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Belgium defeats Italy in thrilling five setter to walk to the first semifinals ever at the Worlds

Belgium celebrated the 15 victory in a row this season
Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, July 8, 2009. The very last match scheduled for this afternoon in the Mall Convention Center featured the likes of two teams that have been already developing a certain rivalry on the international arena, i.e. European champion Belgium and bronze medalist Italy. Having lost yesterday’s game with Turkey, the Italians had to cope with an all-or-nothing affair if they wanted to keep alive their hopes and chances to make it to the semifinals of this World Championship. Belgium, nevertheless, was as self-confident as ever as the girls had been celebrating a winning streak consisting of 14 matches this year, starting with the qualification tournament to the European Championships staged this past January in Glyfada (Greece) and having then continued their marvelous run in Rotterdam and here in Nakhon Ratchasima.
Belgian captain and star Lise van Hecke – MVP at the last European Championships – set the tone in the first set with her killing spikes and the “Azzurre” could not stop her run towards the final 25-17. In the second set the Italians finally changed gear – actually they had no other alternatives than doing that – as they increased their efficiency in blocking and receiving and giant Valentina Diouf (202 cm) finally got into the match. With van Hecke back on fire Belgium leveled the score at 21 but Italy cope with the rising tension to silver the fourth set ball at 27-25 with an ace of Anna Caneva. Letizia Camera and her mates had a marvelous start in the third set, with a great 7-2 opening, displaying some wonderful play at the net. However, the trend of the game completely changed in a few minutes as Belgium bounced back into the lead profiting of some silly mistakes of the Italians right before van Hecke got out of rhythm for another tie at 15. Like in the match against Turkey, the Italians lacked of consistency and their many ups and downs facilitated the job for the Belgians who moved up the set count to 2-1 after some beautiful rallies and the usual killing spikes of their captain.
In the fourth set the Italian “babies” were finally to be seen at their best: tricky services, a few aces, imposing blocks and good variations in attack did not leave a chance to the Belgians who were struggling a lot and did not keep their nerves under control (20-9). Coach van de Vyver tried to stop this steady decline with a few changes, but Diouf & Co. were literally flying as they had never done before in this World Championship (25-17).
The tie-break was literally breath-taking: after a few extraordinary rallies, teams changed side with Italy setting the pace at 8-7 but Belgium scored six points in a row – obviously mostly with van Hecke - to keep walking towards another victory. The Italian reception completely faded in the very last rallies of the match and Belgium was happy to celebrate the qualification for the semifinals, the best result ever for that country in any kind of World Championship, including the seniors.

 
  

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