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Kovar enables Italian comeback to subdue Belgium

Jiri Kovar finished with 20 points for Italy, seven of them in a crucial second set
Krakow, Poland, September 4, 2014 - Italy was able to achieve a second win at FIVB Men’s World Championship after an intense struggle over Belgium, in which the Azzurri finally prevailed by 3-1 (26-28, 25-15, 25-16, 28-26).

Key points

Italy now control the overall international record against Belgium by 14-4.

Of those 18 games, seven were played at FIVB World Championship, with the Azzurri ahead by 5-2.

Italy also avenged the loss suffered at 2013 European Championship Finals in Denmark, when Belgium prevailed in five sets.

After snapping a 0-3 losing streak in World Championship matches, the Italian now have won two games in a row.

Jiri Kovar was a key player to recover Italy after the first set and he emerged as the game’s top scorer with 20 points, followed by Ivan Zaytsev and Filippo Lanza, both leveled with 17 tallies each. The Red Dragons had in Sam Deroo their main contributor, with 16 points.

Mauro Berruto chose to start with the players that did well over France, Michele Baranowicz and Lanza. The latter was the main attacking force of the Azzurri in the first set, as he and Deroo traded points to keep everything close until the end. Emanuele Birarelli made Italy to arrive first to set ball area (24-23), but Pieter Verhees and Kevin Klinkenberg blocked for the 28-26.

In clear need of changing the tide, Italy improved in the second set, as Kovar was vital for a 12-7 lead. He and Zaytsev worked together to enhance the lead to 16-8, while several substitutions occurred in Belgium - Claes, Coolman, Verhanneman, Van Walle and Valkiers. The Red Dragons kept trailing and it was a matter of time for Italy to clinch the set by 25-15, after a killing block by Kovar.

Block after block, Italy advanced to 8-4 in the third set, with Birarelli scoring the last point before the TTO. The Italian captain harvested two more blocks and his side rushed to 12-6, already with some comfort. The board showed Italy ahead by ten points after another block, this time by Lanza (20-10), and soon a long Belgian serve gave shape to the 25-16.

An early ace by Deroo wasn’t completely enough for Belgium, as Italy seized control by 7-4. Zaytsev did some heavy damage from the service line to 12-5 and the Azzurri got stronger. Belgium tried to claw their way back headed by Van Den Dries and, even with some errors, they placed at range (17-16), but Italy was able to side-out until a 24-23 lead. However, Belgium answered and the final track was breathtaking. A long Belgian spike gave the match to Italy by 28-26.


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