qualified for the final round of the 2013 CEV Volleyball European Championship in Poland and Denmark

Individual Awards
MVP: Ivan Miljkovic (SRB)

Best Scorer: Maxim Mikhaylov (RUS)

Best Spiker: Maxim Mikhaylov (RUS)

Best Server: Bartosz Kurek (POL)

Best Blocker: Marko Podrascanin (SRB)

Best Receiver: Nikola Kovacevic (SRB)

Best Libero: Andrea Bari (ITA)

Best Setter: Dragan Travica (ITA)