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FIVB Men's Olympic Games 2008

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USA, Italy Bulgaria, China, Brazil, Russia, Poland, Serbia advance to quarter-finals of Men's Olympic Volleyball Tournament in Beijing

Poland fans celebrate as they watch their team beat Russia in five sets on Monday
Beijing, China, August 18, 2008 - The quarter-final line-up for the Men's Olympic Volleyball Tournament in Beijing was completed on the last day of Preliminary Round action Monday. USA, Italy, Bulgaria, China, Brazil, Russia, Poland and Serbia all advance to the last eight of the competition, while Venezuela, Japan, Germany and Egypt go home.

In Pool A, Bulgaria beat Venezuela 3-1 (23-25, 25-19, 25-16, 25-22) to finish third with a 3-2 win-loss record, Italy (4-1) held on to beat hosts China (2-3) in five sets (25-17, 25-23, 21-25, 20-25, 16-14) for second place in front of 12,500 spectators at Capital Indoor Stadium and USA downed Japan in straight sets (25-18, 25-12, 25-21).

In Pool B, Brazil (4-1) extinguished Germany's hopes of advancing with a straight sets victory (25-22, 25-21, 25-23), Poland (4-1) rocked Russia (4-1) with a five-set win (17-25, 26-24, 24-26, 25-23, 15-12) watched by 12,000 and Serbia (2-3) blanked win-less Egypt 25-16, 25-13. 25-17 for the fourth quarter-final spot from the pool.

Bulgaria 3 - Venezuela 1

Bulgaria secured a spot in the quarter-finals of Men's Volleyball beating Venezuela in their last preliminary match. Venezuela are now eliminated from contention for the next round, which meant China, who gained a point in the standings with their loss to Italy in their final match, was guaranteed a spot in the quarter-finals. Bulgarian captain Plamen Konstantinov came back after missing the first three games and scored five points. He played the first match for Bulgaria and then returned back to Sofia of Bulgaria because in the words of Bulgarian team doctor Dr. Dinko Zahariev "In the last Konstantinov sample, there were values very close to the limits settled by the regulations. We dicided not to risk it and stopped the player. We need to test him again, that is why he is back in Bulgaria." Ernardo Gomez of Venezuela was the main attacker and scorer in the first set, scoring all over the court from the front and at the back providing Venezuela an early lead. Bulgaria adjusted their defence and offense and was trailing closely behind until an obvious fault call by referee Mohammad Shahmiri ended the set in Venezuela's favour. Stronger blocking from Vladimir Nikolov, Matey Kaziyski and Evgeni Ivanov of Bulgaria dominated the net and suppressed Gomez's offense. Bulgarian setter Andrey Zhekov's impulsive drop-shot surprised Venezuela's defense. With more reception errors, Venezuela failed to set up their attacking combinations. The score was tied at 16 in a closer fourth set. Kaziyski stepped up with his vigorous quick middle attacks while Venezuela failed to dig his shots, widening the scored gap to 19-16. Nikolov's final touch from right-side of the court finished off the set. Bulgaria captain Plamen Konstantinov said: "I told my teammates to overcome their difficulties and nervousness. We should keep going in this way into quarter-finals. This is an important match for us and we should take the team into quarter-finals because we are a team who deserve it. I am satisfied with the game, I feel fresh in playing but felt a little tired. I hope my return from Sofia to Beijing will be helpful."

China 2 - Italy 3
China made the quarter-finals for the first time in 24 years despite a five-set loss to Italy. The host, who finished fourth in the pool with two wins against three losses, will play defending champion Brazil in the quarter-finals of the Beijing Games on Wednesday. Italy, the Athens Games runners-up, held off a strong late surge from the host for the victory and improved to a 4-1 record. In the tiebreaker, China beat off two set points thanks to consecutive smashes from Fang Yingchao to tie it at 14-all, but Luigi Mastrangelo made it 15-14 in favour of Italy with a kill before Fang drove a ball out to surrender the match. Hristo Zlatanov scored 29 points to lead the Italians, who rested their top scorer Alberto Cisolla for more than three sets. Going down tamely in the first set, the Chinese fought bravely in the second, erasing an early 12-8 deficit to level it at 17-all. After the Italians surged away again with a 5-1 run for a comfortable 22-18 cushion, China steadily pulled within 24-23, only to find Matteo Martino tear open the defense put up by Bian Hongmin and Shi Hairong to smash it home for the set winner. The Chinese fell behind again in the third set, but rallied to run off four points in a row to overtake the lead at 19-17 and held it to 22-20. After Italy cut it to 22-21 through an Emanuele Birarelli spike, Shi Hairong answered with a smash and Guo Peng came from the bench to score two consecutive points to clinch the set for China. China continued with the momentum in the fourth, racing to a 17-12 lead and never looked back in the set. Fang Yingchao finished with 20 points for the Chinese men, who are making their first Olympic appearance since the 1984 Los Angeles Games where they finished eighth. China Head Coach Jianan Zhou said: "We lost this match but I'm pleased with the level demonstrated on the court by my players. We are about to enter the quarter-finals and our opponent is a world-class team, Brazil. This match will help us improve our confidence. There is still a long way to go. We'd like to take this opportunity to improve the confidence of the Chinese local teams and players. I believe that as long as we stick to the game, we will get good results."

USA 3 Japan 0
USA easily beat Japan at Capital Indoor Stadium. USA played a controlled first set, Lloy Ball made impressive sets, making it easy for his hitters to place their shots on undefended areas of the Japanese court. The USA's block proved superior. David Lee blocked Kota Yamamura to finish the first set. William Riddy and Clayton Stanley attacked well in the wings. Takahiro Yamamoto was shutdown by the USA and was replaced by Kunihiro Shimizu. Riley Salmon played solidly on the attack and block, he finished off the set with a block on an attack by Daisuke Usami. Left-handed hitter Shimizu hit well for the Japanese on the right side. As Japan tried to fight back and tie the match, USA applied the tight block on Shimizu to pull away. Sean Rooney and Gabriel Gardner added more points to the already strong USA offence. USA Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon said: "I'm quite happy with the team. Our focus and execution was there for all phases. I believe this was a better performance than the match against China. It is always our goal to improve each and every match, and I think we did that in the preliminaries."

Germany 0 - Brazil 3

Brazil ripped apart Germany's quarter-finals hopes, beating them in straight sets at the Beijing Institute of Technology Gymnasium, a match followed by German Head Coach Stelian Moculescu confirming he was to step down from his position. Brazil's Marcelo Elgarten had an easy time distributing balls to his on-form Brazilian hitters while Brazil captain Giba and Dante were doing excellent attacking and blocking. The Germans responded with quick offense but their numerous service errors proved costly. German setter Simon Tischer led Germany to fight back in the first half of the second set but Rodrigao's outstanding spikes widened Brazil's lead. The Germans struggled on their blocking and ball-handling and service errors continued to flow. Libero Sergio of Brazil cleared the barrier to save an off-court ball, landing hard and injuring his nose but he returned to the court and continued playing. Germany reduced their service errors and got out to a two-point lead early in the third set but Brazil captain Giba's back-court spike leveled the score at 13-13 and from then on the Brazilians never looked back. A net violation by Germany ended the set 25-23 to seal the match. Moculescu said: "Brazil is a celebrated team and they played beautiful Volleyball. For the people, the spectators, the best team is Brazil. My team played very well, but this is my last match as the coach of the German team."

Poland 3 - Russia 2
Poland came from two sets to one down to overcome a strong Russia team in five sets at Capital Indoor Stadium. Russia's Semen Poltavskiy exploded early on in the first set for Russia, scoring on two opposite side hits. Russia's blocking also worked from early on and even Poland's power-hitter Mariusz Wlazly struggled with the tall Russian blockers as most of his attacks went out to avoid the block. Poland could not stop the Poltavskiy attack as he continued to dominate on the right side.  Alexander Kosarev hit deep into the Polish court and took the score to 21-12. Sergey Tetyukhin scored the last point of the set. In the second set, Poland established a tighter block to counter the Russian attack. Russia managed to hit over the block from a Tetyukhin surge. Russia missed finishing the set due to service and attacking errors and Michal Winiarski took advantage to deliver a drop shot that finished the second set 26-24.  Russia's Poltavskiy had mastered the Polish block as he attacked on a drop shot to give Russia a slim advantage on the third set at 10-9. Russia capitalised on a call by the referee of a Winiarski attack which was reversed after being declared a lifting violation. Russia started to score on their good shot placements and led at 21-19. Poland's Marcin Mozdzonek kept Poland close behind on his big blocks on Poltavskiy, one block even hit Yury Berezhko in the face. Kosarev made a huge block on Wlazly at the end of the third set. Poland had found a way to block the Poltavskiy attack on the fourth set. Marcin Wika, Lukasz Kadziewicz and Wlalzly teamed up to run the Polish attack, Mozdzonek took care of the block. Kadziewicz extended the match into a fifth set from a middle hit. Wlazly took charge in the fifth set with his strong spikes and to compound things Russia struggled on their service errors. Kadziewicz put on a solid block for match point until Wlazly finished the set on another powerful spike. Poland Head Coach Raul Lozano said: "The team played very well, we just made some errors at some moments. We played with a lot of determination and were able to block the stronger aspects of the Russian team, especially the attack. I am very happy with the performance of the team. It's a pity that it will not be useful to step higher in the classification pool. But now the quarterfinals start and everything will re-start from the beginning, and all the teams will be equal. I am very optimistic about the results for future matches."

Egypt 0 - Serbia 3
Serbia took just 62 minutes to see off Egypt in straight sets in their Pool B match at Capital Indoor Stadium. Serbia's Ivan Miljkovic was the key man in attack as the Serbs outclassed their opponents from the start. They scored five points from blocks in a first set sealed by a Mahmoud Abd El Kader service error. Miljkovic continued to find holes in the Egyptian defence, ably supported by Dejan Bojovic and Milos Nikic. The Balkan side established a two-set lead after Bojovic blocked Mohamed Gabal. Gabal led the way as Egypt rallied to make a contest of the third set, but with 13-point Bojovic in sparkling form the Serbs were not to be denied and a service error from Gabal at match point brought the end for the North Africans. Serbian Marko Podrascanin said on their quarter-final match with USA: "We are not worried. We've got two wins now and we've been playing much better. We proved that we can beat them in the World League; we beat them 3-0, although we lost to them later in the tournament. For us it's the most important game in the tournament. If we play like we know we can, we can beat anyone."

Men's Olympic Volleyball Tournament pool standings at end of Preliminary Round:

Rank Country    Won Lost Points
1       USA           5      0 10
2       Italy          4      1  9
3       Bulgaria     3      2  8
4       China        2      3  7
5       Venezuela  1      4  6
6       Japan        0      5  5
Rank Country     Won Lost Points
1       Brazil         4       1  9  
2       Russia       4       1  9
3       Poland       4       1  9
4       Serbia        2       3  7
5       Germany    1       4  6
6       Egypt         0       5  5

Follow Me
Volleyball legend Andrea Zorzi is blogging from Beijing with his popular "Follow Me" blog, linked to the FIVB website. Today he has posted the final part of a two-part video interview with Nikola Grbic.


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