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FIVB Men's World Cup 2007
Match Description
Russians win Olympic playoff against USA

 Tokyo, Japan, December 2, 2007: Russia joined Brazil and Bulgaria in the Beijing Olympics by beating USA 3-2 in a World Cup decider at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium on Sunday.
 The Russians won 25-23, 20-25, 22-25, 25-17, 15-8 to improve to 9-2 and leave USA stranded on 8-3 and out of the top three.
 It was a wonderful match for the fans, full of crashing blocks and occasionally heating over due to the fierce rivalry between the teams and the massive prize at stake.

 Coming into the match, the two teams had won the World Cup six times between them in various guises -- USA once in 1985, the former Soviet Union in 1965, 1977, 1981 and 1991, and Russia in 1999.
 After losing to Bulgaria and Brazil in the previous two rounds, the Russians needed a solid start to regain their confidence -- and they certainly got that through to 11-7 and a USA TO.
 The spiking contest between Poltavskiy and Gardner would be a key to the match, and the Russian settled quickly into his smooth groove.
 In addition, Kuleshov blocked the dangerous Priddy, and Tetyukhin, restored to the starting six, began in ominous form on the left flank.
 At the net, Volkov and Millar exchanged lusty blows, and Gardner sent a right-wing fireball into the chest of Tetyukhin, knocking him backwards, as the Americans scrapped their way back into it.
 Millar and Ball put the block on Poltavskiy, who then blazed wide from the left to give USA a one-point lead, 16-15, at the second TTO.
 Brilliant back court defence from Berezhko denied Gardner and allowed Poltavskiy to counter on the right, and Volkov followed up with a service ace for 19-17 Russia and a USA TO.
 A soaring back court attack from Salmon kept USA in touch, before Volkov swatted a mighty winner for 23-21. Millar replied instantly, and the Russians took a TO hanging on to the lead, 23-22. Volkov smashed Russia to two set points at 24-22, and they took it 25-23 when Gardner spiked wide down the right after great defence by Salmon.

 Gardner blocked Poltavskiy early in the second set to give the Americans a lift, and Priddy got the better of a two-man block to take USA into the first TTO ahead by two, 8-6.
 The Russian attack was faltering at 10-6, and Tetyukhin was replaced by Abramov. Having settled into their game, the Americans were certainly making the Russians work harder for their points. Down 14-10, Russia sent in second setter Grankin for captain Khamuttskikh, but USA extended their lead to five points, 16-11, at the second TTO thanks to a Millar special at the net.
 Russia had made 20 faults on serve against Brazil the previous day and this was not another good day for their major weapon. In addition they could not kill their spikes against a fast and well-organised American defence.
 With Priddy becoming increasingly influential in attack and Salmon defending superbly at the back, USA had taken control. When Priddy won a net joust with Grankin for 20-15, Russia called a TO with the second set slipping away.
 Russia's last chance to save the set relied on the serving of Ostapenko; USA coach McCutcheon knew this only too well, and called a TO leading 21-17 after the young Russian's missile had upset his team's pattern. The ploy worked, and Ostapenko returned to serve wild. The set ended 25-20 USA for 1-1.

 USA began the third set with big spikes from Gardner and Lee, whereas Abramov fired wide from the left and Poltavskiy from the right for 4-1 USA. Coach Alekno took his team off for a TO, already in trouble.
 Russia still lacked coordination, so Kuleshov took matters into his own hands with consecutive crashing blocks on Priddy and Salmon to force a USA TO. Trailing 7-5, Poltavskiy was removed from the Russian attack. Kruglov followed Kuleshov's lead with another block, and the Russians were much happier going into the first TTO despite trailing 8-7.
 The blocking was awesome on both sides of the net, and USA scored two quick points when Priddy rejected Kruglov and Lee blocked Berezhko as the intensity moved up a notch.
 The luck seemed to be in America's corner when a Priddy serve struck the net cord and dropped in for 14-11, and Salmon blocked Poltavskiy for 16-12 USA at the second TTO.
 USA setter Ball decided the only way to beat Kuleshov was to spike swiftly into space on his own, so he did just that to keep the Americans ahead.
 On a crucial point, Gardner blocked Poltavskiy for 23-20 and Priddy dinked one over the block and in front of diving libero Verbov for set point at 24-20. Poltavskiy served wild to end the third frame, 25-22 USA and 2-1.

 With a Poltavskiy ace and pounding spike on the right, Russia built up some momentum in the fourth set and led by three, 8-5, at the first TTO.
 On the restart, Priddy and Abramov took it in turns to block each other's spikes in a furious exchange, and Russia called a TO on falling behind 10-9 on an attack error by Tetyukhin. When play resumed, Tetyukhin readjusted his sights and swatted some wristy winners up the left, and Poltavskiy blazed though a two-man block on the right for 13-13.
 Tempers flared when Salmon fired one at Poltavskiy, who was not happy with the American's celebration and approached the net to make his feelings known before the situation was brought under control.
 The Americans led 16-15 at the second TTO but needed a TO down 19-16 after another Poltavskiy winner across court from the right. A series of Volkov fireballs followed up with crashing spikes had moved Russia to 24-16 -- a sequence of nine straight points -- and they closed out the fourth set 25-17 for 2-2.

 In the tiebreak, Poltavskiy gave Russia an early edge on block and attack, and a Volkov ace to Salmon's left made it 4-1.
 A Kuleshov block kept Russia two points ahead at 5-3, and USA needed a second TO down 7-3 on a net touch by the unlucky Ball.
 A brilliant Poltavskiy serve enabled Russia to turn round with a five-point lead, 8-3, and Gardner was blocked by Tetyukhin on the restart, 9-3.
 Salmon tried to tip one over the block but they were ready for it and won another point for 10-3, before a Poltavskiy serve error gifted USA a point to 10-4.
 Abramov scored from the back court to keep Russia moving forward, and pounced again on the left for 13-6. All looked lost for the USA, and Volkov smashed match point at 14-7. Russia ended it 15-8 with a Poltavskiy spike on the right that fizzed off Lambourne's chest.