Lausanne, Switzerland, July 5, 2016 - Following their historic FIVB Volleyball World League Group 3 title win, Slovenia’s volleyballers relaxed in front of the television in their hotel in Frankfurt am Main. The evening’s viewing: the quarterfinal of the European Football Championship between the World League Group 3 Finals hosts, Germany, and Italy. Slovenia’s Italian coach Andrea Giani was not exactly delighted with Italy’s defeat. Just for fun, a penalty shootout was suggested within the Italian/Slovenian coaching team.
Meanwhile, congratulations on the 3-1 (25-19, 25-18, 21-15, 25-20) victory over 2014 FIVB Volleyball Men's World Championship bronze medallists Germany in the Group 3 Finals poured in from Slovenia. The Slovenians won their first title on their FIVB World League debut, earning promotion to Group 2 at the first attempt. “Bravooo” wrote many fans on the Facebook page of the Slovenian Volleyball Federation, which received thousands of Likes in a very short period of time.
“Slovenia’s victory over Germany secures promotion in the World League,” wrote the country’s largest daily newspaper Delo in its online edition. The success of his Slovenian volleyball team meant head coach Andrea Giani soon recovered from the Italian defeat in the football.
“Congratulations to my players. I’m very happy that we could win the gold medal in our first season. It was important that we played our best volleyball in the right moments. Germany was a very tough opponent,” said Giani. As a player, the 46-year-old became a legend of world volleyball, winning three World Championship titles with Italy. As a coach, he is on track to add more spectacular successes to his résumé.
Giani has worked the Slovenian volleyball team into a top team, virtually from scratch. Last year, Slovenia won a sensational silver medal at the European Championship, defeating the likes of world champions Poland and Giani’s native Italy en route to the final. As a result, the Slovenians made their debut in the World League this year – with spectacular results. The team suffered just one defeat in the Preliminary Round – after already qualifying for the Final Four. Slovenia then went on to win the title in style.
“Congratulations to Slovenia. The best team won Group 3,” came the praise from Germany coach Vital Heynen. Experienced hitter Tine Urnaut was the top scorer in the final with 17 points and has been instrumental in the rise of the Slovenian team. "At the beginning of preparations we set a clear goal, which was to be promoted to the second group of the World League. And we have achieved that. We had a fantastic tournament, in which we managed to raise the level of our game compared with the first matches. For this success I would like to thank my teammates, especially coach Giani, the whole federation headquarters and of course the fans who have accompanied us. We are really pleased that we managed to win.”
One of the keys to this Slovenian team is that it works perfectly as precisely that – a team. They demonstrated their cohesion in the key moments of the final against Germany, which became a tenser affair again after the Slovenians lost the third set.
Slovenian setter Gregor Ropret said: "That was a great victory for us, we worked especially hard for it over the last month. Now we are happy that we achieved it versus a strong German team, in front of their crowd. The key was our service. It allowed us to play also a good defence. Now it's time to celebrate.”
After enjoying the football match together, during which they were even allowed a beer – for a change – the team set off back to Slovenia, where the fans have found a new level of enthusiasm for their successful volleyball team. Slovenia look like a force to reckon with at the top of the international game.