Catamarca, Argentina, June 18, 2011 – Argentina overcame Portugal 3-1 (25-16, 25-17, 22-25, 26-24) on Saturday in Catamarca to hold onto top spot in Pool C of the 2011 FIVB World League with a record of six victories out of a total of seven matches played so far.
With four weekends of the Intercontinental Round nearly complete and with Finland and Serbia having played their two matches already – each one won one by tie-breaker – Argentina tops Pool C with 17 points, followed by Serbia with 13, Finland with eight and Portugal with seven.
Top scorer was Argentine's captain, Rodrigo Quiroga, with 20 points while for the visiting team Vladir Sequeira had 17.
The first set started out equal, with unforced errors on both sides of the net while both teams started measuring their outputs. The home team found some fresh air with a two-point lead at the first technical timeout. When the score was 10-6 Juan Diaz, the Portuguese coach, requested his first timeout. With Portugal mainly scoring on Argentine mistakes, the hosts were five points ahead at the second TTO. Diaz stopped the set again at 20-13 after two Argentina aces and exceptional play by Argentine captain Rodrigo Quiroga in serving, blocking and spiking. Portugal had no answer.
The second set started the same way, staying even thanks to mistakes, but Quiroga very soon gave Argentina some good spiking and blocking and an early lead at 5-2. Portugal did not stop fighting and came back to level at 5-5, before triple blocking helped them move ahead at 7-6. Both teams made service errors and there was little to choose between them until the home side edged ahead at 13-11. Both teams also had receiving problems with a very poor efficiency percentage. Diaz asked for his first timeout at 14-11, but Argentina remained three points up at the second TTO. Argentina were soon five points ahead with confidence growing and clearly starting to enjoy the match. Quiroga, Sole, Crer, Pereyra and the whole team really put on an outstanding performances, closing with an ace by Luciano De Cecco – by far, the star of the set.
Portugal knew they had to win the third set just to stay in the match. Meanwhile, Argentina seemed to be in a hurry to finish things off and started making mistakes. At 1-5, Argentina coach Javier Weber called his first timeout to get his team back on track. They respond and are only two points back at the first TTO before a Quiroga ace levels the score at 9-9. From there, it’s a fight to the finish with neither side dominating. But Portugal have the advantage at 23-21 and a block brings up set point that Joao Jose happily converts.
In the fourth set, Portugal leads by a point at the first TTO and achieves temporary superiority before Argentina levels at 11-11. Portugal move ahead again at the second TTO (16-14) but they are all-square at 18-18. Once again, it becomes a point-by-point set with Argentina finally prevailing 26-24.
Argentina and Portugal will play their second match this Sunday at 6:00 pm local time at the same Capital Fray Mamerto Esquiu Sport Centre.