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FIVB Men's Olympic Games 2008

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Brazil, USA, Russia, Italy, Bulgaria, Poland notch victories on opening day of Menís Olympic Volleyball Tournament in Beijing

Russian Head Coach Vladimir Alekno motivates his players in their impressive victory over Serbia on Sunday in the Men's Olympic Tournament

Beijing, China, August 10, 2008 - Reigning Olympic champions Brazil, USA, Russia, Italy, Bulgaria and Poland all recorded victories on the first day of the Men's Olympic Volleyball Tournament in Beijing on Sunday.

In Pool A, USA overcame Venezuela in five sets 25-18, 25-18, 22-25, 21-25, 15-10 in front of 11,000 spectators at the Capital Indoor Stadium. Italy downed Japan 3-1 (25-19, 25-18, 23-25, 25-17) and Bulgaria beat hosts China 3-1 (25-20, 25-21, 26-28, 25-19) watched by 11,000 fans. In a clash of European powerhouses in Pool B, Russia beat Serbia 3-1 (20-25, 25-21, 25-22, 25-14), Brazil coasted past Egypt 3-0 (25-19, 25-15, 25-18) in front of 8,500 and Poland downed Germany 3-0 (25-17, 33-31, 25-20).


Italy 3 - Japan 1

Italy survived a third-set blip to comfortably beat Japan at the Beijing Institute of Technology Gymnasium. Italy began with a series of quick attacks from Luigi Mastrangelo, as crucial service errors cost the Japanese when they had opportunities to get back in the set. Takahiro Yamamoto threatened with back-row spikes from the left but Italy continued to play an offensive game led by Alberto Cisolla of Italy. The Italians took a two-set lead but seemed to relax in the third set, giving more opportunities to Japan. Japan Head coach Tatsuya Ueta substituted his key player Yamamoto for Kunihiro Shimizu. That tactical change revitalized Japan as they began to block better and mount faster attacks. They seized the chance to win a tight third set. In the vital fourth set, Italy strengthened their blocking to hinder the quick spikes from Japan. The Japanese struggled to cope with Cisolla's thunderous attacks from the right, combined with the attacking of Alessandro Fei on the left. Said Italy captain Alberto Cisolla: "We played a very good game today, particularly in the first two sets. But in the third set our rhythm was not controlled and our co-ordination was not satisfactory. (It was lucky) that we recovered our concentration and co-ordination in the fourth set."

USA 3 - Venezuela 2
It was a steady start for 2008 FIVB World League MVP Lloy Ball as he led the Americans in blocking as well as setting up his team-mates on the kill. Clayton Stanley got into the action with his unstoppable kills on the right side. The USA continued strongly in the second set. Ernardo Gomez was Venezuela's offensive option as he successfully attacked the USA triple block. Stanley made monstrous spikes on the right side as the USA took the lead 22-14. They then took the second set from a Ball block. Venezuela could not keep up with the quick attacks of the USA in the beginning of the third set until Luis Diaz, Gomez and Ivan Marquez launched an attacking spree of their own. The Venezuelan side saw gaps around the court and capitalised on the opportunity. USA setter Ball was replaced by Kevin Hansen. Diaz scored crucial points on the attack and block for Venezuela as they took the third set. Venezuela kept their momentum in the fourth set with a set of blocks against the power-hitting Americans. Ball returned in the fifth set to organise the American offence. The USA tightened their defence and Stanley finally scored the winner after 2 hours, 17 minutes. Assistant coach Ronald Larsen stood in for Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon after Saturday's tragic incident when McCutcheon's father-in-law was attacked and killed in Beijing. Said Larsen: "We went into the game knowing this tragedy had happened and also knew that four years had gone into this. We came into the tournament playing wonderful USA Volleyball - some of the greatest this decade. This is about the team, not individual people." Said USA captain Thomas Hoff: "It's been pretty emotional for the last 24 hours. It's a game out there, nothing compared to what happened to our team. The best thing we could do was to come out here and try to play Volleyball."

Bulgaria 3 - China 1
Bulgaria were too strong for China at the Capital Indoor Stadium. Attackers Vladimir Nikolov and Matey Kaziyski started strongly for Bulgaria. Zhi Yuan was doing all he could to keep the score close, but Kasimir Gaydarski closed the first set with an attack in the middle. The Bulgarians were hitting spikes against the vulnerable Chinese block. Evgeni Ivanov caught the home side off-guard a couple of times as China failed to block chis hits. Yuan was doing most of China's scoring with good right-side attacks, but Kostadin Stoykov hit the vital point as Bulgaria took the second set. China were determined to make a match of it. Peng Guo made a crucial block while Jianjun Cui and Yuan started to click in attack and they snatched the third set. The Bulgarians were not to be denied, though, and Kaziyski was on hand to deliver the winning point in the fourth. Said Bulgarian Head Coach Martin Stoev: "At first we were feeling a little bit nervous, but then we could control the situation on the court. In the third set we made a lot of mistakes, and let our opponents into the game. However, we defeated them in the end."


Serbia 1 - Russia 3
Russia came from behind to take victory 3-1 in a hard-fought match at the Beijing Institute of Technology Gymnasium. In the first set, Serbia put up a three-blocker defence of Ivan Miljkovic, Andrija Geric and Bojan Janic to destroy Russia's offence, giving them an 18-12 lead. Two ace serves from Miljkovic ended the first set. Russian adjusted their blocking on the net. Quick spikes from Maxim Mikhaylov gave Russia an early lead of 8-5 and accurate blocking from Alexey Kuleshov and Mikhaylov secured the set. The tall Russian blockers continued to dominate at the net. A back-row spike by Yury Berezhko right into the middle of the empty Serbian's floor inspired the team. Two ace serves from Milos Nikic failed to calm his team-mates and Russia capitalised to win the set. The Russians won an easy fourth set. Russia Head Coach Vladimir Alekno said: "We are trying not to create tension in the team. I spotted Alexey Verbov playing computer games before the match. Of course computer games are not the real thing, but I think it gave some players a chance to calm down." On the early 10:00 start Alekno said: "We have to get up at six, then we warm up. The real awakening comes after the first set of the match."

Brazil 3 - Egypt 0
Brazil powered past a battling Egypt side in straight sets. Brazil displayed speed, power and finesse early on as they grabbed a 5-0 lead, with Marcelo Elgarten's creative settings being converted into points by his hitters. Egypt had only opposite hitter Ahmed Abdel Naeim as their offensive option and they were struggling against the Brazilian block. It was a well-balanced first set for Brazil as they displayed good offence and defence to comfortably claim the set. In the second set, Egypt showed more resistance and matched up with Brazil point after point. Saleh Youssef rallied his team, making consecutive spikes on the outside. Brazil, though, heeded the warning and regained the momentum, with Andre Heller scoring big hits on the middle. Andre Nascimento hit the final point for Brazil to close out the set. Andre Heller continued to be Brazil's go-to player as he scored points on his attacks and in defence at the start of the third set. Bruno Rezende scored an ace to bring Brazil closer to victory at 23-17 and a Giba block closed the match. Giba top scored for Brazil with 12 points while Youssef scored 11 for Egypt. Said Brazil Head Coach Bernardo Rezende: "I think the positive point is that the team played very seriously, we concentrated and we rebuilt confidence. Even if in certain parts we didn't play too well, I think we played our average."

Poland 3 - Germany 0
Poland made it quick in the last match of the day against Germany. Raul Lozano's team erased their poor performance in the recent World League Final Round with a very consistent game against opponents not at their best. After an effortless first-set win, Poland faced the crucial second set tying Germany at 14-14 with three perfect serves from Michal Winiarski. Poland tried to run away, but was caught by Germany at 21-21, eventually succeeding in winning a long-lasting frame played point by point. Robert Kromm was the most effective player on the German side, while Mariusz Wlazly and Winiarski claimed the best points for Poland. It was clear from the beginning of the third set that Germany had lost any hope of success. Good performances on blocking and serving made it easier for Poland overall. Poland's Argentine Head Coach Raul Lozano said: "Today we played a very big match. Our attack was really good but the key was digging in very balanced moments. Our setter (Pawel) Zagumny played well tactically in his distribution. This match was very important: our pool is really tough, this match means a lot, not only because it was the first one, but for the qualification. Now we have two days to rest and prepare the next match."

More information
The Olympic Volleyball Tournaments continue Monday with Day Two of the Women's event. USA play Cuba, China face Poland and Japan take on Venezuela in Pool A, while Algeria take on Serbia, Kazakhstan face Italy and Brazil and Russia face off against each other. The Men's event continues Tuesday when USA play Italy, Venezuela take on China and Japan face Bulgaria in Pool A and Russia and Germany play, Egypt face Poland and Serbia take on Brazil in Pool B.

Follow Me
Volleyball legend Andrea Zorzi is blogging from Beijing with his popular "Follow Me" blog, linked to the FIVB website. Today he has uploaded a video interview with 2008 World League MVP Lloy Ball of Team USA.



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