The first day of the WEVZA U19 Men’s Championship delivered four thrilling and close matches in the tournament which just got underway in Valladolid. Italy and France in Pool A, as well as Germany and hosts Spain in Pool B got something to celebrate at the end of the opening day.

Italy opened the programme on Wednesday edging past Switzerland in three sets (25-14, 25-17, 25-17). The Italian players showed some high-level Volleyball actions, and in each of the three sets they claimed a four to five-point lead early on. The Swiss team tried to put on some resistance but could not stop the Italian show of strength. The Swiss players struggled both at blocking and attacking and this way everything went just easy for the young Azzurri also in the third set where they caught a flying start and did not look back anymore to celebrate their first victory in the tournament.

“The first match is always very difficult, and it is always very important to start any tournament with a victory. For us, this tournament is very important because we are preparing for the World Championship coming up later this summer in Argentina. Every single match is important to get ready for the World Championship,” said Italian mentor Mario Barbiero.

France beat Belgium after a tough match that lasted for five electrifying sets. The young Bleus eventually had the upper hand at the tie-break (25-18, 26-28, 15-25, 25-19, 15-12) after a real ‘clash of titans’. France played a superb first set but Belgium came back in the second to restore the balance in the match before they went on to dominate the third stanza. France clawed back in the fourth with a great team effort and eventually stretched the match to a tie-break. The score remained tight for most of the decider but the French players showed nerves of steel to edge past after a close and thrilling final rush.

“We fought in a very hard and tough game, and we engaged in a match whose outcome was difficult to predict through to the end. We played well in the first set but we suffered the loss of the second which was a very close one. However, we succeeded in finding our way back into the game. I want to congratulate my players because they did their best to win and eventually achieved their goal,” said France’s coach Olivier Audabram.

The programme of Pool B started with a fantastic five-set match. Germany in the end defeated the Netherlands at the tie-break, after the Oranjes had come back from two sets down (25-22, 25-21, 20-25, 24-26, 15-7). An impressive start of the German team was followed by a very narrow lead which was nevertheless enough for Germany to claim the first and second sets. However, the young Dutchmen kept on working hard and relying also on their fighting spirit they came back strong winning set 3 and 4. Still their comeback was not complete as Germany played their best in the decider and showed their strength again there to claim their first victory in the competition.

The hosts of Spain started their home campaign with a 3:1 victory over their neighbours from Portugal (25-9, 25-22, 22-25, 25-11). The local heroes were off to a flying start winning the first set by a massive 25-9, exploiting also the many mistakes made by their opponents. The Spaniards controlled the game also in the second set even though Portugal reacted there but the hosts were able to have the upper hand at the end of a close and exciting final rush. Portugal played very well in the third set and this way stretched the match to a fourth stanza where Spain got back on track leading from start to end to celebrate their first victory in Valladolid.

Spain’s mentor Benjamin Vicedo said: “We started out very well. Anytime you enter a competition, the first match is the most difficult one. The first set didn’t help us, as we play very relaxed. Portugal nevertheless stepped up their efforts and we had to improve the quality of our performance throughout the match. In the fourth set we especially served very well and this helped us bring the match to a happy end.”