Saitama and Matsumoto, November 18, 2007 - The 11th FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Cup in Japan began today in Saitama and Matsumoto, with wins by most of the favorites, but with two surprises. The USA team posted a surprise win over title holder, Olympic and World Champion Brazil, in straight sets, in the big match of the first day, in Matsumoto.
The Brazilians, who have rolled over the competitions since 2002, experienced a defeat that could prove crucial in the course of the tournament. Meanwhile host Japan team failed to overcome predictions and lost 3-2 from Tunisia. Russia, the tournament winner last time in 1999, and four times in the days of the former Soviet Union, now with Alekno on the bench, showed its determination to ensure a ticket for the Beijing Olympics by defeating Argentina 3-0, in Saitama. In a intra-Europe battle, wild card participant Bulgaria posted a surprise win 3-1 over European Champion Spain, in Matsumoto. In the first Asia battle ended with champions Australia’s win 3-2 over Koreans. The absolute beginner in the event Puerto Rico had an easy time in Matsumoto and defeat 3-0 Egypt.
Amazing Australia must have felt like they had won the World Cup itself after beating Korea in an amazing first match of the first day of the World Cup for men at Saitama Super Arena on Sunday. The Aussies saved 10 match points in the tiebreak before captain Benjamin Hardy finished it on their fifth match point in a match which delighted over 4,000 spectators. Asian champions Australia got their first World Cup campaign off to a winning start with their 3-2 success, 22-25, 25-20, 23-25, 25-20, 29-27 in a 124-minute epic encounter. "I am very happy to be here. For Australia to be in the World Cup for the first time in our history is fantastic. Even at 33 years old I had goose bumps on the back of my neck when I walked into the stadium for the first time" said the Captain Benjamin Hardy.
Five-time World Cup winners Russia began their Olympic qualifying campaign with a routine and ruthless 3-0 victory over Argentina. Russia had too much power and experience for the South American vice champions, winning 25-16, 25-22, 25-17. "This was the first match we aimed to win against Argentina and we were able to achieve this. We have been here 10 days and we are still in the process of adjusting the team, so we could not show our full potential in this match. However, we were able to give playing time to players who do not normally get it" said Head Coach Vladimir Alekno.
Tunisia gate-crashed Japan's opening night party in the third match. In front of 14,500 fans, the African vice champions saved two match points in the tiebreak before winning 3-2 (22-25, 25-21, 18-25, 25-22, 16-14). Head Coach Antonio Giacobbe: "I have many reasons to be happy. The first is we won the first match and it was against Japan. For men of my generation Japan is a dream, so whenever there is a match against Japan I remember my young age. I am very happy with the collaboration between the young and old players."
Puerto Rico got off to a flyer with a straight sets victory over Egypt in their first game in Pool B in Matsumoto. The Norceca vice champions downed the African Champions 25-17, 25-19, 25-17 behind some excellent work from the man who appears to walk on air, Hector Soto. Mayor of Matsumoto City Dr. Akira Sugenoya started the fun at Matsumoto City General Gymnasium by taking the court to hit the first serve to a warm round of applause from the sizeable crowd before the two teams got down to business. Head coach Carlos D. Cardona:"We had a strong defense and we were able to neutralize the opponent's attack and that's why we could control the match. We also maintained a strong mentality throughout the match."
Bulgaria were made to work hard for their four-set victory over Spain in the teams' opening match in Pool B of the men's World Cup. The wild-card Bulgarians, third-place finishers at the 2006 world championships, eventually wore down the European champions and ran away with the final set to win 25-21, 19-25, 25-20, 25-17 at Matsumoto City General Gymnasium. Matey Kaziyski proved to be the stand out player for the "volley green giants," serving and spiking to devastating effect, ably supported at the net by Vladimir Nikolov and towering captain Plamen Konstantinov, who was named player of the match. Captain Plamen Konstantinov said that "It was a tough match against the European champions. They played well in the Euros. We were prepared and we played well today. It was very important to start well because when we start well we can do something big, but usually the problem is the beginning for us so I'm glad we won today. The pressure was on both teams but after the third set we were psychologically much better."
In the third match, United States shocked World Cup holders and South American champions Brazil with a dazzling straight-sets win. The Brazilians, for good measure also world and Olympic champions and seemingly winning every competition they enter at the moment, hit a brick wall against a brilliant USA team who won 28-26, 30-28, 25-20 to silence swathes of yellow-clad Brazil fans. William Priddy was man of the match, but he was ably supported by Riley Salmon and Ryan Miller at the net and the serving of Clayton Stanley.
"Brazil is always a challenging team to play. So, while we are happy to win we still have many matches to go, so it is a short time to enjoy this win", said USA coach Hugh McCutcheon.
"I'd like to congratulate USA. We started well but we had a lack of confidence and our service didn't flow. The first two sets we had the advantage and then came back but we couldn't close the sets. It is a tough beginning. We have to climb a big mountain. I hope this team can show their strength tomorrow against Spain. It is a decisive match", stated Brazilian coach Bernardo Rezende.
The 1st Round matches will continue tomorrow (2nd day) in Saitama and Matsumoto.
COMPETITION SCHEDULE (1st ROUND)
City date Loc. time GMT time Match
Saitama 19 Nov 12:35 03:35 Australia-Russia
Saitama 19 Nov 15:05 06:05 Argentina-Tunisia
Saitama 19 Nov 18:00 09:00 Japan-Korea
Matsumoto 19 Nov 13:05 04:05 Bulgaria-Egypt
Matsumoto 19 Nov 15:35 06:35 Puerto Rico-USA
Matsumoto 19 Nov 18:35 09:35 Brazil-Spain
Saitama 20 Nov 12:35 03:35 Russia-Tunisia
Saitama 20 Nov 15:05 06:05 Argentina- Korea
Saitama 20 Nov 18:00 09:00 Japan-Australia
Matsumoto 20 Nov 13:05 04:05 Bulgaria-Puerto Rico
Matsumoto 20 Nov 15:35 06:35 Spain-USA
Matsumoto 20 Nov 18:35 09:35 Brazil-Egypt
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