Lausanne, June 22, 2008 – A double victory over Cuba in Havana granted the Russian team the top standing in Pool B, the only team unbeaten among the 16 nations competing in the FIVB World League 2008. Brazil in Pool A, USA in Pool C and a surprising Egypt in Pool D are leading the other standings after the second weekend of the flagship annual event in Men’s Volleyball involving the world's best players competing for more than USD 20 million Prize Money.
While the SWATCH FIVB World Tour was attracting the Beach Volleyball fans under the Eiffel Tower, Bercy Sports Hall in Paris welcomed the Volleyball challenge between France and Brazil. The first match was won by the new group prepared by coach Philippe Blain 3-2 (25-22, 23-25, 25-23, 22-25, 15-13). In the second game, with Samuel Tuia back on the bench with an injured ankle, France could not stop the Brazilian strikeforce. Samuel Fuchs and Murilo Endres did their best to win the match 3-0 (31-29, 25-21, 25-17).
Thanks to Ernardo Gomez’s 21 points, Venezuela got its first victory in the 2008 World League, beating Serbia 3-1 (25-20, 19-25, 25-23, 25-22). The second match was another story: Serbia hushed the fantastic audience in Caracas by beating the host team 3-0 (25-21, 25-21, 25-18).
Russia lost just one set in Havana, Cuba, closing the second weekend as the best team of the 2008 World League. After the first 3-1 win (21-25, 25-21, 25-20, 25-21) in front of 14,000 spectators, Vladimir Akekno’s team earned another straight victory (25-17, 25-21, 25-22), while Cuba showcased the youngest player ever on a World League court, 14-year-old Wilfredo Leon.
Thanks to a double 3-2 in Ulsan, Korea, Italy confirmed its second place in Pool B. In the first match (25-23, 21-25, 25-22, 17-25, 11-15) the performance of Sung-Min Moon (29 points) was not enough to stop the “Azzurri," while the strong Italian block (16 points) was a key factor for the second win (23-25, 22-25, 25-15, 25-19, 15-9).
A better point ratio gives USA the leadership in the standings of Pool C, after the double challenge in Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. USA was firing on all cylinders on Friday to defeat Bulgaria 25-23, 25-16, 25-16. The second match lived up to its billing as it came down to a fifth set, which Bulgaria won 12-25, 25-16, 25-20, 12-25, 15-13 on Saturday.
U.S. Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon said: "We missed seven served in the fifth set. When you give away seven points in a set that ends at 15, it is hard to win."
It was a weekend to forget for Finland after the double loss against Spain in Valladolid. Spain achieved its first victory in World League 2008 after beating Finland 3-2 (21-25, 19-25, 25-19, 25-20, 15-10). The Spanish fought very hard to make their way in the game, and were forced to come back after trailing 0-2 in order to win the disputed match on the tie-break.
The second match was even easier for Spain (25-18, 26-24, 21-25, 25-22), the local squad proving too hard to handle for Finland. "We are very happy for the outcome of this weekend, since we achieved our goal of winning the two matches," said Miguel Angel Falasca, Spanish setter and captain.
"Now we are trying to qualify to the finals if we continued the same performance," said Egypt Head Coach Ahmed Zakaria. Egypt is the most impressive team after the second weekend, topping Pool D. Japan had no chance against the host team, losing both matches 3-1. Egypt fought for 108 minutes to breeze past the solid Japan team (30-32, 25-21, 25-22, 25-21) in their first match, then rebounded from one set behind to edge the Asian Olympic qualifiers Japan (21-25, 26-24, 25-18) in 99 minutes of stunning action watched by about 5,000 spectators.
Hangzhou hosted the matches between China and Poland ending 1-1. China won the first game (26-24, 25-21, 22-25, 25-18), then Poland recovered to beat China 3-2 (24-26, 25-15, 22-25, 25-19, 15-12). "Our solution for the second match was to reduce mistakes in dig and serve," said Poland Head Coach Raul Lozano in the press conference. "We still have a long way to go."
The organizer (Brazil), the winner of each pool, plus one wild card chosen by the FIVB, go through to the Final Round in Rio de Janeiro from July 23-27, 2008.