On Saturday, Luxembourg rallied to a comprehensive 3-0 victory over main rivals Cyprus (25-17, 33-31, 25-17) and as a result, the ‘Red Lions’ are now only a small step away from retaining the men’s Small Countries Division (SCD) crown they historically won on home soil two years ago.
Luxembourg had the upper hand in the first set with a comfortable 25-17 win. The second set was a lot closer, although Luxembourg claimed a small lead in its early stages. Cyprus caught up at 16-16 and from then on, the two teams traded points in a marathon set, which lasted for 39 minutes and Luxembourg eventually finished 33-31. Luxembourg rallied to a 16-11 lead at the second technical time-out of set three; the ‘Red Lions’ kept on pushing, this resulting in another 25-17 win.
Dieter Scholl, Luxembourg coach, commented: “The team was very well prepared and my players followed the game plan we had agreed upon. I am optimistic for the game against Northern Ireland tomorrow and expect to be able to make quite some changes and provide all players with an opportunity to perform.”
Evangelous Koutouleas, Cyprus coach: “We are missing a few players and are focusing more on the next tournaments. Yesterday was the team’s first official match of the season and the players have been together for three weeks only.” Commenting on the match against Iceland on Sunday: “We plan on playing well and winning.”
Kamil Rychlicki scored 20 points for Luxembourg and Angelos Alexiou was the top scorer for Cyprus with 10 points.
The second match of the day was between Iceland and Northern Ireland and it ended in a compelling 3-0 win for the home team (25-20, 25-18, 25-9).
Northern Ireland had a good start in the first set, leading 8-5 at the first technical time-out. However, the Icelandic team pushed through and finished the set 25-20. Iceland edged ahead in the second set quite early on and made it difficult for Northern Ireland to catch up. In the third set, the Icelandic team was on a roll whilst Northern Ireland looked as if they had given up.
Hafsteinn Valdimarsson, captain of the Icelandic team, commented: “After a bit of a struggle in the beginning of the first set, it was a pretty comfortable win. The game plan before the match was to be more determined than yesterday against Luxembourg, hit the ball harder and do it for real. I am looking forward to Sunday’s match against Cyprus, which I believe will be an exciting one.”
Gerrard Ford, the coach of Northern Ireland: “I am not happy with the result of today’s match. We are missing 50% of our starting six. Being quite an amateur team, we do not have the funds to get our players to Northern Ireland to train with the team regularly. If we are to go forward as a national team, we will need the support of the Sports Council and the Federation back home. Even though the score doesn’t reflect it, there were moments that showed me that we have great potential.”
Theódór Óskar Thorvaldsson was the best scorer of the Icelandic team with 11 points and Peter Stewart scored eight for Northern Ireland.
Click here for further information including detailed stats of the matches