World Olympic Qualification Tournament
Madrid, Spain

Netherlands one win away from Olympic ticket

Madrid, Spain, May 29, 2004 – Tournament favourites the Netherlands won the battle of the two unbeaten sides when they beat Cuba 3-1 (25-19, 30-28, 25-27, 25-20) on the second day of the World Olympic Qualification tournament in Madrid, Spain on Saturday.

The power and coordination of the Dutch proved to be the difference as they marched to a thrilling victory leaving the 1996 Olympic champions with the assignment of beating Spain on the final day on Sunday to secure the one Olympic ticket on offer.

In a crucial match for both sides the nerves were evident early on as serves either went long or into the net but the power on display was exhilarating. Blow after blow both teams looked for some hint of ascendancy but it was the experience and precision of the Netherlands which saw them edge ahead in the first two sets.

To Cuba’s credit they never gave up and finally they managed to claim a set in the third but the wizardry of Dutch skipper Reinder Nummerdor and the experience of Guido Gortzen and Richard Schuil proved to be the difference in the fourth.

“We have been focused on this game for a long time and we fought very hard,” Netherlands coach Bert Goedkoop said. “Normally we play more calmly and with more brains, but there is a lot of emotion in this tournament. But nothing is won yet, I hope the players are focused on tomorrow’s game because today is worth nothing.”

Cuba must now hope Spain beats the Netherlands and concedes a set to entertain any thought of Olympic qualification.

Earlier, the hosts kept their Olympics hopes alive by beating a disappointing Cameroon side in three trouble-free sets 25-14, 25-17, 25-20.

Spain's hopes of winning the tournament took a severe blow against Cuba on the opening day but their performance against Cameroon was exactly the right tonic, although they still had to rely on the Netherlands to beat Cuba for their Olympic dream to stay alive.

"Playing the game like we did was very important for us, even though we still had to depend on the Netherlands,” Spanish coach Francisco Hervás said. “We played very well in blocking and defence, since we could control their attacks from the wings. It is an important victory and we expect to take our chances tomorrow."

Sunday’s opening match sees Cuba play Cameroon at 10:00 (Spanish time) followed by the Spain-Netherlands match at 12.30.

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