What an amazing day we had with the finals at the European Footvolley Championship in Graz, Austria. High level, spectacular play, amazing players and beautiful weather at an amazing venue. Read about the final games of the tournament right here.
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Final - champions of Europe
For the third year in a row we have a final between Portugal and France. The only difference this year is that it is France 2 in the final as the first team met and lost to Portugal in the quarter final.
In the first set Portugal held nothing back and took charge of the game. At the score 15-11 to Portugal the french had to call a time out. Nelson put too many short balls in and the defense had to be adjusted. After the time out we saw a much better defense from the french but Portugal came out of the first set with a 18-13 win.
The second set started with the teams following each other point by point. With the score 6-4 to Portugal Lucien came up with a monster shark attack but this did not scare the portugese and they kept playing solid defense and scoring important points. Still, the french did not give up and the score was still close. At the score 14-12 to the portugese Lucien again came up with a monster shark attack and with Miguel trying to show us how to do a shark block. Lucien came out the winner but landed badly and needed a couple of seconds to recover. Suddenly France was in the lead for the first time in the match at 17-16 and had a set ball - only to waste it with a bad reception. At 17-17 France once again did a mistake and Portugal now had the match ball. The third set ball was awarded to the french with the score 18-17 and then Portugal used their time out to discuss the tactics for the coming points. This did not help and France took the second set 20-18.
In the third set France came out flying and took an early 8-2 lead. Everything the french struggled with in the first two sets were now fixed and they played solid in both defense and attack. With the score 10-3 to France Nelson came up with an incredible save to win the point. Only to get a shark attack from Lucien right back at the next point. After that Portugal could not close the gap and France got match point with the score 14-6. They only needed one try and are now the European Footvolley Champions 2018.
3rd place - three peat or new team on the podium
This is the third year in a row Spain plays for a place on the podium. Two times earlier they have come in third and wants a repeat also here in Graz.
Portugal kept playing the same solid game from the get go with great defense and smart attacks. Spain could not figure out how to defend and lost the first set 18-9.
In the second set Spain had something to prove and started much better this time. They had the lead in the game from start to finish and won the set 18-12.
The game had to be decided in a third and final set and this was as close as it can get as they followed each other from point to point. With the score 10-6 to Spain Filipe Santos had to ask for a medical timeout to take care of a nosebleed. When the game restarted Portugal took control and with the score 12-10 the spanish saw their lead disappear and took a time out to figure out how to get the three last points to secure the win. Portugal kept eating away at the spanish lead and suddenly the score was 13-13. Spain got the first match point after that and only needed one chance when Juanito put the ball securely in the corner.
Congratulations to Spain with yet another podium finish and to Portugal for giving Spain a tough game.
Semi final 1 - the classic
In the first semi final we had a classic matchup between Portugal and Spain - two of the biggest footvolley nations in Europe. They have met in many important matches before but history does not count today - only the win. Portugal, with Nelson Pereira and Miguel Pinheiro, was the favorite against Sergio Antolinos and Juan López in todays match but Spain came prepared to give them a fight.
The game started with solid play from both teams but Portugal slowly pushed away and won the set 18-8. Spain needed the break to reset and came out strong in the second set leading the game all the way up to 15-15 when Portugal finally came in front. After this it was a nail biter and every point was very important to win - and the tension on the court was high. Yet again Portugal proved to be the stronger team and won the second set 2-0. Congratulations to Portugal with the third final in three attempts. Spain now has to play for third place like last year.
Photos: Fatlum Kurtaj
Semi final 2 - the number twos
As we are getting closer to the final the level and the stakes are getting higher. In second semi final we had a matchup between France 2 and Portugal 2. The french second team are now one step further in the competition than the french first team - who lost in the quarter final against Portugal 1. On the other side of the court the second team from Portugal would try to make it an all Portuguese final, but first they had to overcome the new talent from France.
Antoine Ottaviani and Lucien Alessandri have played five more games than the other teams after winning the qualification tournament to clinch the 16th spot in the tournament. This only seems to be to their advantage as they keep playing better and better the further into the tournament we get. Filipe Santos and José Correia (Beto) have played solid throughout the tournament and came ready to give France a run for their money.
The portugese started strong and took command in the first set and won it 18-12. The french had to figure out how to defend against the portugese and did the adjustments they needed in time for the second set. They won by the same score as in the first set, 18-12. The game now had to be decided in a third and final set to 15. The teams followed each other point by point and halfway through it was not easy to say who would come out at the top. In the end the french wanted it more and won the set 15-12.
The quarter finals
Quarter final 1 - a test for the Austrians
The first quarter final of the day was between Austria 1 and Spain. The local players and brothers Klemens Hofmann-Wellenhof and Jakob Hofmann-Wellenhof faced a tough challenge against the consistency of last years third place finisher Sergio Antolinos and Juan López. In the end it was a close second set but Spain came out on top. Prodigy Jacob probably played the game of his life but in the end the Austrians were beaten by the better team. The final score was 18-11 and 18-15 for Spain.
Quarter final 2 - clash of titans
The second quarter final was a clash between last years EFC finalists Portugal 1 and France 1. The portugese players Nelson Pereira and Miguel Pinheiro are always a contender for the title, with a second place in the European Footvolley Championship in 2016 in Schwäbisch Gmünd and a win in 2017 in Albufeira. The french players Susini Dominique and Plasenzotti Anghjulu Maria have played both finals against Portugal and were the winners in 2016 - the first European Footvolley Championship ever. It was a very close game and the lead changed between the teams throughout the whole game. The portugese took the first set with the score 18-15. France needed to figure out how to beat the Portugese. In the second set France came out flying and secured a third set with by winning the set 18-13. In the third set Portugal proved to be the stronger team and won the set 15-13. A close game all the way and the finalist from 2016 and 2017 ends their journey already in the quarter final. Now they have to rely on France 2 to defend the french honor.
Quarter final 3 - the young vs the old
The third quarter final was between the young talents from France against the more experienced pair from Switzerland. Antoine Ottaviani and Lucien Alessandri is an up and coming team from France and they play spectacular footvolley using the whole range of footvolley tricks combined with good stamina, strength and technique. It's worth noticing the attacks from the prodigy Lucien. He is already a crowd favorite. On the other side of the court we have the golden oldies Nils Fehr and Benedikt Zwyssig. The pair probably is the most experienced team in Europe and they have found their way all the way to the quarter finals by playing smart and effective. Nils even showing the young guys how to shark.
In the game the swiss team was no matchup to the french and the final score was 18-7 18-7 in favor of the french. We still hope to see Switzerland in many tournaments to come.
Quarter final 4 - Germany knocking on the semi final door
The last quarter final was between Germany and Portugal 2. Germany surprised everybody with a win over reigning champions Portugal in the group stage. Could they continue the streak of good play? Germany, with shark expert Mo Obeid and partner Joel Nißlein came out flying against Filipe Santos and José Correia (Beto). Mo started the first point with a shark attack but had to take a medical timeout after only two points. The stadium went quiet as Mo held his knee and had to get assistance from the tournament medic. When the game restarted Germany and Portugal followed each other closely in the first set only to see Portugal win 18-12 in the end. In the second set Germany was not able to close the gap and Portugal won comfortably 18-10.
All photos by FatlumKurtaj