Bulgaria Defeats Poland in Epic Eurovolley Playoff
Bulgaria's national volleyball team defeated hosts Poland in a thrilling playoff encounter at the European Championship.
Camillo Placi's men came from 2 sets behind to earn a 3:2 (22:25, 22:25, 25:20, 26:24, 18:16) victory which gives them a place in Wednesday's quarterfinal against Germany.
Poland looked to be cruising comfortably into the next round after taking the first two sets. In front of a capacity crowd in Gdansk's Ergo Arena, the home team was in complete control.
The third set saw the Poles drop down a gear, while Todor Skrimov and Tsvetan Sokolov improved their attack considerably. After taking an early lead of 8 points, the Bulgarians never looked back, giving themselves a glimpse of hope for a comeback.
Bulgaria started the fourth set in the same fashion that they finished the previous. This put pressure on the Poles, and the vibrant home supporters gradually grew warier. Several unforced errors by Bulgaria towards the end of the set allowed Poland to equalize. However, more world class spikes from Sokolov and a meticulous serve from Viktor Yosifov made the set count even.
The tie break fifth set epitomized the whole mood of the match. Bulgaria squandered an early 3 point lead, making several errors. The players looked tired and nervous. At 9:6 for Poland, the match looked to be heading towards their victory, before Bulgaria pulled out one more unstoppable run of 4 points.
After several minutes of stalemate when both teams exchanged points, Bulgaria earned their first match point. As with everything else on the night, it wasn't to be that easy. The Poles fought back on four occasions to stay in the match, before finally capitulating after 2 ½ hours on the court. This was their third consecutive loss to Bulgaria, and surely the most bitter one so far.
Bulgaria will play Germany in Wednesday's quarterfinal. Placi's men will have less than 24 hours to recover after their enduring performance against Poland.