Tokyo, November 30, 2007 - Bulgaria on Friday ended Russia’s undefeated streak, leaving the latter and Brazil with a share of first place. Bulgaria and the USA, along with leaders Russia and Brazil, will now vie for the first three spots at the world cup that lead to a berth for the Beijing Olympics next year. Bulgaria’s major upset came during the ninth day of play at the ongoing World Cup in Japan. The wild card entry team beat previously undefeated Russia 3-2 in a thrilling match. In another outstanding match, Brazil, the current titleholder, easily defeated rival Argentina 3-0 during a swift and decisive victory that more-or-less leads down the road to Beijing. The NORCECA champions, the USA team, beat host Japan 3-0 before a partisan crowd of 10,000 spectators. In other matches, European Champions Spain beat Australia 3-0, Puerto Rico defeated Tunisia 3-0 and Egypt posted its first victory over Korea 3-1. With the results on Friday, Brazil and Russia lead the standings with eight victories in nine matches. With Friday’s result the race for the first three spots, which lead to a direct berth for next year’s Beijing Olympic Games, is wide open, with the matches over the next two days determining the title and the Olympic berths. The showdown of the tournament comes tomorrow with the Russia-Brazil game, while on Sunday the Russian team faces the USA. Meanwhile, Brazil on Sunday will face Japan. The USA teams goes up against Argentina on Saturday, while Bulgaria will face Japan the same day, followed by Argentina on Sunday.
The European heavyweight contest went the distance at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium on Friday before Bulgaria landed the knockout blow in the tiebreak, beating Russia 3-2 in a bruising encounter. The two Euro giants slugged it out point for point, set by set, until Vladimir Nikolov, rising on the right, beat the Russian block to end it. With the 25-21, 23-25, 25-22, 22-25, 15-12 victory, Bulgaria improved to 7-2 and took a massive step on the road to Beijing. Russia suffered their first defeat of the World Cup and dropped to 8-1. Bulgarian Head Coach Martin Stoev said: “I was very happy about the victory today. It was a very important match for us in this tournament, and we have not beaten Russia for four years. Brazil and Russia have one defeat, and we have two, so we need to win the two remaining games.”
Brazil swept Argentina 3-0 in the South American "derby". The World Cup holders continued their dominance over their regional rivals with a business-like 25-20, 25-22, 25-16 victory to improve their win-loss record to 8-1. After losing their first match of the tournament 3-0 to the United States, the reigning Olympic and world champions have won eight straight without dropping a set. Argentina, who qualified for the World Cup as South American vice champions behind Brazil, dropped to 5-4 with two matches to play. Brazilian Captain Giba said: “It was a good match today. Brazil played very well. Argentina is so difficult to play against because they have a very good defense. All the time I say forget about this match and think of the next match because all the time the next match is the most difficult.”
The United States maintained their hopes of a World Cup podium finish by beating Japan 3-0. The Americans improved their win-loss record to 7-2 with an impressive 25-18, 27-25, 25-19 victory over Japan, who missed one set point in the second frame and slipped to 3-6. Having suffered two defeats already, to Puerto Rico and Spain, the United States needed three wins from the final phase to stand a chance of qualifying for Beijing, especially after Bulgaria's victory over Russia. Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon: “Of course we are very happy to come away with a victory this evening. It is always tough playing Japan in Japan and tonight was no exception. After the two days off our team was able to get back into a pretty good rhythm. Once we settled down into a good service rhythm and got some block and defense going we played pretty well.”
In Site B, NORCECA vice champions Puerto Rico crushed Tunisia in straight sets at Komazawa Gymnasium in Tokyo. The Puerto Ricans, lead well by man of the match Hector Soto and Jose Rivera, won 25-17, 25-17, 25-23 to improve to 5-4, while Tunisia dropped to 1-8. With two matches left to play, the Tunisians will be hoping for a victory against fellow strugglers Egypt while Puerto will be confident, on this form, of finishing with two more victories against Australia and Korea. They are aiming to finish as high as fourth place. Puerto Rican Head Coach Carlos Cardona said: “Today we were supposed to have a tough game but we played well. We tend to lose concentration if we have more than 24 hours off but we were very happy to win the first match in Tokyo”.
At the ninth time of asking, Egypt earned their first victory in the men’s World Cup by coming from a set down to beat Korea 21-25, 25-16, 25-19, 25-22. Man of the match Abdalla Ahmed inspired the North Africans alongside Mohamed Gabal as the wild-card Koreans dropped to 1-8. Cue delirious celebrations from Egypt. They’d finally won one. “It was the first win for our team and it is mentally good for the players. The first reason why we won is that we had a strong block. Tomorrow, it will be special because we play Tunisia and we hope to win for the next two matches”, said Egyptian Head Coach Zakaria Ahmed.
European champions Spain proved too strong for Asian champions Australia in a final-round match-up. Man of the match Manuel Sevillano eclipsed Aussie danger man Paul Carroll as the Spanish won 25-21, 25-19, 25-20 to improve to 5-4, while the Aussies dropped to 3-6. Spanish Head Coach Marcelo Mendez stated: “We were a little bit tired but it’s good to be able to maintain our concentration in this condition, I think our teamwork is getting better and I’m happy being in this round in this condition. Our service was good although we had a few mistakes but overall it was good and I was happy we could win”.
COMPETITION SCHEDULE (4th ROUND)
City date Loc. Time GMT time Match
Tokyo (A) 01 Dec 14:05 05:05 Argentina-USA
Tokyo (A) 01 Dec 16:35 07:35 Brazil-Russia
Tokyo (A) 01 Dec 19:30 10:30 Japan-Bulgaria
Tokyo (B) 01 Dec 12:35 03:35 Egypt-Tunisia
Tokyo (B) 01 Dec 15:05 06:05 Spain-Korea
Tokyo (B) 01 Dec 18:05 09:05 Australia-Puerto Rico
Tokyo (A) 02 Dec 14:05 05:05 Argentina-Bulgaria
Tokyo (A) 02 Dec 16:35 07:35 Russia-USA
Tokyo (A) 02 Dec 19:30 10:30 Japan-Brazil
Tokyo (B) 02 Dec 12:05 03:05 Spain-Tunisia
Tokyo (B) 02 Dec 14:35 05:35 Korea-Puerto Rico
Tokyo (B) 02 Dec 17:35 08:35 Australia-Egypt
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“FOLLOW ME” BY ANDREA ZORZI
Andrea Zorzi, the former Italian national Volleyball player and two times World Champion, is working on his special blog “Follow Me” from the FIVB website home page. New articles have been uploaded, explaining technical topics and big stories of the event. The last video interview published on “Follow Me” is with Bulgarian player Matey Kaziyski.