Lausanne, June 27, 2003 - Russia spoiled Poland's chances of a last dash to Madrid, Germany launched their last weekend with a 3-1 victory over giants Italy, Brazil allowed Portugal a single set and Serbia and Montenegro mowed down the Netherlands in their opening matches of the final week of the FIVB $15 million World League Intercontinental Rounds to settle their berth for the finals.
Russia, the dominant Pool A team has lost only one match in the Intercontinental Rounds and a second win against Poland this weekend will certainly set them up as the favorites to defend their World League title. With Spain, as hosts of the finals, an automatic qualifier, Poland's last chance to sneak into the final eight was to twice defeat the Russian Bear this weekend.
Brazil scored a 3-1 victory over Portugal on Friday in Betim in their first match of the final weekend although they sacrificed the first set after making too many mistakes, they then settled down to take a deserved win. If the World Champions win their second clash on Saturday they will top the Pool B table, even though the result, with world champions Brazil and Italy already qualified, is academic.
In other first day action, Germany went out with a bang, scoring only their third victory of the tournament against giants Italy - albeit one that can be a strong confidence booster. To walk away with a 3-1 victory over the team with the biggest success rate in the 14 editions of the World League will be elixir for the hosts of the 2003 European Championship in September.
But in Pool C, Serbia and Montenegro, determined to secure their place in the finals in Madrid turned on a strong, if not error-free display of blocking and a fierce attack led by Ivan "the Terrible" Miljkovic, to secure a 3-0 victory over luckless Netherlands in just one hour 14 minutes.
The match settled the tickets to Madrid in Pool C with the top two places on the table going to Serbia and Montenegro and Bulgaria, who will finish first and second in the table, depending on the outcome of their remaining matches. Bulgaria plays twice against table trailer Cuba and Serbia and Montenegro start favorite in their final match against Netherlands.