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FIVB Men's Olympic Games 2008

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Brazil, Italy, Russia, USA advance to semi-finals of Men's Olympic Volleyball Tournament in Beijing

USA's Riley Salmon spikes against Serbia on Wednesday
Beijing, China, August 20, 2008 - Defending Olympic champions Brazil, three-time FIVB world champions Italy, three-time Olympic champions Russia and 2008 FIVB World League winners USA moved forward to the semi-finals of the Men's Olympic Volleyball Tournament on Wednesday in Beijing.

Russia, six-time world champions, dismantled Bulgaria 3-1 (20-25, 25-16, 25-22, 25-21) in the first quarter-final of the day at Capital Indoor Stadium in front of 11,500 spectators, before seven-time FIVB World League winners Brazil dashed the hopes of hosts China with a straight sets victory (25-17, 25-15, 25-16) watched by 13,000. Italy then overcame Poland in five sets (25-19, 25-22, 18-25, 26-28, 17-15), before USA held on to beat Serbia 20-25, 25-23, 21-25, 25-18, 15-12 in 2 hours, 14 minutes.

Russia will face USA in their semi-final on Friday, August 22, at 12:30 local time at the Capital Indoor Stadium before Italy play Brazil in other semi-final later that day at 20:00 local time at the same venue.

Bulgaria 1 Russia 3
Russia came back from a set down to beat Bulgaria to advance to the semi-finals against USA. The set commenced with Bulgaria's Matey Kaziyski and Russia's Maxim Mikhaylov exchanging points until offensive errors from Sergey Tetyukhin handed the set to Bulgaria. Russian Alexey Kuleshov's defensive play, including knocking down a court-side barrier to save an unreachable ball, inspired his team in the second set. Tetyukhin started to hit his spikes and Russia never looked back again. In the third set, Russia's Yury Berezhko bombarded the Bulgaria's court with his back-court hitting. Inconsistent Bulgarian blocking didn't help and Russia ran away with the set, 25-22. In the fourth set, Russia continued their intensity. Semen Poltavskiy's booming serves and Tetyukin's single-man blocking effort gave Russia the set and match. Russia Head Coach Vladimir Alekno said: "We've got 12 players who are all ready to play at any moment of the game. So that's our advantage. It just depends on whether my substitutions during the game make our play stronger or not." Bulgaria Head Coach Martin Stoev said: "At the end of each set the Russians were playing better than us. But I will still thank all my players for their efforts in the Olympic Games and for fighting to the very end."

Italy 3 - Poland 2
Italy beat Poland in a five-set thriller at the Capital Indoor Stadium to advance to a semi-final against Brazil. Plucky Poland fought back from two sets down and 15-15 in the fifth set, saving five match points on the way, before finally conceding defeat. Italy's Valerio Vermiglio controlled the flow of the game early, with hitters Alberto Cisolla and Matteo Martino helping Italy to an early lead. A strong effort form Mariusz Wlazly helped Poland to regain their composure, but Martino's hitting was too much for the lower-ranked Poland, with Italy finally taking the second set 25-22. Complacency crept into the Italian side, however, and they rarely looked like taking the third set, which Poland's Marcin Wika finished with a booming service ace. Poland shot out to an 8-2 lead in the fourth set before Polish errors saw Italy taking it down to the wire but Poland's service and aces from Michal Winiarski took the match into a dramatic fifth set. Poland saved five match points through the fourth and fifth sets before Martino's left-side attack sealed the set and the match 17-15. Italy Head Coach Andrea Anastasi said: "We all contributed to this fantastic match today and we learned a lot from Poland. The result of the last set, 17-15, proved that Poland is a relatively strong team. We are happy that we can enter the semi-finals and we will prepare for our  game against Brazil two days from now. I just think adjusting ourselves and staying in peak condition are more important than any improvement right now. Brazil is one of the most comprehensive teams in the world and we must focus on beating them."

China 0 - Brazil 3
In a place where the Chinese Men's Volleyball players kept staging surprising victories, no miracle appeared at the Capital Gymnasium on Wednesday night in their quarter-final against defending champions Brazil. The Chinese, before thundering cheers of home fans, lost their Beijing Olympic finale to the South Americans, 25-17, 25-15, 25-16. Brazil is thus set to replay the Athens Games final against Italy, but this time in the semi-finals. The hosts, making a breakthrough to enter the quarter-finals with two wins against three losses in the preliminaries, showed no fears against the world No. 1 team at the beginning of the opener. Under effective Chinese blocking, the Brazilian jumpers could seldom execute their famous quick and high spikes, while the brilliant attacks of the wing spiker Yuan Zhi and middle blocker Bian Hongmin helped China to catch up at 9-9. The Brazilian ace spikers Dante and captain Giba exhibited their qualities with frequent high-jump spikes from the back row and the left flank to launch a 15-7 run to take the set. Samuel Fuchs sealed it with a spike. The Brazilians appeared quite relaxed in the second set and Giba even had time to take some bites from an apple in the first technical timeout, when they led 8-6. They controlled the set with an overwhelming advantage at net, while the Chinese began to commit chains of services and spike faults. A determined Brazil took the set 25-15. Brazil found no trouble to win the third set 25-16, though China's Head Coach Jianan Zhou sent veteran players Sui Shengsheng and Shi Hairong onto the court, hoping to regain some rhythm. However, the Brazilians gave no chance to the two rescuers. Gustavo Endes surged from the middle of the court, smashed the ball home and brought Brazil the decisive point. Brazil Head Coach Bernardo Rezende said: "China is a good team, they beat Venezuela and Japan in the preliminaries. Those were tough games. Today we played with a lot of attention and focus. I didn't give the Chinese a lot of room to play to their potential. We served well and we were able to play very fast combinations. I'm just really thinking about Italy." On the importance of having captain Giba back on the team, Rezende said: "It is very important, he's a good player and in a National Team every player is important. His leadership is important, it's not just about playing well, but also leading in intense moments. We'll have him in his best shape in the semi-finals and hopefully later as well."

USA 3 - Serbia 2
The USA defeated Serbia in a gripping Men's Volleyball quarter-final at Capital Gymnasium, a repeat of July's FIVB World League final in Rio with William Priddy the match-winner again. The win sees the Americans move on to the semifinals on Friday, August 22, where they will take on Russia. Serbia looked to be on their way to the semi-finals before the U.S. surged late in the fourth set, but looked to have taken the momentum back from the Americans when they took an early lead in the final set. The U.S. then took control with some strong blocking on the attacks of Serbia's Milos Nikic and Ivan Miljkovic, and Riley Salmon scored with two strong hits to end the match 15-12 after 2 hours, 2 minutes. Serbia's blocking was near-impenetrable in the first set, led by Marko Podrascanin. While David Lee and Priddy tried to keep the USA close, Miljkovic's attacking presence made it impossible for the USA to catch up. Nikic finished the first set with a powerful cross-court attack to put the Serbians one set up. Thanks to several powerful spikes by Clayton Stanley, the USA built an early lead in the second set before Serbia regrouped to tie the score at 18. Lee then sparked a USA comeback with his attack on the middle of the court, and when Priddy capitalized on a faulty reception from Nikic the USA had leveled the match at a set each. Miljkovic hammered his spikes towards the end of the third set, and Nikic helped by scoring from the outside attack. Dejan Bojovic closed the third set for Serbia with an ace to give his side a decisive lead. With the USA desperate to force the match into a fifth set, Priddy, Ryan Millar and Lee capitalised on several ball-handling errors by Serbia early in the fourth set. Stanley scored the last point on his serve in the set to force a tiebreaker, and the Americans held their nerve in the final set to advance to the final four. Said USA Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon: "We knew it was going to be a tough match. We played Serbia twice this year, the first time they kicked us, the second time we beat them, but it was a very close match. This was a battle. When Serbia had momentum, we managed to show composure to control that momentum. To beat them today was a wonderful achievement, although we won't get to enjoy it more because we have to focus on the next matches. We have a lot of respect for Serbia, not only just the way they played but also the way they compete."

Men's final standings so far
Joint 5: Bulgaria, China, Poland, Serbia
Joint 9: Germany, Venezuela
Joint 11: Egypt, Japan

Women's semi-finals: Thursday, August 21
12:30 Cuba-USA, Capital Indoor Stadium, Beijing
20:00 China-Brazil, Capital Indoor Stadium, Beijing

Men's semi-finals: Friday, August 22
12:30 USA-Russia, Capital Indoor Stadium, Beijing
20:00 Italy-Brazil, Capital Indoor Stadium, Beijing

Follow Me
Volleyball legend Andrea Zorzi is blogging from Beijing with his popular "Follow Me" blog, linked to the FIVB website. Today he analyses the Men's quarter-finals and has a video interview with Brazil Women's Head Coach Jose Roberto Guimaraes.



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