Alessandro Fei's 20 points helped his Italy team win Pool G and advance to the third round of the competition
Catania, Italy, October 2, 2010 – More than 5,000 spectators saw Italy defeat Puerto Rico 3-1 (25-22, 25-16, 18-25, 25-21) to win Pool G and qualify in style for the third round of the FIVB Men's World Championship. It was the fifth straight victory in the tournament for Andrea Anastasi's men while Puerto Rico's second loss confirmed their elimination, with Germany also advancing to the last 12 from the section.
Italy's Alessandro Fei charted 20 points to lead the scoring and team-mates Simone Parodi and Luigi Mastrangelo also registered double digits with 13 and 12 points respectively. Parodi and Mastrangelo each managed four blocks as Italy outscored Puerto Rico 14-4 in that department. For Puerto Rico, Hector Soto scored 18 points while Juan Figueroa came off the bench to contribute 10 in the last two sets. Enrique Escalante and Jose Rivera each compiled nine tallies.
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Italy took advantage of several Puerto Rican errors to build an 8-3 lead in the first set. Although a spike and ace from Soto then cut the deficit to three points, Italy's blocking twice stopped the same player as the Azzurri moved 12-6 in front. After a long rally featuring excellent defending from both sides, Fei capped the action with a crossed bomb. Italy, on the back of their strong defence, were ahead by 16-10 at the second pause but the opposition responded with an ace from Victor Rivera and a block by Jose Rivera that reduced the gap to 18-16. Puerto Rico were even closer at 21-20 but Angel Perez served out. Fei then served and failed but redeemed himself with a missile from the second line. After Mastrangelo had blocked for 23-21, Italy went on to prevail 25-22.
The second set started with opposite spiker Fei making two mistakes in a row in attacks, but then Andrea Sala and Parodi blocked Soto for a 2-2 tie. Mastrangelo began collecting points on the block and the hosts had opened up an 8-3 advantage by the First Technical Timeout (FTT). Escalante hit two balls out to stretch Italy's lead further although Fernando Morales, the Puerto Rico setter, retrieved a point thanks to a lob from the fifth position. Yet the set was Italy's with Fei and Dragan Travica topping off their good work with a torpedo spike and lightning ace respectively.
In the third set, Puerto Rico coach Carlos Cardona opted to start with Figueroa, Roberto Muniz and the setter Morales on the court. The move paid off as his team took an 8-5 lead helped by Soto's offensive work. Italy were suffering on the receiving side and on the block. Morales produced point number 12 with a powerful pipe, then Sala replied fast from the centre. There was a moment of controversy before the Second Technical Timeout (STT) with a ball that the Italians said was in but that first referee Abdullah Ali Al-Khelaifi ruled out, leaving Puerto Rico 16-11 in front. The Azzurri responded after the pause, Fei making a great attack and Sala blocking Escalante. Escalante hit an ace at 18-13 before Ivan Zaytev, brought on to help the receiving side, earned a point with a pipe. But Morales then scored another ace and Puerto Rico closed the set with a serve at 25-18.
The Azzurri turned their formation around at the beginning of the fourth set with Matej Cernic's serving helping the Italian block to predict their opponents' game. Mastrangelo produced an ace, taking advantage of the confusion on the Puerto Ricans' receiving side, and at the FTT Italy had a four-point lead. Although Figueroa scored a point from a Sala block, the Italian player responded by connecting on a fast set after Soto's mistake from the second line, so putting Italy ahead by five points. By the second stop, Italy led 16-12 but Puerto Rico were not giving up and got closer at 22-20. The home side would not be denied, though, and after Mastrangelo attacked for point 23, Michal Lasko attacked and then blocked to seal the triumph.
FIVB Press Department Director - Richard Baker
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