Beijing, China, August 16, 2008 Ė USA, Italy, Venezuela, Russia, Serbia and Brazil all claimed wins on Saturday in the Menís Olympic Volleyball Tournament in Beijing.
In Pool A, USA beat hosts China 3-0 (25-22, 25-12, 25-18) for their fourth straight win as Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon returned to the bench, Italy downed Bulgaria 3-0 (25-20, 25-21, 25-16) in front of 8,000 spectators and Venezuela beat Japan 3-0 (25-23, 25-21, 25-23) for their first win.
In Pool B, Russia beat Egypt 3-0 (25-19, 25-14, 25-18) for their fourth win, Serbia beat Germany in four sets (25-21, 27-25, 24-26, 25-23), watched by a crowd of 12,500 including Formula One motor racing President Bernie Ecclestone and his Croatian-born wife Slavica, and Brazil downed Poland 3-0 (30-28, 25-19, 25-19), also in front of 12,500 spectators. Microsoft founder and one of the worldís richest men, Bill Gates, also attended the first session at the Capital Indoor Stadium on Saturday.
USA 3 - China 0
The American Men had no trouble in defeating host China in straight sets at the Beijing Institute of Technology. The Americans marked the return of McCutcheon, who missed three matches following the death of his father-in-law in a tragic incident in Beijing last Saturday, with an impressive victory. "It's always good to have your leader back and it's great to have the complete team in order. Hopefully we can focus on the matches now that we have to play to win, rather than on the tragedy behind us," said U.S. player Kevin Hansen. With the fourth triumph in hand, the United States, the FIVB World League champion this year, qualified for the final eight with one match remaining, but China's outlook of making the quarter-finals turned vague with a 2-2 win-loss record. In the first set, USA took an early lead. But the Chinese fought back strongly. The 1.98-meter opposite Fang Yingchao scored five points to help China catch up 21-21 with the quick spikes of captain Shen Qiong from the left flank. Despite a stellar attacking performance from China's top scorer Fang, USA were always one step ahead and Clayton Stanley drove in the deciding spike that secured the first set for the Americans. USA dominated the second set as their powerful services broke the reception of China, who could barely organize an effective counterattack and USA assembled a commanding 18-5 lead. The determined Americans took the set 25-12. The decider was no surprise. China looked to close the score briefly when they won a few points on the back of unforced errors from the American side, and†managed to follow their rivals 18-24, but that was the furthest they could go. Sean Rooney smashed a ball home to score the decisive point for his team. McCutcheon said: "I would not have come back if I was not ready. You know what I do is to sit on the sideline and fire up the boys. I think it was comforting just getting back in the normal rhythm of the team. All the teams have a culture, and I am certainly a part of ours. So it was great to get back into the game and get going again."
Italy 3 - Bulgaria 0
The Italians were solid in attack and defence with outstanding performances from Mauro Gavotto, Vigor Bovolenta and Matteo Martino. Italy led most of the first set on a more balanced attacking scheme from Emanuele Birarelli, Gavotto, Bovolenta and Martino. The Italians attacked the unguarded areas of the Bulgarian court making it easy for them to take the first set. Bulgaria's Matey Kaziyski and Boyan Yordanov tried to fill in the attacking void that Bulgaria had in the first set with powerful wing-spikes early in the second set. But Bulgarian wing-spiker Vladimir Nikolov was well guarded by the Italian blockers and recorded only six kills in the first two sets. Martino matched Kaziyskiís intensity on sending explosive spikes to each side. Italy went 21-17 ahead and although Boyan Yordanov hit two attacks to pull Bulgaria close Birarelli hit an off-speed spike in the middle to close the second set. Yordanov hit from the opposite side to give Bulgaria an 8-7 advantage in the third set but Italy continued their dominance of blocking the left side attack of Bulgaria. Italian hitters Alberto Cisolla, Gavotto and Martino put Italy in front and when Andrey Zhekov missed a serve Italy won the match. Italy will play China while Bulgaria will face Venezuela on Day 5 of the Men's tournament on Monday. Italian captain Cisolla said: "We are pleased with this victory - we played our best so far (in these Olympic Games) in terms of technique and tactics. We were able to take advantage of the absence of (Plamen) Konstantinov and put more pressure on." Dr. Amr Elwani and Dr. Manfred Holzgraefe. FIVB Medical Delegates, on Saturday met the Italian delegation on the matter of libero player Mirko Corsano, who was substituted again by player Alessandro Paparoni during the Italy-Bulgaria match. The medical condition of Corsano is a chronic and painful relapsing illness, but he is eligible after adequate therapy and rest depending on the severity of the pain.
Venezuela 3 - Japan 0
Venezuela overpowered Japan 3-0 (25-23, 25-21, 25-23) at Capital Gymnasium to obtain its first, historical win at the Olympic Games. Venezuelan Ernardo Gomez and Luis Diaz found their touch after a slow start and hit harder than their opponents. Japan over passed the ball which Ivan Marquez easily hit, finishing the set 25-23. In the second set, it was an even match. Venezuela had a lucky break when a set for Freddy Cedeno missed a touch on the ball but still dropped on the Japanese court. Japan scored from a Yoshihiko Matsumoto ace to tie the score 10-10. Japan's game had improved, but it was Venezuela's hitting that proved the dominant factor. Venezuela edged Japan on the second set 25-21 on an Andy Rojas spike. Venezuela will play Bulgaria on Monday, 18 August. ďWe didnít do very well at the beginning in this tournament, losing 3-2 with USA and China, and we also lost with Italy. We knew that our only chance to qualify was to beat Japan, and it was difficult, because at the Olympic Games if you lose you donít have to let you drive by the emotions. I think that even Japan had not completely recovered from their 3-2 defeat against China.Ē
Russia 3 - Egypt 0
Russia overcame Egypt in straight sets at the Beijing Institute of Technology Gymnasium. The Russians are on top form after they stunned Brazil 3-1 in their last match. Russia's Yury Berezhko and Semen Poltavskiy began their attack from backcourt and front-row. Egypt's Hossameidin Gomaa responded by scoring from the left. Russia continued to dominate on the net with triple blocking tactics by Alexander Korneev, Alexey Kuleshov and Vadim Khamuttskikh, halting Egypt's offence. Alexey Ostapenko's vigorous serving affected Egypt's attacking rhythm, making Russia even more efficient with their blocks. In the later stages of the game, Russia was completely in command, leading all the way. A Kuleshov and Poltavskiy double-block scored the last point and ended the set and also the match 25-18. Ostapenko was the top server of the match with four aces and is the top server of the tournament with eight service aces. Russia will play Poland†next Monday to determine their final ranking in Pool B. Russia Head Coach Vladimir Alekno said (before Poland played Brazil: "I am happy to say we have achieved our goal of making it to quarterfinal. The next step is to prepare for the next match. Poland are playing better here in Beijing than at previous tournaments and it won't be easy for Brazil today to beat them."
Serbia 3 - Germany 1
World League runner-up Serbia, who had suffered three losses in the Men's Volleyball preliminaries, finally beat Germany 3-1 to keep their hope of making quarter-finals alive. Serbia's two key players Nikola Kovacevic (fractured hand) and Bojan Janic both missed the match because of injuries in the last match against Poland. With the hard-earned victory, Serbia trails Germany to rank fifth in Pool B. As the top four of the six-team group will survive, the two European teams, both holding 1-4 win-loss records, still have chances to go further. However, Serbia may have a better chance, as they will play the group's weakest team Egypt in the last match, while Germany will face mighty Russia. Germany did not surrender easily in Saturday's decider. Serbiaís Nikola Grbic said: "It was a positive performance in every sense - our result and everything else because of how our run so far in this tournament is going. I hope this victory will change everything for us from now on. Every man gave everything they could for us today."
Brazil 3 - Poland 0
Brazil conquered Poland in straight-sets (30-28, 25-19, 25-19) at the Capital Indoor Stadium. Poland's service errors were costly in the first set. Polandís Mariusz Wlazly and Brazilís Andre led the attack for their respective teams. Poland was able to put a defensive stop on Giba. But other Brazilian hitters, such as Dante, stepped-up to win the first set. Brazil's middle hitters led the second set with attacks on the middle of the Polish court. Quick hits by Andre Heller and Gustavo Endres helped Brazil to a comfortable lead. Bruno Rezende scored an ace to end the second set 25-19. Polandís Michal Winiarski struggled with his attacks thanks to the Brazilian blockers. Brazil will face Germany while Poland will face Russia on the last day of the Men's preliminary round on Monday. Brazil captain Giba said: "It was a very hard match. Poland won their last three matches but, today, all of us were very angry after losing our last match to Russia. The point for Brazil was the attack. My shoulder is better. I have this problem, chronic tendonitis. I just need physiotherapy and play."
1. USA 8
2. Italy 7
3. Bulgaria 6
4. China 6
5. Venezuela 5
6. Japan 4
1. Russia 8
2. Brazil 7
3. Poland 7
4. Germany 5
5. Serbia 5
6. Egypt 4
Women's Olympic Volleyball Tournament Preliminary Round match schedule:
* All times are local
Sunday, August 17
Cuba-Venezuela 12:00 Beijing Institute of Technology Gymnasium
Poland-USA 12:30 Capital Indoor Stadium
China-Japan 20:00 Capital Indoor Stadium
Kazakhstan-Algeria 10:00 Beijing Institute of Technology
Italy-Brazil 14:30 Capital Indoor Stadium
Russia-Serbia 22:00 Capital Indoor Stadium
Men's Olympic Volleyball Tournament Preliminary Round match schedule:
*All times are local
Monday, August 18
Bulgaria-Venezuela 10:00 Beijing Institute of Technology
China-Italy 20:00 Capital Indoor Stadium
Japan-USA 22:00 Capital Indoor Stadium
Serbia-Brazil 12:00 Beijing Institute of Technology
Poland-Russia 12:30 Capital Indoor Stadium
Egypt-Serbia 14:30 Capital Indoor Stadium?
Drawing of lots for quarter-finals: The FIVB Control Committee of the Olympic Games will conduct the Drawing of lots for the Quarter Finals immediately after the end of the preliminary round.
A1 vs B4 (seeded)
A2/A3 vs B2/B3 (drawn)
A4 vs B1 (seeded)
The FIVB will draw, according to the FIVB Specific Competition Regulation, the matches A2/A3 vs B2/B3 and set the match order for the quarter-final matches.
Women's Tournament: Sunday August 17, after the match Russia-Serbia
Men's Tournament: Monday August 18, after the match Japan-USA.
Volleyball legend Andrea Zorzi is blogging from Beijing with his popular "Follow Me" blog, linked to the FIVB website. An interview with Brazilian setter Fofao has been added to the video collection.