Madrid, July 9, 2003 – The Czech Republic and Greece mounted joint attacks at
the FIVB $15 Million World League on Wednesday knowing the outcome of their
match would decide their final four fate. Urged on by pockets of their own
team aficionados in this converted bullfighting ring in the Spanish capital
from which the Czechs emerged the winners after claiming a 3-1 victory.
“This was a game we had to win,” said Czech captain Ivo Dubs. “The Greeks
played well in the opening set but then we found our game.”
Greece, clearly being groomed for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games proved the
stronger in the opener, stealing the match 25-18 but the Czech Republic, which
is bristling with talent took the lead at 8-7 in the second and with 23-year-
old Martin Lebl and leaping, 205cm Michal Rak spreading his hands like dinner
plates on the block they managed to repel the Greek charge with a narrow 19-18
lead. Lebl showed his gentle side with a tiny drop shot over the net for 23-18
but the Greeks clambered back a point before Lebl presented his team with set
point, then converted with a massive attack that put them back in the game.
The Czechs ran up a significant four point lead to 19-16 and ended up closing
the set 25-21 to level and set the stage for a Greek drama in the third.
Czech grins became broader in the opening phase of the fourth as their well
placed shots and several errors from the opposition put them narrowly in
front. At 14-9 their coach Pavel Rerabek was also bordering on joyful while
the Greeks, whose shots all too often found the net rather than the opposite
court, were decidedly rattled as the Czechs subsequently ran up a 7-point lead.
Dubs and Rak blocked for 21-12 and Jakub Novotny dropped a neat little shot
over for 22-13 then Rak’s rocket made it match point for the Czech Republic.
They briefly lost the advantage but then the normally deadly Greek captain
Marios Gkiordas drove his serve into the net to turn the fate of the Greeks
from drama to tragedy, only to be accompanied by the wild celebratory
drumbeats of the Czech fans.
Lebl and Gkiourdas shared top scorer honors with 15 points each.
With one win and one loss, Czech hopes remain alive for the final four.
”We played better than last night (against Spain), but I think the Czech side
is a better team,” said Stelianos Prosalikas the Greek coach, adding that his
team were tired and seemed not to have the stamina to retain their first set
The two sides had met in the Intercontinental rounds where the talented Czechs
had topped the table and the two had consorted to eliminate World Champion
bronze medalist France in the preliminaries. Czech coach Rerabek said he was
glad that his team was able to confirm their win in the group table with
Earlier, Italy steamed past Bulgaria 3-1 to stay in the tournament but now
have a formidable match against world champions Brazil in their last pool
encounter on Thursday. In the second session, Brazil and Russia mount a Battle
of the Titans and Spain faces Serbia and Montenegro in the day’s final match.