Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Aug 15 – The Netherlands, until now the minnow of the 2002 FIVB $15 Million World League, went out in a blaze of glory on Thursday in the northern Brazilian city of Recife when they humbled Spain 3-1 (25-20, 25-27, 25-23,25-18). The Spanish side simply ran out of legs after their courageous victory over Russia on Wednesday.
Before Thursday’s match young Dutch side had failed to win a single set in this tournament.
The surprise result reshuffled the cards and allowed Russia back into the semifinal action, despite being crushed 3-0, also in Recife, by titleholders Brazil. Only in the second set did the Russians show their customary fire, before allowing Brazil to deliver the final blow, a five-point advantage in the third set to take the match 3-0 (25-23, 28-26, 25-20). Brazilian hero Gilberto (Giba) Godoy Fihlo was the top scorer with 15 points. Brazil now meets Yugoslavia who lost to Italy in an evenly fought five-setter that finally favored the Squadra Azzurri.
Looking ahead to the semifinals, Brazil’s coach Bernardo Rezente said he was aware of the “missiles” that Yugoslavia was capable of delivering.
Italy and Yugoslavia delivered the highlight match of the day. Yugoslavia started confidently and when they had run up an 8-4 lead, Italian coach Andrea Anastasi took his side off for a pep talk.
Italians Valerio Vermiglio, Zlatanov and Fei had flashes of brilliance, but an overhead smash by Slobodan Boskan took the Yugoslavs to 16-12 and they closed out the first set 25-22.
The Italians edged ahead in the second set and a graceful, well-placed ace by veteran Samuele Papi extended the lead to 8-5. The dual ensued with lofty Hristo Zlatanov and Fei airborne, agile and deadly for Italy taking the score to 13-11. Yugoslavia’s block kicked in and they leveled at 17-17 when an attack by Ivan Miljkovic’s put the Olympic champions back in the lead. The sides shadowboxed their way through the points, but it was Italy took the initiative to equalize 1-set all.
Italy’s block proved effective early in the third set and a leap, twist and slam from Vermiglio took them to 6-4. A rare service error by Fei allowed Yugoslavia back in at 10-all, but another by Miljkovic returned service to Italy. The Italians gained confidence in the block and looked smug at 20-15 and when Yugoslavia’s Miljkovic’s serving accuracy deserted him, Italian Coach Anastasi began to relax on the sidelines. Papi delivered a cross-court kill to give Italy a 25-18 victory and put them back in contention.
Yugoslavia broke away with a 5-0 lead early in the third and maintained the edge to 12-8. Vladimir Grbic left the court with a twisted ankle but Yugoslavia still won 25-22 to force the tiebreaker, a thriller in which both sides knew that to lose was to pit them against Brazil in the first semifinal. Italy took match point at 14-15 and another at 16-15 when Papi served and allowed Fei to put away the winner for Italy to face Russia in Saturday’s semifinal.
In the final match of the day, Poland played France, both freed from the responsibility of advancement. Enthusiastically supported by a small knot of fans chanting “Polska! Polska!” amid a sea of Brazilian enthusiasts, the Poles took the first set 28-26 and the second 25-23, before cruising to a 3-0 victory with 25-18 in the closing set of the round robin