Rome, Italy, October 6, 2010 – Italy took their place in the semifinals of the 2010 FIVB Men's World Championship with a 3-1 (25-18, 25-20, 25-27, 25-19) win over France in front of more than 11,000 spectators at Rome's PalaLottomatica.
Italy's win set up a semifinal match against defending champions Brazil on Saturday with Serbia and Cuba, conquerors of Bulgaria, contesting the other game in the last four. The defeated French, consigned to third place in Pool O, now move to Florence to play in the round for positions 9-12.
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Simone Parodi and Cristian Savani compiled 18 and 16 points to lead the Italian attack. Veteran Luigi Mastrangelo contributed 12 points including five of the 13 blocks amassed by the winning side, while Michal Lasko and Alessandro Fei charted eight apiece. Romain Vadeleux registered 17 points while Nicolas Marechal and Kevin Le Roux recorded 13 and 11 respectively for Philippe Blain's France side.
The contest between the two 'Blues' – the Azzurri v Les Bleus – was almost certainly more significant to Andrea Anastasi's hosts given the prospect of a semifinal place. A crowd of 11,208 inside the PalaLottomatica duly created an atmosphere that helped drive the hosts to victory.
Italy's 3-1 win over USA 24 hours earlier had given Mastrangelo and Co the psychological edge necessary to come out strong in the first set. The Italians were ruthless in their attacking and blocking with spiker Savani centering eight out of the first 18 points. France struggled with their offensive play, despite their 82 per cent receiving rate, and Valerio Vermiglio soon served to close the set 25-18.
The second set reflected Italy's determination to tie up the match quickly, and resulted in a crushing defeat for the French who could do practically nothing to overcome the Italian blocking machine. The Sala-Mastrangelo pairing managed to score a total of four points via blocks, and France's receiving percentage collapsed dramatically to 58 per cent, which helped Fei close the set in attack at 25-20.
At the First Technical Timeout (FTT) of the third set, France were ahead for the first time in the match at 8-7. Italy seemed to be running out of gas which permitted the French to take a 12-9 lead. Although Mastrangelo served an ace to tie the score at 12-12, it was only temporary as Stephane Antiga responded with another ace. France gradually widened the gap and consolidated their lead at 17-12. Vadeleux collected numerous points in attack, seven in total, to bring the score to 20-16 for Les Bleus before Italy then fought back, making an impressive comeback to draw level at 22-22.
With the score at 24-23 for France, coach Blain called a tactical timeout to offer extra encouragement and his ploy worked as his team won the set 27-25. Fundamental to France's success was middle blocker Le Roux with eight points and a 71 per cent reception rate. France decided to pull out the heavy ammunition in the fourth set and took a 10-5 lead, but in spite of their excellent defence, Italy were able to restore parity at 12-12. The Azzurri then overtook France to lead 16-13 and they had the wind in their sails. The top scorer of the match, Parodi, with 18 positive hits served to close the set 25-19 and sweep Italy to the semifinals.
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