Czechs score volleyball sensation with win over Olympic champions France

Adam Zajíček

The Czech Republic’s volleyball players achieved a sensational victory on Monday evening, overcoming recent Olympic champions France in the sport’s European Championships in Ostrava. What’s more, the Czechs didn’t allow the French even one set on their way to the competition’s quarterfinals.

There was an explosion of cheering at the Ostravar Arena in Ostrava on Monday night as the Czech Republic’s Adam Zajíček blocked a ball from French star Earvin Ngapeth to give the hosts victory over the recently crowned Olympic champions.

The Czechs reached the quarter-finals at the European Volleyball Championships with a score against the mighty France that very few could have predicted.

Indeed they did not allow the Tokyo victors a single set as – spurred on by an enthusiastic crowd – they won 25-22, 25-19 and 34-32.

Adam Zajíček spoke to Czech Radio just moments after sealing the Czechs’ famous victory.

“I think that every player is waiting for something like this. I hope I remember it till the end of my life, or till the end of my career.

“I expect I’ll be dining out on the fact I was the guy who blocked the French and brought the game to a close.

“It was a wonderful feeling, but it wasn’t just my work – it also involved the whole support team, everybody on the bench and the players on the court.

“I just put the cherry on the cake, and I savoured the moment.”

Czech Republic - France | Photo: Jaroslav Ožana,  ČTK

The final set was particularly dramatic, with several set balls for the French and a total of nine match balls on the Czech side.

What’s more, the French requested a challenge when the Czechs believed they had won the game and began victory celebrations.

However, the point was disallowed and the challenge upheld, really putting the hosts’ nerves to the test.

Nevertheless the Czechs had dominated the encounter from the beginning and Adam Zajíček offered some explanations as to why.

“It was the sold-out hall. Nobody expected that so many people would come – the French certainly didn’t.

“I think the Ostrava crowd deserved it; they have supported us in the past when our performances have really been up and down. Now we’ve paid them back a bit.

“Another factor was our aggression. We know we have it in ourselves – it’s just a matter of letting it off the leash a bit.”

Coach Jiří Novák’s charges will now face Slovenia – runners-up at the last European Volleyball Championships – on Wednesday for a place in the semi-finals.

Novák told reporters on Monday night that the Slovenians were favourites to reach the final four. However, he said, this still represented a chance for the Czech Republic that might not be repeated for a long time.

The trainer said he believed the crowd would once again drive the Czech team to victory. They were our seventh player tonight and take major credit for the fact we have advanced, he said.