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Portugal, Cuba and Poland top of the pools at halfway mark

June 12, 2005 – Not many people would have picked it at the halfway stage of the 2005 World League Intercontinental Round but Portugal, Cuba and Poland are the three pool leaders at the end of round three after each team collected contrasting results during round three which finished on Sunday.

Portugal continued their majestic form in Pool A by collecting two straight-set victories over Venezuela (25-18, 25-21, 25-14) and (25-23, 25-23, 25-21) in Vila do Conde to lead the group with five wins - their most ever in World League history - only on set ratio ahead of defending champions Brazil, who beat Japan twice 3-0 (26-24, 25-20, 25-21) and 3-1 (25-17, 25-19, 27-29, 25-18) in Gifu.
Pic: The 2005 World League is producing some classic matches including this contest between Serbia and Montenegro (blue) and Poland

"I am very satisfied,” Portugal coach Orlando Samuels said “We have three consecutive straight set victories. The team is motivated and despite the fact that the players may be tired we were able to win." Portugal must now prepare for life on the road for the remainder of the Intercontinental Round having played all of their matches at home for the first three weeks.

In Pool B, Cuba hold a one-win lead over Italy and France after beating the Tri Colours 3-0 (26-24, 25-23, 25-20) on Saturday before losing 3-2 (25-19, 18-25, 20-25, 25-21, 15-7) in Metz on Sunday. The mixed results mean France keep their final round hopes alive as did Italy, who also split their matches against Bulgaria in two tough five-set thrillers, losing 3-2 (18-25, 31-29, 25-10, 20-25, 15-13) on Friday before gaining revenge on Sunday in a 3-2 (25-19, 24-26, 15-25, 25-19, 17-15) epic in Ancona.

“The win helped us from a psychological point of view,” Italian coach Gian Paolo Montali said. “I would congratulate my team even if they had lost. It is a very important result that still leaves us in the running for the final round in Belgrade.”

“Maybe with more accuracy in serving, the story would have been different,” Bulgarian coach Martin Stoev said. “The final round? The turning point will be in Cuba. There Italy and Bulgaria will compete to find their way to the 2005 World League final round in Belgrade.”

Pool C, meanwhile, sees Poland still in pole position with five victories and one defeat after splitting their matches with Serbia and Montenegro on the weekend. An incredible 35 point haul from Dejan Bojovic led Serbia and Montenegro to a sensational 3-2 (30-28, 16-25, 25-23, 22-25, 21-19) win on Saturday before the Poles restored order by collecting a 3-1 (25-19, 25-22, 22-25, 26-24) victory on Sunday. The other results in Pool C saw Argentina and Greece split their matches in Buenos Aires with Greece winning the opening encounter on Friday 3-1 (25-21, 25-19, 19-25, 25-14) before Argentina, cheered on by more nearly 12,000 singing fans, claimed the honours in the second match on Sunday 3-2 (17-25, 23-25, 25-23, 30-28, 15-13).
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