PRESS RELEASE 06.01.2004


Europe women - Poland too strong for Russia

BAKU, Azerbaijan, January 6, 2004 - European champions Poland booked an important 3-1 (25-22, 25-17, 22-25, 25-20) victory over tournament favorites Russia during the second day of the Women's European Olympic Qualification Tournament here in Baku, Azerbaijan on Tuesday.

On other matches world champions Italy recovered from their loss to Turkey on Monday by beating Bulgaria 3-1 (21-25, 25-21, 26-24, 25-21) and is back in business during the event where one Olympic ticket is at stake.

The Pool A clash between Poland and Russia was the match of the day with the big question could the 2003 European champion make life difficult for the former best team in Europe. Russia looked in good shape after beating Azerbaijan on Monday, but the Polish team proved too strong.

After almost two hours of extremely high level Volleyball, Poland claimed victory to put Russia's Olympic qualifying hopes in doubt.

After Monday's surprise loss to Turkey, Italy were desperate for victory against Bulgaria to keep their Olympic hopes alive in Pool B and it wasn't the best of starts as Bulgaria, winners over the Netherlands on Monday, took advantage and won the first set.

Italy started to play better and leveled the match taking the second set but with Antonia Zetova as main spiker, Bulgaria fought back to lead 21-17 in the third set. Thanks to a great substitution from Italian coach Marco Bonitta, which brought Simona Rinieri on court, the 'Squadra Azzurri' came back again to clinch the third set before running away with the fourth and the match.

The victory doesn't mean that Italy is already out of the danger zone yet with a victory against the Netherlands on Wednesday still needed to stay in contention. There will also be a lot of pressure on the Dutch team, because if Italy defeats the Netherlands, the Dutch squad is eliminated.

In other Pool A action, Germany ended the hopes of home crowd favorite Azerbaijan. The European Championship bronze medalists blew the home team of the court and won the match in straight sets (25-20, 25-14, 25-15).