Germany's resistence proved too much for Bulgaria over four sets ©Getty Images

Germany held their nerve after squandering two match points in the third set of the European Games men's volleyball final here this afternoon, recovering their poise to win the fourth and claim a deserved 3-1 victory.

Following nearly two hours of play the Germans were clearly the better team, more persevering and relentless in defence and more clinical and precise in attack.

The Germans are not one of the continent's traditional volleyball powerhouses, but have never won a men's medal in the history of the European Championships, with best finishes of fourth in 1991 and 1993.

They reaped the dividends of sending a first choice team to these Games rather than the second-string line-ups sent by many of their rivals, having withdrawn from the International Volleyball Federation World League to focus upon competing here and securing vital points towards Olympic qualification in Rio de Janeiro next year. 

Led by the magnificent Christian Fromm, who combined diving spikes with daring smashes, Germany started strongly and established an early five-point lead they never relinquished.

There was more of the same in the second and, with the Bulgarians outclassed and struggling for inspiration, and lacking the rub of the green despite their distinctive lime jerseys.

The Germans swiftly moved 25-16, 25-18 ahead.

Germany celebrate after their two hour long victory over Bulgaria ©Getty Images
Germany celebrate their European Games gold medal following their marathon two hour long victory over Bulgaria ©Getty Images

But Bulgarians - who themselves had not won a European medal since they lost the 1951 final to the Soviet Union - raised their game.

In a topsy-turvy set, the lead ebbed one way and then the other, particularly at the end when Germany wasted two match points and Bulgaria failed to capitalise on four set points of their own, before eventually sealing it with their fifth.

When Bulgaria took an early lead in the fourth, it appeared the momentum had swung in their favour.

But Germany, with sheer power and perseverance, rediscovered their best form.

When two Bulgarian players left the same ball at the net, it was clear their luck had run out and three points later, it was fitting it was Fromm who hit the winning smash.

"Being the first winners does make it a little more special, for sure," said German captain Jochen Schops.

"Maybe not right now, but when we are home and we have had to think about it, it is nice to think that we will be in the history books - and hopefully there will be many more European Games to come."

While the atmosphere was good for the final, it was even better for the bronze medal match as Russia produced a superb performance to overcome world champions Poland over four sets.

It was not the same Polish lineup as that which secured the global crown, but it was a notable performance nonetheless by Russia as they raised their level every time they were tested to batter their opponents into submission.

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