Slovenia confident as co-host of European Volleyball Championship
Ljubljana, 12 September - Slovenia will be hosting as of Thursday one of the four groups in the preliminary round of the Men's European Volleyball Championship, with the host nation players expressing optimism and the ambition to win nothing short of the gold medal.
The players cannot wait for the tournament to start after training together and playing warm-up matches for three months, as they will be cheered by the home crowd in Ljubljana's Stožice Arena.
This is one of the reasons that Slovenians are being optimistic and announcing the fight for the gold medal, which would be an improvement on the country's best result at European championships, the silver in 2015 in Bulgaria and Italy.
"Although we don't want to put much pressure on ourselves, I'd say that we're interested in being first. Not only in the group, but overall. You have to have high goals," said Slovenia's libero Jani Kovačič.
Coached by Italian Alberto Giuliani, Slovenia are playing in Group C, which also features Belarus, Finland, North Macedonia, Turkey and defending champions Russia, which Kovačič believes will be the main obstacle on the way to a medal.
"We cannot avoid them. We will probably play them twice, like in the previous championship. If we don't beat them in the group play, I hope that we will in the quarter-finals. We will be helped by the home crowd," he added.
Making it to the quarter-finals would equal Slovenia's result from the previous championship in 2017, which the nation finished eight after coming to Poland with the title of the runners-up from the previous tournament.
Setter Gregor Ropret is also confident that Slovenia can win a medal. "We already have a silver medal and we have to strive for an even better result. We know we can do it. We play at home and our generation is in its best years."
Slovenia will open the tournament against Belarus, followed by five more rounds in the group play until 18 September. The top four teams from each of the four groups will advance to the final round, which starts on 21 September.
In the first leg of the elimination round, Slovenia's group will get opponents from Group A, which features Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Romania and the group hosts France.
Two more nations are hosting the preliminary round, with Belgium hosting Group B (Austria, Belgium, Germany, Serbia, Slovakia and Spain) and the Netherlands hosting group D (Czech Republic, Estonia, Montenegro, Netherlands, Poland and Ukraine).
Stožice Arena will also host two of the eight matches in the round of 16, as well as one quarter-final and one semi-final match. The medal round will be played in Paris.