Paparoni (left) of Italy spikes against (from left) Kazlyski, Gaydarski and Nikolov (BUL)
With Samuele Papi starting as libero, Italy's head coach Gianpaolo Montali nominated the tournament's top scorer Alessandro Fei as the team captain for their final pool-play clash against Bulgaria. With a total of 46 points, Fei had almost double the total of the next-best team-mate Luigi Mastrangelo and had been responsible for 39 spikes for the team in the first two matches.
Bulgaria's Andrey Zhekov served two aces early on in the match in a strong attack that saw his team storm ahead to 8-2 at the first technical time-out. Italy closed the gap to three points after the break, but a service error and two solid Bulgarian blocks by the front row of Hristo Tsvetanov, Andrey Zhekov and Matey Kaziyski kept Bulgaria out in front by the same six-point margin at the second break.
After some great defensive work by libero Teodor Salparov, Bulgaria were able to move eight points clear at one point, before some well judged spikes by Italy caught their defence out and allowed the Italians to move within two points at 19-17 before Bulgaria once again showed their all-round colleactive strenght to move five points clear at set point before an Italian service error handed them the first set 25-20.
Entering the second set, Italy managed to stay level on Alessandro Fei's serve until Bulgaria blocked out one of his spikes and took a two-point lead at the first break. With Alessandro Fei substituted in the second set, Giacomo Sintini encouraged his team vocally and, together with Luigi Mastrangelo at the net, helped Italy draw level at 19-19. After the teams swapped points, Italy drew two points clear on an Alessandro Paparoni ace before Martin Stoev called his second time-out of the set. Gianpaolo Montali called his second time-out with Bulgaria on set point at 27-26 as the teams had remained evenly matched over the final points of the game. Italy's Santini handed Bulgaria the final point at 29-27 after he reached over the net to pull the ball back into his side of the court.
Bulgaria entered the third set looking for an early victory and extended their lead to seven points after the second technical time-out on an ace from Matey Kaziyski. Following a reception error by Todor Aleksiev, Italy's Paparoni fired off an ace to narrow the gap and Italy drew to within four points on two Bulgarian service errors before they themselves gave away the serve. Bulgaria then kept their composure to take their third straight-set victory 25-20, 29-27, 25-19.