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World glory awaits victors at Italy-Bulgaria 2018

Poland begin the Italy-Bulgaria 2018 World Championship as defending champions
Lausanne, Switzerland, August 22, 2018 – Whichever team wins gold at the Italy-Bulgaria 2018 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship they will add their name to the long list of outstanding teams that have won the tournament since its first edition in Prague in 1949. 

The most recent winner was Poland who triumphed over Brazil in the gold medal match when they hosted the 2014 World Championship. 

When Poland captain Michal Winiarski hoisted the World Championship trophy aloft in front of 11,000 fans at the Spodek Arena in Katowice, and millions more watching in fan parks or on television around the country, it ended a 40-year wait for the east Europeans to win a second title. 

The tournament had begun in spectacular fashion when fans packed the National Stadium in Warsaw for the opening match. Poland’s 3-0 win ensured that the majority didn’t leave disappointed. 

“We played really well tonight, almost perfectly,” Winiarski said after the match. “It was really a fantastic event and the moment we entered the stadium we experienced thousands of emotions. But once we started warming up, it all came back to normal.”

Poland, Brazil, Germany and France reached the semifinals, with London 2012 Olympic champions Russia and Iran the two teams to fall at the third round stage. 

In the semifinals Brazil were pushed hard by France, but they dug in to win 3-2 (25-18, 23-25, 25-23, 22-25, 15-12). Poland kept the dreams of a nation alive with a 3-1 (26-24, 28-26, 23-25, 25-21) victory over Germany. 

Germany beat France 3-0 (25-21, 26-24, 25-23) to claim bronze, and then it was onto the gold medal match that pitted the hosts against the winners of the three previous editions. 

Brazil won the first set, but with their nerves steadied Poland hit back in emphatic fashion to win the match 3-1 (18-25, 25-22, 25-23, 25-22) and send a nation into scenes of wild celebration. 

“Our dream came true,” Poland coach Stephan Antiga said. “We worked very hard throughout the tournament. Before the final I told the guys that this match was like any other match. They showed that they are a real team.”

Should Poland win again they will match the Soviet Union in 1949 and 1952, in 1960 and 1962, and in 1978 and 1982, by winning back-to-back tournaments. Victory will also set up a possibility of matching Italy’s run of three straight wins in 1990, 1994 and 1998, and Brazil’s in 2002, 2006 and 2010. 

Brazil will try to match their 2006 win which came two years after they triumphed at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, while reigning European champions Russia have already laid down a marker in 2018 by beating France in the VNL final. 

As for France, they used their fourth-place finish as a springboard to gold in the 2015 and 2017 FIVB World League Finals, and the 2015 CEV European Championship, a tournament that took place in…Italy and Bulgaria.


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