Cordoba, Argentina, July 23, 2010 – For only the third time in World League history the same four teams will make up the semifinals in successive editions after Cuba and Serbia joined Russia and Brazil in the 2010 World League semifinals following straight set victories over Italy and Argentina respectively on Friday. Cuba beat Italy 3-0 (25-17, 35-33, 25-22) while Serbia were too good for Argentina (25-19, 25-18, 28-26).
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There were tears of joy and of disappointment as two teams were eliminated from this exceptional World League Final Round. And it was not only the result but the nature in which it happened. After four five-set matches the previous two days, both Italy and Argentina went out of the competition on the back of disappointing straight set defeats.
In the first “quarterfinal” match, Cuba advanced to Saturday’s semifinals thanks to some exhilarating offensive play. Cuba’s teenage sensation Wilfredo Leon led the way with 14 points while Joandry Leal, Fernando Hernandez and Robertlandy Simon scored 12, 11 and 10 points respectively. Despite going into the match on the wrong side of a 21:6 win:loss record in the World League against Italy, Cuba were too strong for eight-time champions Italy despite a very close second set.
“The match went as much as we expected,” Cuba's top scorer León said. “It is very positive for tomorrow’s match to have won 3-0.”
“We started the first set with a lot of concentration but I do not know what would have happened in the case of losing the second set,” Cuba coach Orlando Samuels added. “We are still troubled by basic non-forced errors and we know we have to change.”
The late match saw a packed Orfeo Superdomo stadium hoping for the miracle which would see Argentina qualify for the semifinals but unfortunately it was not to be. Last year’s World League silver medallists Serbia claimed the last semifinal spot in convincing fashion with Sasa Starovic top scoring with 15 points.
“We are very happy, it is a great moment for such a young team as ours,” Serbia coach Igor Kolakovic said. “We had 68 per cent effectiveness in spiking with only two mistakes.”
Last year, Brazil beat Russia and Serbia beat Cuba in the semifinals with the final four order being Brazil, Serbia, Russia and Cuba. The other occasions where the four semifinalists repeated were in 1996-97-98 (NED, ITA, RUS, CUB) and 2000-01-02 (ITA, RUS, BRA, SRB).
The fourth day of the 2010 FIVB World League will see Russia play Serbia in the first semifinal at 17:30 (local time) followed by Brazil against Cuba in the second semifinal at 21:00.