Cordoba, Argentina, July 22, 2010 – Last year’s World League bronze medalists Russia became the first team to confirm a spot in the 2010 edition semifinals after beating Cuba 3-2 (23-25, 25-14, 25-20, 22-25, 15-13) on the second day of play at the Orfeo Superdomo on Thursday, following on from their five-set win over Italy on day one.
Russia, who extended their World League win:loss record over Cuba to 23:16 will now rest while Italy and Cuba play for the other semifinal spot of Pool F on Friday.
Once again Russia, who were missing Yury Berezhko due to an injury, relied on Maxim Mikhaylov who topped the scores for the second successive match with 21 points while for Cuba, captain Robertlandy Simon was to the fore with 17 points.
With the local fans supporting Cuba, who has the youngest squad in the competition, the Central Americans got off to a quick start which they kept throughout the first set.
The second set went point-to-point with Simon and Dmitriy Muserskiy exchanging attacks before a burst of three spikes from Denis Biryukov and some exc ellent blocking from Taras Khtey gave Russia the spurt to kick on and easily wrap up the second set.
Russia carried on their momentum from the second set win into the third set with some smart play from Muserskiy conjuring up points at will. Cuba were hapless with Russia’s blocking and serving doubling Cuba’s (12/6 & 7/3 respectively).
With one more set needed for victory, Russia had the scent of a win in their nostrils but Cuba weren’t prepared to lie down. Having lost in straight sets in last year’s bronze medal match, Cuba had already achieved what they wanted, some respect, but the attacking strength of Fernando Hernandez and Joandry Leal gave Cuba even more – the strength and confidence to go far in this tournament. The two wing spikers were instrumental in Cuba wrapping up the fourth set and taking the early lead in the fifth.
Russia fought back thanks to the introduction of captain Alexey Kazakov. A captain to the rescue so to speak with coach Daniele Bagnoli playing all his cards to ensure the victory. Cuba didn’t lie down easy, and it was shame that the match had to end with Wilfredo Leon committing three straight errors.
Russia now waits for the second ranked team of Pool E to play one of the semifinals on Saturday, while Cuba now face a must-win match against Italy.