Bulgaria's middle blocker Ventsislav Ragin celebrates qualification for the semi-finals
Uberlandia, Brazil, October 11, 2013 - Bulgaria were the final team to confirm their place and completed the Men's U23 World Championship final four with victory against Argentina on day five of pool competition at the Arena Presidente Tancredo Neves.
Bulgaria won the 'winner-goes-through' match 3-1 (21-16, 16-21, 21-14, 21-15) with a strong 15-point blocking performance which equalled the tournament high. Middle blockers Krasimir Georgiev (5) and Ventsislav Ragin (4) led the defensive effort while wing spikers Nikolay Penchev (12) and Zlatan Yordanov (12) supplied the attacking points.
"We studied them and knew they were going to have problems with the float serve," said captain Penchev explaining Bulgaria's strategy. "So we did that exactly and we completed [plays] with our block. We knew our chance was there and the plan turned out the best way."
Bulgaria now play Serbia who produced a surprise result in the fight for top honours in pool B with a 3-0 (21-15, 21-16, 21-18) demolition of Russia. Serbia were hot from the start of the match and raced into an 8-2 lead inspired by captain Aleksandar Atanasijevic's powerful serving and spiking, then carried that momentum through the rest of the match.
Russia wing spiker Ivan Komarov admitted the pressure from Serbia forced them into mistakes, and Serbia setter Nikola Jovovic revealed their plan. "It's not so easy to defeat Russia in three sets, but we found our way. We used our service in a very smart way, they went a little bit crazy because of that. Tactically we played amazingly."
Defeat left Russia with a semi-final against hosts Brazil who ended their pool play with a 3-0 (21-18, 21-17, 21-11) victory against Tunisia that confirmed them as pool A winners. After two close first sets, Brazil were almost error-free (one error point conceded compared to six in the first set and seven in the second) in the final set as the serving of Thiago Veloso and Henrique Pinto Otavio terrorised Tunisia into losing the set 21-11.
Victory confirmed Brazil as pool A winners and they will now play Russia in the semi-finals, a team that has been a difficult obstacle for Brazil's men's teams over the last few years. Wing spiker Ary de Souza said they would study Russia's play, while head coach Roberley Leonaldo confirmed the challenge ahead. "The team has done well in this first phase, but tomorrow the level rises a lot against Russia."
After defeat in their semi-final decider with Bulgaria, Argentina will now play the 5th-8th classification matches, against Venezuela who lost their final pool match earlier in the day 3-0 (21-13, 21-18, 21-17) against Iran. In a match where both teams controlled their error counts, Iran's net defence, including six blocking points in the first set, and attacking options with Reza Ghara (14), Mojtaba Mirzajanpour (12) and Hames Tariverdi (9) all contributing, were too much for Venezuela.
Tariverdi said the team have regrouped and refocussed after their defeats to Russia and Serbia. "The technical staff and the team manager helped us to leave that behind and rebuild our spirit and motivation. Finishing in fifth place is a good goal. We are ready to go for that."
They will start the contest for that position against Tunisia, who finished fourth in pool A after their defeat against Brazil.
In other pool matches, Australia claimed their first victory in their last match with a 3-1 (21-18, 21-17, 18-21, 21-19) win against Mexico. Australia conceded as many error points (8) in the first set against Mexico as they had in the whole match against Russia, but the game contributions of middle blocker Nehemiah Mote (15) and the team's top scorer Lincoln Alexander Williams (14) were enough to send them home with a win.
"I feel very happy for the boys. They have come up after playing four games without getting a result and they've worked a lot," said Australia head coach Grant Robertson. "Hopefully, this will act as a bit of a spur for them to realise they can win at an international level. They have shown a massive evolution here and the most important thing (now) is that some of them are not too far of the senior team."
In the day's final match Egypt also made sure they left the tournament with victory, with a 3-0 (21-13, 21-16, 21-14) win against Dominican Republic. Egypt's all-round strong serving produced eight points in the match, the highest serving total in the tournament, and gave Dominican Republic too many problems for them to overcome.
As the bottom two sides in each pool are eliminated after the first phase, the Men's U23 World Championship campaigns of Egypt and Dominican Republic from pool A, and Australia and Mexico from pool B, are now over and they head home.
The second phase of the tournament starts on Saturday with the 5th-8th classification matches, Argentina v Venezuela at 13:30 (local), followed by Iran v Tunisia at 16:00. Then in the first semi-final, Brazil v Russia at 18:30, and then Serbia v Bulgaria at 21:00.
2013 Men's U23 World Championship Performances
Top Scoring Performances
29 - Ahmed Elkotb of Egypt v Tunisia (October 7)
28 - Aleksandar Atanasijevic of Serbia v Venezuela (October 6)
26 - Mohamed Arbi Ben Abdallah of Tunisia v Egypt (October 7)
26 - Pablo Kukartsev of Argentina v Bulgaria (October 11)
24 - Lincoln Alexander Williams of Australia v Venezuela (October 8)
21 - Mohamed Arbi Ben Abdallah of Tunisia v Argentina (October 6)
21 - Rafael Araujo of Brazil v Argentina (October 7)
21 - Pablo Kukartsev of Argentina v Brazil (October 7)
Top Blocking Performances
6 - Ivan Postemsky of Argentina v Brazil (October 7)
6 - Rafael Araujo of Brazil v Bulgaria (October 9)
5 - Rafael Araujo of Brazil v Dominican Republic (October 6)
5 - Saman Faezi of Iran v Mexico (October 7)
5 - Omar Hassan of Egypt v Tunisia (October 7)
5 - Ivan Demakov of Russia v Iran (October 8)
5 - Matheus Cunda of Brazil v Egypt (October 8)
5 - Krasimir Georgiev of Bulgaria v Argentina (October 11)
Top Blocking Performances by Team
15 - Russia v Iran (October 8)
15 - Bulgaria v Argentina (October 11)
13 - Iran v Mexico (October 7)
12 - Serbia v Venezuela (October 6)
12 - Argentina v Tunisia (October 6)
12 - Egypt v Tunisia (October 7)
12 - Venezuela v Mexico (October 9)
Top Serving Performances
6 - Ahmed Elkotb of Egypt v Tunisia (October 7)
3 - Mojtaba Mirzajanpour of Iran v Mexico (October 7)
3 - Dmitry Kovalev of Russia v Venezuela (October 7)
3 - Aleksandar Atanasijevic of Serbia v Russia (October 11)
Top Serving Performances by Team
8 - Egypt v Dominican Republic (October 11)
7 – Russia v Mexico (October 6)
7 - Egypt v Tunisia (October 7)
6 - Tunisia v Argentina (October 6)
6 - Russia v Venezuela (October 7)
6 - Serbia v Mexico (October 8)
Highest Scorers by day
28 - Aleksandar Atanasijevic of Serbia v Venezuela (day 1, October 6)
29 - Ahmed Elkotb of Egypt v Tunisia (day 2, October 7)
24 - Lincoln Alexander Williams of Australia v Venezuela (day 3, October 8)
19 - Kervin Martin Pinerua Urbina of Venezuela v Mexico (day 4, October 9)
26 - Pablo Kukartsev of Argentina v Bulgaria (day 5, October 11)
Highest Set Score
30-28 Australia v Venezuela (3rd set, October 8)
30-28 Bulgaria v Tunisia (1st set, October 8)
Highest Scoring Matches
193 - Brazil def Argentina 3-2 (19-21, 16-21, 22-20, 21-17, 19-17) day 2, October 7
179 - Tunisia def Egypt 3-2 (21-19, 21-17, 18-21, 19-21, 15-7) day 2, October 7
178 - Argentina def Tunisia 3-2 (21-14, 21-18, 13-21, 19-21, 16-14) day 1, October 6
168 - Venezuela def Australia 3-1 (21-15, 21-13, 28-30, 21-19) day 3, October 8