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Russia and Italy in direct battle to stay unbeaten in Ufa

 
Italian triple block against Portugal – left to right: Simone Giannelli, Simone Anzani, Giacomo Raffaelli
Lausanne, Switzerland, June 9, 2019 – Russia vs Italy is shaping up as the big clash on Sunday’s programme in the men’s 2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League. Each with two victories at the Ufa Arena in the Russian Republic of Bashkortostan from the first two of this week’s competition days, reigning VNL title-holders Russia entertain the aspiring young Italian squad at 19:00 local time.

With a total of 19 points to his name, Victor Poletaev led Russia to an emphatic shutout of USA on Saturday. Since losing their first VNL match last week, last year’s gold medallists have embarked on a winning streak, which they have now extended to four consecutive games. Italy have followed the exact same path – losing the first, but then winning the next four – on the way to a 4-1 win-loss record. They were more than convincing against Portugal, allowing the opponents only 44 points total in the three sets played. Gabriele Nelli was once again in the role of Italy’s big gun, scoring 18 times towards the victory for a total of 103 points since the start of the season, which keeps him on the very top of the best scorers individual ranking. His teammate and captain Simone Giannelli was once again instrumental in organizing Italy's offence and deserved his spot on top of the best setters chart.


At major world-level competitions, Russia have won the last three matches against Italy, including a 3-0 victory in the 2018 VNL. Italy's most recent success was a straight-set win at the World Cup in September 2015.

"The Russian team is strong. They are good in all positions. We will do our best and try to win,” said Italy’s Giannelli.

USA and Portugal will each try to get their first Pool 6 victory in Ufa and second overall since the start of the league as they meet face to face at 16:00. While Benjamin Patch was the only American to reach the double digits against Russia, scoring 13 times, none of the Portuguese players did so against Italy.

“Let’s forget the match today and focus on the match tomorrow," said their coach Hugo Silva after the game.


France (5-0) will try to stay on top of the current standings by continuing their perfect winning streak into Sunday’s match with struggling Bulgaria, starting at 16:00 local time at the Beilun Sports and Arts Center in Ningbo. Last year’s silver medallists cruised to a straight-set victory over hosts China on Saturday. In his first game after recovering from injury, Stephen Boyer’s name appeared on top of the scorers chart against a 17-point tally. Bulgaria started well against Poland and won the first set, but went on to lose the next three to drop to 1-4. Nikolay Uchikov was the team’s best scorer with 15 points.

“I am really disappointed because we lost some opportunities to gain more than zero points. I hope tomorrow we can make some changes," Bulgaria’s coach Silvano Prandi commented after the match.

In the last Pool 5 game in Ningbo, China (1-4) will challenge Poland (3-2) at 19:00. Qingyao Dai and Jingyi Wang were the hosts’ only two players to reach double digits against France by scoring 11 points apiece. Poland’s Bartosz Bednorz scored 18 times against Bulgaria to become the most prolific player of the match.


Sunday’s Pool 7 action at the Musashino Forest Sport Plaza in Tokyo will open at 15:10 local time with a South American derby. Brazil, the other undefeated team in the competition, will clash with neighbours Argentina (2-3) to get the day’s VNL programme underway. On Saturday, Brazil made use of 31 points combined from Alan Souza and Yoandy Leal Hidalgo to shut out hosts Japan, while Argentina put up a tough fight against Iran, but went down in four sets, with sub-in Bruno Lima top-scoring 18 points for his side.

Amir Ghafour hammered out 26 points, including four of the team’s 14 stuffs, towards Iran’s victory, their fourth since the start of the VNL. None of Japan’s players managed to reach double digits in scoring against Brazil. The two sides will meet at 18:40 on Sunday to close the three-day event in Tokyo.

"We have to work on our defence more. Personally, I was able to gain a lot of confidence playing in this game,” commented Japan’s Takano Naoya after the loss to Brazil. “We have to win tomorrow to put on a great finale to the tournament in Japan."

"This game (against Argentina) became a very costly game for us as two players were injured. Nevertheless, we will keep fighting until the end,” stated Iran’s coach Igor Kolakovic.


Two dramatic five-setters unfolded in Pool 8 at the TD Place in Ottawa on Saturday. The two teams that emerged victorious, Canada and Serbia, will face each other at 16:10 local time on Sunday to close the second week of men’s VNL action. The 3-2 win over Germany, which improved Canada’s record to 4-1, came with a 24-point contribution from Sharone Vernon-Evans. After making some changes to their squad in the course of the match with Australia, Serbia mounted a fantastic comeback from two sets down, and with the help of Dusan Petkovic’s 20 points to claim their first VNL victory of the season, leaving the Volleyroos as the only winless team remaining.

“We can now turn our attention to Sunday. The Serbian team is crafty so we have to be ready for that,” said Canada’s coach Glenn Hoag.

Australia’s Luke Smith piled up 22 points to top the charts of the match against Serbia, while Simon Hirsh scored 21 times for Germany against Canada. Australia (0-5) and Germany (2-3) will go face to face at 13:10 in the earlier match on Sunday in an attempt to recover and finish the week on a high note.

“This is another game. It’s important to keep the quality we have on the court,” commented Germany’s coach Andrea Giani.

“As a team we have to analyze how to get out of small holes that we create and bounce back quicker than ever before,” Luke Smith pointed out.


All VNL matches are available live and on-demand on Volleyball TV.

June 8 – all results:

June 9 – full schedule:

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