Bulgaria came back from two sets down to defeat co-host Poland in the play-off round of the European men’s volleyball championship on October 24, and will play in the quarter-final against Germany on September 25.
In front of a sell-out crowd in Gdansk, Poland took a 2-0 lead, taking advantage of two Bulgarian mistakes to wrap up the first set and then again, when Bulgaria squandered its lead in the second.
But a strong start to the third set kept Bulgaria’s hopes alive, with Tsvetan Sokolov emerging as Bulgaria’s main weapon; he finished the match with 35 points. In the fourth set, Poland again showed no sign of being able to contain Sokolov and a resurgent Bulgarian attack, but managed to keep the score closer than in the third frame.
Despite taking an early lead in the tie-break, Bulgaria allowed Poland back into the set. With the two teams trading counter-punches, it took a Polish mistake to seal the match for Bulgaria after two hours and 19 minutes of play. The final score was 22-25, 22-25, 25-21, 26-24, 18-16 for Bulgaria.
Bulgaria now faces a rested Germany team, who received a bye into the quarter-final after winning their preliminary stage pool.
It is a familiar opponent for Bulgaria, the two teams having met eight times since May 2012, each winning four encounters. Their most recent match, in the preliminary pool of the European championship on September 21 was won by Germany, 3-2. Bulgaria, however, has won the only direct knock-out match played over that period, the quarter-final of the London Olympics, 3-0.