Beijing, China, August 12, 2008 - Brazil brushed aside Serbia, USA proved too strong for Italy and Russia were pushed all the way by Germany before winning on the second day of the Men's Olympic Volleyball Tournament. China, Poland and Bulgaria also claimed victories on Tuesday.
USA notched their second straight win by beating Italy 3-1 (24-26, 25-22, 25-15, 25-21) in front of 12,500 spectators at Capital Indoor Stadium. In the other Pool A games, China beat Venezuela 3-2 (25-21, 21-25, 25-16, 25-21, 16-14) and Bulgaria downed Japan 3-1 (29-27, 23-25, 25-21, 25-19). In Pool B, Athens bronze medallists Russia edged Germany in five sets (25-27, 25-21, 21-25, 25-23, 16-14) in a match that took 2 hours, 25 minutes, Poland swept Egypt 25-21, 25-18, 25-10 and reigning Olympic champions Brazil won their second straight and inflicted Serbia's second consecutive loss 25-27, 25-20, 25-17, 25-21 in front of 9,000 fans.
USA 3 - Italy 1
The USA beat Italy in four sets at Capital Indoor Stadium. Both teams displayed their strong blocking games, stopping big hits on many rallies during the two-hour contest. USA's Clayton Stanley spiked and served heavily from the start. Italy's Alessandro Fei and Alberto Cisolla also got their rhythm going, bombarding the USA side with rocket spikes. The Italians had a more balanced attack, involving more players in the scoring. The USA relied more on Stanley's attacks on the right side. But then Italy's Hristo Zlatanov and Fei put the set away 26-24. The USA fought back in the second set, led by Stanley destroying the Italian block. Mauro Gavotto kept his team close to the USA with big hits on the opposite side. A triple block by the Americans on the Gavotto opposite attack was crucial later and then David Lee's quick middle hit finished the set. USA dictated the tempo at the start of the third set and had all the answers to easily win the bracket. The Italians could not cover their back row as the USA saw the opportunity to hit on that area. They continued on their surge, taking advantage of Italy's open court and secured the set and the match. USA's Stanley and William Priddy scored 23 and 20 points, respectively. USA captain Thomas Hoff said: "At the very beginning we waited to see what kind of strategy Italy chose. But from the second and third sets our defence and blocking got better and that gave us chances to score. At the same time, we were more focused on attacking."
China 3 - Venezuela 2
China defeated Venezuela in a five-set marathon at Capital Indoor Stadium. In the first set, China had the more complete attacking game, with captain Qiong Shen blasting through Venezuela's block almost at will. China eventually took the first set after a service error from Freddy Cedeno. Venezuela rallied in the second, though, with high-flying Ernardo Gomez and Ivan Marquez proving almost unstoppable on their attacks from the right side and middle. Ronald Mendez served an ace to make up for their error in the first set, giving the set to Venezuela. The third set was again dominated by Venezuela as China struggled to spark their offence and defence. China bounced back in the fourth, sparked by Peng Guo's offence and Hongmin Bian's effective kill blocking, and took another set after a Venezuelan service fault. China now had the momentum and traded hard spikes with Venezuela, until two blocks from Bian and Shuai Jiao saw China take the fifth set. Said China captain Qiong Shen: "It was a very exciting game, and I thought we played our best. When the team was losing, we didn't give up, and we fought until the end. I feel very happy, and a big thanks to all the Chinese fans for supporting us. It really drove us to work harder during the difficult times. We applied all the plans and strategies we prepared and we fought to the end. During the match, we encouraged each other."
Japan 1 - Bulgaria 3
A match that could have been easy to foresee became an unpredictably tough one. Injures forced Head Coach Martin Stoev to use last-minute solutions, and this allowed Japan to find more space for their spikes. As usual, the Japanese team displayed a good performance in back-row skills. In the first two sets Takahiro Yamamoto led his team in attack. Then Bulgaria's physical strength made the difference, especially with Vladimir Nikolov (best scorer of the match with 21 points), supported by opposite player Boyan Yordanov used by Stoev as a wing spiker (four aces for him). Despite the final victory, Bulgaria seemed worried for the future of the tournament. Plamen Konstantinov missed also this game, after the first match against China. Rumours about his absence still continued, but the only official words came from the team doctor after the match. In the Mixed Zone, Dr. Dinko Zahariev declared to the media: "In the last Plamen Konstantinov sample there were values very close to the limits settled by regulations. It could be physiological, I cannot say anything. We asked to WADA laboratory here in Beijing to check this sample, but they refused. We decided not to risk it and we stopped the player. We need to test him again, that's why he is back in Bulgaria now." Said Bulgaria Head Coach Martin Stoev: "Before commenting on the match, let us not force comments about the situation of Konstantinov. We're not doctors, nor specialists. Now we're forced to use a tactic that I never thought to use, with only Matey Kaziyski, and we played with two opposites. We are in very difficult situation but I congratulate my players: they gave their maximum, especially libero (Teodor) Salparov, passing almost alone. About our injured players, (Todor) Aleksiev is going better, I hope he will be in top form. (Kostadin) Stoykov has a back injury, very serious, he cannot even stand without feeling an ache."
Russia 3 - Germany 2
Athens Olympic Games bronze medal winner Russia came from behind twice to edge Germany in a close five-set match in the first match of the day of the Olympic Men's Volleyball Tournament at the Beijing Institute of Technology. Germany started strongly in the first set. Both teams exchanged lead several times, with heavy attacks from Jochen Schops and Stefan Hubner from Germany slicing through Russia's three-man blocking defence. Errors at crucial times cost Russia dearly. With a coordinated display of attacks, effective blocking and fewer mistakes, Russia levelled the set scores at one-all. The pattern in the first set appeared again in the third set, with good blocking and attacking by the Germans, Russia failed to find some new ways to stop Germany, who gained momentum and a powerful attack from spiker Bjorn Andrae of Germany secured the third set. In the fourth, the two teams went head-to-head throughout, but Russia won the set in the end, forcing the match into the tie-breaker. Russia jumped to a 5-1 lead in the early stage, only to find Germany fighting back not only to level the score at five-all, but also to lead at 11-8, 12-10 and 14-13. However, wing spiker Semen Poltavskiy gave Russia the lead at 15-14 and a block wrapped the final set. Said Russia captain Vadim Khamuttskikh: "We prepared very well for the competition with the German team but the Germans did create a lot of trouble for us, particularly in the service. But fortunately we fought to the end and to victory."
Egypt 0 - Poland 3
Poland took a comfortable victory over Egypt in straight sets at the Beijing Institute of Technology Gymnasium. With the win, Poland followed Russia in clinching their second win and both share the lead in Pool B with four points. Poland kicked off the first set one step ahead of their Egyptian counterparts and stayed that way for the rest of the match. Michal Winiarski and Sebastian Swiderski showed excellent stamina, driving powerful back-court spikes and scoring four and five points in the first set, respectively. Egypt used libero Wael Alaydy to set up accurate attacks from star players Saleh Youssef and Ahmed Abdel Naeim, but became hindered by Poland's strong service and subsequently lost the first set. A lack of communication on the Egyptian team led to confusion over who should receive the ball, and multiple unforced errors allowed Poland to forge ahead and secure the second set. Egypt's complacency continued into the third set, and Poland did not need to try hard to block balls that flew wide of the court. Said Poland Head Coach Raul Lozano: "One game will not influence the result of the Olympics. The Polish team have done well because all the players are motivated to win, but this may have been lacking in the opposing team. The Olympic Games are very important and we have to do well in every set in every game. This is a team sport and we have done well as a team. All players performed at a high level, especially in attacking and in blocking, which are the basic skills needed to succeed."
Serbia 1 - Brazil 3
Defending Olympic champion Brazil overcame a sluggish start to beat former Olympic gold-medal winner - as Yugoslavia - Serbia 3-1. Murilo Endres and Dante each notched 18 points to lead the world No. 1 to the victory. The Brazilians, who had recorded an easy 3-0 win over Egypt on Sunday, looked right on track to triumph in the opening set as a kill and a block of Murilo Endres and a Serbian error pushed them up to 22-19. However, the Sydney Olympic champion steadily pulled it back and beat off two set points for an advantage at 25-24. Dante came up to smash a ball home and make it 25-all, but Nikola Kovacevic answered with a kill to give Serbia a second set point before Gustavo Endres drove a ball long to surrender the opener. Brazil, who have swept all the titles in three major international Volleyball tournaments, namely the Olympics, World Championships and World Cup, in the past six years, came back with strong determination in the second set, jumping to a 5-0 lead on back of terrific services of Andre Heller and soon improved to 15-5. The resistant Serbians managed to pull within 23-19, but that's the closest they could go. Going down tamely in the third set, Serbia struggled to stay within 22-20 in the fourth, but Dante hit the ball home twice to make it 24-20 and Brazil converted on its second match point as Milos Nikic served the ball into the net. Ivan Miljkovic scored 17 points for Serbia, who were outblocked 12-7 and managed only one ace, compared with six for Brazil. Said Serbia captain Nikola Grbic: "We started both games against Russia and Brazil well. Then we got less aggressive and didn't play as well as in the beginning of the game. On the next game against Poland, Grbic said: "I hope to play much better. Up to now we have not played the best we can."
An Olympic first is set to be realised in the Women's Olympic Volleyball Tournament on Wednesday when two women referees officiate a match at the Summer Games for the first time ever. Karin Zahorcova of the Czech Republic and Janpen Jirakakul of Thailand will work together in the game at 10:00 local time between Italy and Algeria at the Beijing Institute of Technology Gymnasium. Zahorcova, 43, will be in the chair as first referee with Jirakakul second referee. Patricia Salvatore of the USA is the other female referee working on the Olympic Volleyball Tournaments in Beijing among a total of 22 match officials.
Volleyball legend Andrea Zorzi is blogging from Beijing with his popular "Follow Me" blog, linked to the FIVB website. Today he has posted a video interview with Serbia's devastating spike specialist Ivan Miljkovic.