Urpo Sivula, who scored a weekend high 31 points, was crucial in Finland's shock win over the USA in the 2010 FIVB World League
Lausanne, Switzerland, June 27, 2010 – Russia moved within a whisker of qualifying for the Final Round of the 2010 FIVB World League as Bulgaria pulled level with Brazil in Pool A and Finland handed USA a shock defeat at home as the fourth week of the Intercontinental Round drew to a close on Sunday.
On a weekend when only six of the 16 matches were won by the home side, defending champions and world No. 1 Brazil needed little encouragement to overcome the Netherlands twice in their two matches in Rotterdam on Saturday and Sunday. The visitors lost in straight sets to the world No. 28 two weeks ago at home (their only loss to date) and determined not to let the same thing happen again, they finished with a 3-1 (25-20, 23-25, 26-24, 25-16) win on Saturday and followed it up with a thrilling come-from-behind 3-2 (19-25, 23-25, 25-22, 25-17, 15-10) victory on Sunday. The Netherlands' coach Peter Blangé was philosophical about the defeats with his team now nine points off the pace on 10 in third spot in the pool with four matches remaining. “We were close (on Sunday), closer than Saturday. We played well, more with our heads. But from the fourth set, we started making more mistakes. Nevertheless we played four good matches against Brazil. We should have won one match more, but it was a pleasure to be in their pool.”
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Despite the two victories, Brazil were joined at the top of Pool A
on 19 points by Bulgaria who picked up maximum points having improved their unbeaten World League run against winless Korea to 11 matches with 3-0 (25-23, 25-20, 25-16) and 3-1 (31-29, 25-21, 22-25, 25-23) victories in Varna on Saturday and Sunday respectively. With three points going to the winner of 3-0 or 3-1 matches and only two points going to the winner and one point to the loser of 3-2 matches, Bulgaria reduced their one point deficit against Brazil. “To be honest, I am very glad with this victory,” Bulgaria coach Silvano Prandi said. “We won an important but very difficult match. Spectators, players, coaches and everybody involved made it possible.”
Meanwhile, Serbia extended their lead at the top of Pool B to two points with 3-1 (23- 25, 25-22, 25-16, 25-16) and 3-2 (21-25, 25-23, 25-17, 21-25, 15-11) victories over China, who playing at home for the first time in Luohe had 20-year-old Chen Ping to thank for their impressive showing, particularly in the second match when he scored 27 points to total 45 for the weekend. Sasa Starovic continued his prolific scoring for last year’s silver medallists scoring 25 points in the second match to total 42 for the weekend and to lead the competition’s Best Scorer ranking with 158 points. Italy sit in second place in the group but dropped a point after splitting their matches with France in Paris and Toulouse. The hosts secured a 3-2 (19-25, 25-29, 25-20, 17-25, 15-13) victory on Friday before the FIVB Men's World Championship hosts recorded a 3-1 (25-19, 25-22, 23-25, 25-23) win on Sunday. Serbia and Italy have 20 and 18 points respectively while France (six points) and China (four points) see their hopes of a Final Round place all but vanish.
In Pool C, Russia confirmed their dominance with two commanding displays over Egypt in Cairo. Egypt were continually passionate with the home fans showing their support but the bronze medallists from last year's edition were too strong for the African champions with two straight set victories (25-18, 25-18, 25-16) and (25-14,25-12, 25-18) extending their unbeaten World League run against Egypt to eight matches. Meanwhile Finland delivered a shock to world No. 2 USA as Urpo Sivula, with a weekend high of 31 points, led the world No. 30 to their first win over the Olympic champions in seven World League matches 3-2 (25-22, 14-25, 25-20, 19-25, 15-11). USA fought back to win the second game 3-1 (25-21, 18-25, 25-19, 25-23) to keep their pool hopes alive but another 22 points from 22-year-old Sivula saw him top the weekend’s scoring with an outstanding 54 points. “It was an awesome win against the US," Finland captain Jukka Lehtonen said following the first match. "Urpo played well. This was an excellent game for him. Every area of the game was great.”
In Pool D, Cuba survived a couple of scares from Germany as they began their three week tour of away matches. The visitors eventually came away with 3-2 (25-23, 17-25, 26-24, 23-25, 15-13) and 3-1 (25-21, 26-24, 17-25, 25-22) victories but not before the World League new comers pushed them close in both matches. With Poland picking up maximum points against Final Round hosts Argentina - 3-1 (25-19, 26-28, 27-25, 25-22) and 3-1 (22-25, 25-17, 25-20, 25- 21) - the European champions moved into second place in the group on 15 points, three behind leaders Cuba and two ahead of Germany.
The 2010 FIVB World League moves into its penultimate week next weekend, starting on Wednesday with Germany hosting Argentina in Berlin at 17.30 (GMT).