Saitama and Matsumoto, November 20, 2007 - Bulgaria stopped Puerto Rico’s up until now impressive show at the FIVB Men’s World Volleyball Cup in Japan, by downing the Caribbean side 3-1. Bulgaria, a wild card entry, ranked 7th in the world, beat NORCECA second-place finisher Puerto Rico, ranked 17th in the world, in Matsumoto to finish out the first round in perfect form. Meanwhile, European runner-up Russia, ranked 3rd in the world, struggled to win the first set against an enthusiastic Tunisia, the runner-up of Africa and 15th internationally. While the Russians were at first surprised by the determined Tunisians, they quickly found their stride to reach an easy 3-1 victory, their third straight of the tournament, in Saitama. The results closed out the first round of play with Bulgaria and Russia remaining undefeated. The USA lost its second straight game, this time against Spain, who beat the North American side 3-1 to gain its first victory. Argentina reached two wins by easily downing Korea, while Brazil, title holder, Olympic and World Champion (1st in the world), generated an easy win in straight sets, against the African Champions Egypt (18th in the world). Hosts Japan suffered a second shock defeat after loosing 3-0 against the Asia Champions, Australia. Beyond the two undefeated teams, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Australia and Argentina have two wins each; Japan, USA, Spain and Tunisia one whereas Korea and Egypt have not won.
The last day of the 1st Round in Saitama began with Russia facing Tunisia. Russia lost their first set of the World Cup but won their third straight match, 3-1 against Tunisia. Russia, who had swept Argentina and Australia 3-0 in their earlier games, extended their win-loss record to 3-0 with a 22-25, 25-15, 25-12, 25-16 victory. Tunisia, who dropped to 1-2, started brightly but were slowly dismantled and eventually devoured by Russia's relentless power and pressure.
Head Coach Vladimir Alekno: "All the other teams have said Russia is a strong team, but today our team lost concentration and did not keep motivation. So even if you are strong but you lose concentration, the result can be like today and lose one set. This was a good experience to learn how important it is to keep concentration."
Argentina condemned Korea to a third straight World Cup defeat. The South American vice champions beat the tournament wild card 26-24, 25-22, 25-20 to improve their win-loss record to 2-1 and put their opening day mauling by Russia firmly behind them. Korea dropped to 0-3 and will be happy to leave Saitama after missing 10 match points and losing 3-2 to Australia before being swept 3-0 by Japan in their second match. The Argentine outside hitters had played well the previous day in the 3-1 defeat of Tunisia, and the Koreans had clearly done their homework. Captain Marcos Milinkovic said: "Today’s match was very important for us because we wanted to continue from yesterday’s game. Everything was good, especially block and receive. In Hiroshima we will play against Japan, so it will be totally an away game because of the atmosphere, and Australia also will be a difficult match. I am very happy to play in the same team as the younger players, and I can learn a lot from them because they are fresh and have the motivation to win."
Asian champions Australia remain kings of the continent after a sparkling straight-sets victory over Japan. The World Cup rookies, who had beaten Korea 3-2 in their opening match on Sunday, improved their win-loss record to 2-1 by taming the World Cup hosts 25-19, 25-21, 25-21 in front of another large and noisy crowd. Japan dropped to 1-2 on another disappointing night for the home fans. Head Coach Russell Borgeaud:" Obviously I am very happy and proud of the team for the result tonight. They played very well. We train very hard throughout the year to achieve those performances and what is important is that we continue to play at this level and improve in certain areas. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the organizers and the crowd. It was a fantastic venue, very well organized, and the crowd was amazing to play in front of."
The third and last day of games in Matsumoto began with Bulgaria facing Puerto Rico. Bulgaria maintained their perfect start to the men’s World Cup but were made to work hard for much of a four-set victory over Puerto Rico. Wild-card Bulgaria, third at the 2006 World Championships, downed the Norceca vice champions 19-25, 25-18, 27-25, 25-17 to improve to 3-0 and drop the Puerto Ricans to 2-1. Puerto Rico beat United States for the first time in 30 years on Monday and looked a good bet at the start to complement this historical win, but hard-hitting Plamen Konstantinov, Most Important Player Matey Kaziyski and Co. planned otherwise as the Bulgarians dominated the latter stages. Captain Plamen Konstantinov said: "We knew it would be difficult. They won against the USA. They showed they are a dangerous side, but most importantly we showed character in coming back after the first set and we wanted the victory more today."
European champions Spain came from a set down to notch their first win beating NORCECA champions United States. The Spanish won 21-25, 25-20, 27-25, 25-20 to improve to 1-2 and drop United States, fourth-place finishers at the 2006 World Championships as well as the last World Cup, to 1-2. Most Important Player Miguel Angel Palasca, Jose Luis Molto and Guillermo Falasca were the architects of a comeback that breathes a little life into Spain’s World Cup challenge. Head coach Marcelo R. Mendez: "We are getting better, the blocks and serves are coming together. When you make mistakes it shows how bad you are and if the serves are good, the blocks become good and so on."
World Cup holders and South American champions Brazil thrashed Egypt 25-18, 25-14, 25-17. The World and Olympic Champions turned on the samba style to claim their second win out of three, while African champions Egypt dropped to 0-3. Once again, the Brazilian fans were out in force to watch captain and Most Important Player Gilberto Godoy Filho (Giba) and the rest play some incredible volleyball and cast further to the back of their minds the opening day defeat by the USA. "We tried some different players and we had some ups and downs today. We don't want to make these mistakes again. It's a good result but we need to improve a lot. Puerto Rico is playing very well and Bulgaria is such a powerful team so we need to fight against them in order to qualify for the Olympics", said Brazilian coach Bernardo Rezende.
The 2nd Round matches will start on November 22. The teams will travel tomorrow, Nov. 21, to new venues in Hiroshima and Toyama and the Head Coaches will hold their press conference at 18:00 hrs in Hiroshima and Toyama to introduce the 2nd Round. This round will last two days.
STANDINGS AFTER THE 1st ROUND
Russia, Bulgaria 6 points; Brazil, Puerto Rico, Australia, Argentina 5; Japan, USA, Spain,Tunisia 4; Korea, Egypt 2.
(2 points for victory, 1 for loss).
MATCH DESCRIPTIONS, PRESS CONFERENCES, FREE PICTURES
The FIVB provides complete real time coverage of the event. Match descriptions, press conference reports and free pictures downloadable in high resolution for Media purpose are available from the home page of the FIVB website (www.fivb.org