Gdansk, Poland, July 8, 2011 – Poland edged out Argentina in a thrilling match to win 3-2 (18-25, 25-22, 25-20, 24-26, 15-13) In front of over 8,000 fans. The grand finale was a fitting end to the group stage of the 2011 World League Finals.
With this result the hosts clinched second spot and with it a semifinal showdown with Russia on Saturday keeping alive Polish dreams of reaching their first ever World League Final (Poland have twice taken 4th place – in 2005 and 2007).
The hero of the night for Poland on this occassion was Bartosz Kurek who top scored with 29 points. Lucas Ocampo and Facundo Conte both scored 14 points for Argentina.
The match was a close affair from the onset with both teams showing a high level specially in defense and blocking. Unfortunately, there also appeared faults in service. After one of such error committed by Argentina's Sebastian Sole Poland left the court for the first TTO leading 8-7. But the South Americans , playing without two of their regular starters turned the tide and by the second TTO they had a five point advantage (16-11). The Argentines were playing with focus and a lot of confidence despite having the entire crowd against them. Javier Weber’s players stayed in control till the end, when they picked up the set 25-18. Argentina’s captain Rodrigo Quiroga scoring seven times
Quiroga and Facundo Conte – both South American team’s wing spikers – were in very good shape, providing their teammates with a lot of support and confidence However, tight block and Bartosz Kurek’s powerful service gave Poland a 3 pt lead (12-9). Kurek and Jakub Jarosz, who was in for the injured Zbigniew Bartman took over responsibility as nerves became frayed in an edgy second set Their powerful kills ensured that Poland kept its three point advantage (21-18, 23-20). But Argentina didn’t’ give up. Poland’s head coach Andrea Anastasi had to call both time outs within the last few minutes of the set. But it was enough to disrupt his opponents and the set was won 25-22 and the match tied at 1-1
After the break Argentina came back on court more focused. Poland continued to control the score blocking and defending with real passion. Kurek’s kills, Grzegorz Kosok’s blocks and mistakes by Argentina's spikers’ gave them a five point advantage at the second TTO (16-11), which they maintained till the end. Poland polishing off the set 25-20.
Javier Weber looked for a solution to his team's woes and almost changed his entire lineup for the fourth set. The switch seemed to be working. Argentina started well leading 8-3. But they couldn’t withstand the pressure Their assistant coach Flavio Leoni was shown a yellow card after questioning the referee’s decision. Poland came closer (9-10), but quickly fell away and Argentina were 10-16 up at the second TTO. Poland's captain, Piotr Gruszka making his comeback from a long term injury came on to add his experience and inspiration to the team Poland took the lead 18-17 with two extraordinary Kurek’s serves. Argentina continued to fight back and hauled themselves back into the match as they took the set 26-24.
The match then entered a tie-break withg the South Americans in the ascendancy as thdy raced into a 4-1 lead. Poland's coach Andres Anastasi couldn’t wait any longer. He called a time out, giving his players a chance for a short rest. Poland went back on and won three points in a row and tied the match at 7-7 (with 2 blocks of Piotr Nowakowski). The game was now end to end with both sides winning spectacular points. Fittingly it was Kurek who had the final say wining the points that helped Poland win the tie-break 15-13 and the match 3-2!
In Saturday’s semifinals Poland will meet Russia and Argentina will face Brazil.