Italy men claim Olympic ticket after dramatic European Qualifier final
Sydney, Athens and Beijing Olympic Games veteran Luigi Mastrangelo is the centre of the Italian celebrations|
Sofia, Bulgaria, May 13, 2012 - Italy booked a place at the London Olympic Games following a dramatic 3-2 victory in the final of the CEV Men’s Olympic Qualification Tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria on Sunday.
A packed Arena Armeec hall saw Italy win 3-2 (25-22, 26-24, 19-25, 22-25, 15-12) to qualify for the Olympics for the 10th successive edition and join hosts Great Britain and Russia, Poland and Brazil – who finished in the top three at the World Cup – as well as Tunisia and USA, who qualified at the Africa and NORCECA Olympic Qualification tournaments respectively.
Olympic Games Men’s Volleyball Qualified Teams
Hosts Great Britain
2011 World Cup winner Russia
2011 World Cup runners up Poland
2011 World Cup third place Brazil
Africa winner Tunisia
NORCECA winner USA
CEV winner Italy
CSV winner Final May 13
AVC winner June 1-10
Three World Olympic Qualification Tournaments (three tickets) June 1-10
“Germany deserved to go to London, but in our sport the whole tournament is decided in one or two sets,” Italian captain Cristian Savani said. “We are extremely happy about our success and we are already thinking about the Olympics.”
Coach Mauro Berruto added: “It is still difficult to think in this very special moment for us. I believe that the best two teams in Sofia met on court today and I am happy that we managed to start this game in the best possible way and to win the decisive tie-break later. We will use the extra time for our preparation and I hope we will be in our best shape in London.”
“Congratulations to Italy. I think both teams made a very nice final today,” Germany captain Björn Andrae said. ”Unfortunately for us, we did not start as well as we expected, but I am happy that we fought until the very end. To win a tie-break is always a little bit lucky, but Italy really deserved the victory. Our team will try to stay positive, work more and get our ticket to London next time.”
German coach Vital Heynen added: ”People are saying that winning a tie-break is always a lottery, but in my opinion the tie-breaks are won by the better team on the court. The truth is that Italy were more prepared than us and deserved to win. It was a fantastic week for us and I am very proud of my team. I am looking forward to meeting Italy again, this time in the Olympics.”
Germany, ranked 13th in the world, seemed to have entered the match more concentrated than their more favoured opponents, who are ranked third, as they rushed to a 4-0 lead at the beginning of the first set. But this did not last very long. Gradually the Italians started to catch up and at 14-13 took over the scoreboard. Italy’s serving, attacking and blocking were all working better than those of Germany. With Alessandro Fei contributing two aces and 100% in offence his team won the set by 25-22.
The second set was more closely contested with frequent changes in the lead. Both teams improved their reception and, hence, their offence became a lot more productive. The first time the gap exceeded two points in the set was at 21-18 in favour of Germany. The last was at 22-19. Italy stayed focused, came back and eventually closed the set at 26-24 with Alessandro Fei blocking for the last point.
Germany greatly improved their performance in the third set and, once up 5-3, never allowed Italy to get closer. Setter Simon Tischer showed real class organizing the German offence as György Grozer and Denis Kaliberda spiked point after point. Two aces in a row by Jochen Schöps gave Germany their first set-point at 24-18. Two rallies later Grozer put an end to the set with a powerful blast for 25-19.
The fourth set started more closely until Germany took control after the first technical time out thanks to the help of Italian mistakes. Vital Heynen’s side built up a three-point lead and were able to maintain it throughout the set. Although Grozer was once again Germany’s top gun in this set, it was Kaliberda’s block that finished it off at 25-22.
Italy woke up for the beginning of the tie-break and rushed to an 8-3 lead at the side-switch. Shortly after, some great blocking by Germany narrowed the gap down to 8-6 to keep their hopes alive however Italy’s playmaker Dragan Travica kept his nerve and control of the situation, to eventually set the ball for a fantastic spike by Cristian Savani that closed the set at 15-12 and sealed the Olympic ticket for Mauro Berruto’s team.
György Grozer topped the scoring with an impressive 28 points with Ivan Zaytsev the most prolific player for Italy with 19 points and Michal Lasko adding 17.
Italy’s win means that Bulgaria will step in and host one of the three World Olympic Qualification Tournaments alongside Germany and Japan.