Madrid, Spain, July 8, 2003 – Russia wore down and ultimately outfoiled Italy
in the closing minutes of an electrifying five-setter to take a step closer to
defending their title in the FIVB’s $15 million World League on Tuesday here
at the Palacio Vistalegre.
The result was Volleyball poetry with Italy writing the first verse, filled
with elegant combinations and artistry that signaled they are on the road back
to world dominance and undeterred by the might of the Russian colossus.
”It was a good match and a good fight,” said Italian captain Andrea Giani,
playing his record-breaking 419th match with the Italian team. “We just made
more mistakes and we are not happy with the result.”
However Giani celebrated in style emerging with 21 points as top scorer.
The Italians succeeded in dominating the opening set, racing away in the
middle to a five point lead. It was a true team effort and the chemistry
served them well as they sealed the first set 25-20 and had the Russians on
But in the opening phase of set two, Russia quickly capitalized on a lapse of
concentration and snatched an early lead. The result was a swift reversal of
fortunes with Russia taking the second set 25-20.
The Italian block held up well in the face of the massive Russians, and some
elegant moves by experienced Italians of the caliber of Alexander Fei, Samuel
Papi and Giani gave Italy a 23-18 lead and ultimately a 25-19 third set for a
It was Fei who opened for the Italians in the fourth, but the star-studded
Russian side responded with a four-point advantage using 208cm Sergey Baranov,
Andrei Egortshev and Pavel Abramov to stay in front. At 18-14 they had the
tiebreaker in their sights and their defense had kicked in well. An ace by
Semen Poltavsky gave the Russians set point. Italy held off only to have Papi
smash into the net and force the fifth set, which after a tough struggle,
leveled at 13-all but finally went 15-13 to Russia.
”It was a hard match for us and we knew that the Italians are much better this
year than last,” said Abromov of the victory. Russian coach Guennadi
Chipouline said his players had performed under their capacity and they would
now have to prepare for their next encounter against Brazil on Wednesday.
Brazil recovered from a first set shock to down Bulgaria 3-1 and in the first
match of the day, a sleepy Serbia and Montenegro aroused themselves from early
set slumbers to defeat the Czech Republic 3-0 in a match that was harder than
the set score reflected. Hosts Spain face Greece in the closing match on this
first day of the finals of this elite annual tournament.