Madrid, July 12, 2003 - Serbia and Montenegro delivered a lesson in volleyball
to Italy on Saturday when they won the first semifinal of the FIVB $15 million
World League in straight sets (26-24, 25-22, 25-16) to earn their first ever
place in the final of this elite annual men's volleyball competition.
It was the sixth win for Serbia and Montenegro against their geographic neighbors
Italy from 13 World League clashes since the competition began 14 years ago.
For Serbia and Montenegro, the Grbic brothers Nikola and Vladimir (Vanja),
arguably the most famous siblings in the sport, combined in a dazzling display
of tactical volleyball and together with their teammates, contrived to both
outfox and outplay the Squadra Azzura.
"Before the match I thought Nikola (Grbic) was the best setter in the world,
but now I think even more of him," said Italian coach Gian Paolo Montali,
who in Italian league competitions has the Serbian maestro on his side of
"We should be very satisfied with the result and the game," said Grbic "But
I hope it is not the end of our victories. We want to continue to play in
the tournament as we did today".
The players from these teams know each other well and many of the players
from Serbia and Montenegro play in the Italian league, the most lucrative
in the sport. Nobody however speculated on such a whitewash for Italy, who
until Saturday had looked a renewed team under their new coach Montali.
Serbia and Montenegro's Ivan "The Terrible" Miljkovic had the honor of putting
the first point on the board, not with his usual deadly missile but with
a cat-like pat, signaling that this would be a special, maybe even a very
Both teams fielded starting sixes rich in experience and skills that set
the stage for a match surpassing bold spikes and opened the way for intrigue,
tactics and deception, all the characteristics that make the modern game
The first set was the best for Italy and the two sides traded the lead back
and forth until the final 26-24 score for Serbia and Montenegro after two
superb shots by Vanja Grbic.
Italy looked much less settled in the next two sets and Serbia and Montenegro
completely dominated the third, playing crisp, accurate volleyball that was
packed with action and superb tactics.
Miljkovic powered and patted 17 points across the net to be the top scorer,
with Luigi Mastrangelo scoring nine to be Italy's best contributor.
But the match stats screamed the skills of Vanja and Nikola Grbic who, between
them dominated the non-scoring skills and deserve much credit for their team's
Their opponent will be decided later Saturday after favorites Brazil meet
World League newcomers the Czech Republic in the second semi.