Lausanne, July 14, 2008 – Russia and USA have qualified for the Final Round of the FIVB World League in Rio de Janeiro, joining hosts Brazil after their respective victories over Italy and Spain at the weekend. With Russia winning Pool B and USA Pool C, three more places in the Finals are still up for grabs. Poland leads Pool D with one more weekend of Intercontinental Round action to go, while France sits in the second-place qualification position in Pool A behind the already qualified South Americans. A wild card will be awarded by the FIVB for the sixth spot in the Finals of FIVB’s flagship annual Men’s competition featuring the world’s best players that run through July 23-27.
The Russians downed Italy 3-1 (25-27, 25-21, 25-22, 25-20) and 3-2 (25-20, 24-26, 27-29, 25-22, 15-12) at home in Kazan to improve their win-loss record to 9-1 and drop Italy to 6-4 in Pool B. USA beat Spain 3-0 (25-19, 25-23, 27-25) and 3-1 (24-26, 25-22, 25-13, 25-18 in Bloomington, Ill., to notch a 9-1 record and drop Spain to 3-7.
“As a coach and as a fan I am pleased with the result of the match,” said Russian Head Coach Vladimir Alekno after the second win. “All the players coped with their present day task and I am satisfied with the way they did it.”
Said U.S. Coach Hugh McCutcheon after his team’s second victory over Spain: “It was an important match today. Having known the result ahead of time between Finland and Bulgaria, our team started tight. But that’s not to take anything away from Spain. They came at us with new tactics and made changes. Spain came out with a well-executed game plan and put us under stress. I thought the key moment was in the second set when Clay Stanley was serving and Tom came in and made some key blocks.
“I am happy to win our pool and return to the finals for the second year,” said McCutcheon.
In the other Pool B match-up, Cuba (5-5) beat Korea (0-10) 3-1 and 3-2 in Jeonju and the other Pool C tie saw Finland (2-8) shock Bulgaria (6-4) with a 3-2 opening win before Bulgaria came back to win 3-1 in the second match in Varna.
Olympic and FIVB World Champions Brazil (8-2), looking for their sixth-straight World League triumph, eased past France (6-4) with two 3-0 victories in front of an amazing 15,000 and 18,000 spectators in Belo Horizonte in Pool A, while Serbia beat Venezuela 3-0 and 3-1 in Belgrade and Nis in front a combined total of more than 11,000 fans.
In Pool D, Poland (7-3) brushed aside Japan (4-6) with two 3-1 victories that pleased the combined crowd of 19,000 in Lodz. The second game was FIVB’s “Match of the Week,” free to use for all television channels. In Cairo, meanwhile, China (5-5) beat Egypt (4-6) 3-0 before Egypt came back to beat China by the same scoreline in the other Pool D match.
Brazil downed France 25-22, 25-17, 27-25 in just 1 hour, 21 minutes in their first match on Saturday. Dante was the game top scorer with 17 points, while Marien Moreau scored 10 for the visitors. The Brazilians cheered their huge support by having a pretty much full-strength team out, with captain Giba playing a starring role.
Brazil then won 25-17, 25-21, 25-19 on the Sunday in front of 18,000 at the Mineirinho Gymnasium in just over an hour. “We are growing up each day we play together,” said Giba. “We played better than Saturday and made things easier. It is ever hard to play against a team with such a great defense as France. For the other side, it is a great test for us.”
Ivan Miljkovic rattled in 15 points as Serbia stormed past Venezuela 25-22, 25-23, 25-16 on Friday. Miljkovic went one better Sunday in front of 6,700 fans in his hometown of Nis with 16 points, with team-mate Nikola Kovacevic also scoring 16 as the hosts prevailed 18-25, 25-20, 27-25, 25-20 to keep their qualification hopes alive. “All my wishes came true,” said Miljkovic. “First to have a full house and then to win this match. I must thank each and every one who came today to this hall for their support and their contribution to this fantastic atmosphere. The last match I played in Nis was 12 years ago, but this, it seems that I was always am here playing for these wonderful people. As for the match, we did lose the first set but it was better this way as we gave the public a match to remember in which they pulled us up and over to win.”
In the matches between Russia and Italy, the hosts enjoyed a confident first game but a much closer second one. In the second, Russia lost the starting set, though they soon managed to come back. Alessandro Fei, the leader and head spiker of Italy, played well, although Sergey Tetyukhin from Russia was very good at neutralizing him. Semen Poltavsky collected 20 points for the Russians in the second win. The guests started the second match without setter Valerio Vermiglio, and there was no room for him on the bench, either. “I am very disappointed with the fact we did not manage to win,” said Italy captain Alberto Cisolla after the second match. “We have missed a very good chance. We played better than the previous game, though presented a number of points to Russians. In fact, our opponents were not in great need of such presents.”
Moon Sung Min consolidated his position at the top of the Best Scorers chart with a whopping 58 points in Korea's two losses to Cuba. Moon now has 230 points, well ahead of China’s Yuan Zhi, who has 190. Cuba won 21-25, 25-23, 25-18, 25-19 and 25-16, 22-25, 22-25, 25-20, 15-12. “This was a big match. We're pleased to win and satisfied with the result,” said Cuba captain Roberlandy Simon Aties said after the second match. “For the first two sets we didn't fully show our ability, but from set four we managed to find our balance. I think the Korean player, Moon Sung-Min, has great potential. Most impressive.”
With help from Finland the U.S. Men's National Team ensured it would win its pool on Saturday with victory over Spain at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum. Finland defeated second-place Bulgaria 3-2 (30-28, 18-25, 25-23, 27-29, 17-15) in 2 hours, 32 minutes on Saturday. Mikko Oivanen was Finland – and USA’s hero – with 26 points in the stunning win against Bulgaria in front of 5,850 fans in Varna. Matey Kaziyski also scored 26 points for Bulgaria in the mammoth match. “We have no other goal then the World League,” said Finland Head Coach Mauro Berruto. “This is our Olympics. And I am satisfied that we are giving our best. It was a tough game and it was decided by two or three break points.” Bulgaria won 26-24, 25-19, 18-25, 25-22 in the second match. The United States' William Priddy led all scorers against Spain with 21 points in the second match and 14 in the first as last year’s bronze medallists made sure of a place in the Finals.
Yuan, second highest scorer in the World League so far, led China with 16 points as they beat Egypt 25-18, 25-21, 25-23 in the opening match in Cairo on Friday. Stung into action, Egypt came back to win 25-15, 25-22, 25-18 in 1 hour, 21 minutes on Saturday, with Abd Elnaeim Ahmed leading the scoring charts with 21 points. China still has a chance of making the Finals. China Head Coach Zhou Jianan was pragmatic about the loss: “Our main goal of this competition is to prepare the entire players for the Olympic Games and to give the chance to some reserve players to make the coordination between all the team members.”
Poland look the most likely to make the Finals after dispatching Japan 21-25, 25-23, 25-18, 25-18 and 25-14, 25-23, 19-25, 25-17. Mariusz Wlazly led the scorers on the first night with 17 points and Yu Koshikawa did the same with 17 on the second night.
“The most important thing now is that we’re much closer to the Final Round in Rio,” said Poland Head Coach Raul Lozano. “Players did a great job attacking in the first set. They had no problems with answering to Japan's fast attacks. I’m especially pleased with my middle blockers, who had a good attack efficiency. Those who had a bad time yesterday did well today and vice-versa. I think it’s the result of hard trainings we had this week. I’m very happy with my teams performance and with the fact that the Finals are in hand.”
Television/Match of the Week
The fifth Match of the Week, Poland vs. Japan on Saturday, July 12, at 18:00 (20:00 local time) was broadcast by 17 TV channels including in Asia (Japan), South America (Brazil), Africa (Cameroon), the entire Middle East and throughout Europe. A total of 22 different TV channels have broadcast the first five Matches of the Week.
The Final Round is now open for press accreditation applications, with the application form available on the official FIVB website at www.fivb.org
For all the latest news on the 2008 FIVB World League go to the official FIVB website at http://www.fivb.org/EN/Volleyball/Competitions/WorldLeague/2008/