Cordoba, Argentina, July 26, 2010 – The play off for the bronze medal at the 2010 FIVB World League saw Serbia overcome Cuba 3-2 (28-30, 25-20, 22-25, 25-22, 15-12 ) in a riveting comeback from 2-1 down to follow up on two silver medals won in 2008 and 2009 editions.
Nikola Kovacevic topped the scores with 25 points for Serbia while Wilfredo Leon was the best scorer for Cuba with 20 points.
The win means Serbia, who have finished second in the last two editions of the World League, not only collect $300,000 but improved their medal count to four silver and three bronze medals and their World League record against Cuba to 13 wins from 19 matches.
In a match featuring the two youngest sides in the competition, some superb Sasa Starovic spiking gave Serbia a three point advantage at 16-13 in the first set. Leon was keeping the score ticking over for Cuba but coach Orlando Samuels stilled requested more aggressiveness and concentration to close out the set. A Leon scores Cuba’s first ace at 18-17 but a Serbia timeout sees Starovic draw Serbia level at 21-21. Cuba captain Robertlandy Simon made a rare error on serve to give Serbia the first set point at 24-23 but the Cubans are made of stern stuff, and found a spike long from Starovic gave them the set.
By the second set both teams are running on all cylinders. Kovacevic, captain Bojan Janic and Dragan Starovic were all on attacking fire for Serbia by this stage while for Cuba Leon and Fernando Hernandez lead the scoring but the little errors from both teams stifled play at times. An error on service from Simon summed up the set for Cuba and have Serbia set point at 24-19 before Stankovic finished off the set.
The battle between Leon and Starovic continued in the third set but Cuba continued to keep their noses in front thanks to some great serving from Leal and Hernandez. A Simon spike and Leon ace helped Cuba to a 16-14 lead and that was enough to put two sets to one up after 110 minutes of play.
With their backs against the wall, the young Serbian side started to find some determination and confidence previously unseen. With an 8-4 lead at the technical timeout, Serbia seemed to have turned a corner but like the previous sets, Cuba fought their way back, Roberto Camejo and Leal spikes and some outstanding touches from Raydel Hierrezuelo putting them in front at 13-12. A Leal ace was the wake up call which Serbia needed. Kovacevic leading his team mates superbly and Serbia regained the lead at 16-14 without losing it until the end.
The Serbia momentum continued in the decider and at 11-7 Samuels is forced to call his troops in. A couple of Simon smashes down the centre of the court lifted Cuba’s hopes but the trusty left arm of Starovic and Stankovic’s impressive spiking saw Serbia home to kick off wonderful celebrations.
For Cuba, they walk home with $200,000 and have finished fourth for the past two years.