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Men's World Cup 2003 - Match description Info

Match description

Italy beat Japan 3-1 (25-21, 27-25, 25-27, 25-20) - duration 1:55
29-Nov, start time: 18:00, end time: 19:55 - Attendance: 12,000
Italy stays in title contention
Italy had to fight hard but eventually sealed a four set victory over Japan on Saturday to record their ninth victory from 10 games and keep themselves in the reckoning for the 2003 World Cup title with one day to go in this Olympic qualifying event.

Having already been guaranteed their ticket to the 2004 Olympics courtesy of Brazil, who extinguished USA's hopes earlier in the day, Italy, one win behind the South Americans needed a victory over Japan to keep the pressure on for the World Cup title.

But it was Japan who surprisingly applied the early pressure, even holding a 7-5 lead before the Squadra Azzurra showed their true colours. Samuele Papi's spike gave Italy a 15-12 lead before a Luigi Mastrangelo spike and Andrea Sartoretti ace opened a six point lead at 22-16. Papi completed the first set with his third point.

Again Japan fought hard in the second set, tracing every Italian move and when Takahiro Yamamoto blocked to make it 20-19 to Japan, things looked a little shaky for the European champions. A block by Paolo Cozzi gave Italy the lead at 22-20 but still Japan clung on. Yamamoto was again used extensively as both sides tried to clinch the set before it finally closed when the left armer spiked into Papi.

Two sets up, Italy quickly opened a 4-2 lead when Valerio Vermiglio, on in place of regular setter Marco Meoni, tipped into Japan territory with his back to the net in a superb play, but still Japan wouldn't surrender. An excellent 10-play rally finally ended with Satoretti's spike tying the score before Japan kicked to a 23-21 lead. To the deafening support of the 12,000 fans Japan saved a match point before claiming the third set.

Again Japan fought hard in the fourth, too hard at times - Daisuke Usami receiving a yellow card and one point penalty for bad conduct - but eventually Italy prevailed. Now Italy needs to beat Serbia and Montenegro convincingly on Sunday and have Brazil lose to Japan to claim their second World Cup title.