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Cuba: only one victory away from Belgrade

Havana, Cuba, July 18, 2009 – All the weapons. That’s what Cuba got for Japan this Saturday in the final match of qualifying round, after leading Pool C of 20th World League.

Cuba Head Coach Orlando Samuells said it loud and clear: “We’ll need this victory and we’ll do whatever anything to get it”. Last night triumph inspired Cubans, who already think in their first trip to the Final round since 2005.

“I hope we’ll play better. We can’t expect a Russian’s defeat, we have to make it our way, earn the ticket to Belgrade”, said Cuban Captain Roberlandy Simon.

Simon was again one of Cubans heroes. He made the first point with an authoritarian spike. He was huge in defense, serve and attack, and Cuba defeated Japan 25-19, 25-13, 25-21.

But the visitors were inspired by their triumph over Russia last week-end. Anyway, 15-years-old Wilfredo Leon showed why he is leading WL 2009 serve, and got some crucial aces. Cuba defense was better than last matches, and Simon and even setter Raydel Hierrezuelo made some points blocking. As a matter of facts, a solo block by Simon gave the first set to Cubans (25-19).

The sell-out crowd was enjoying the game. It was hot at Ciudad Deportiva Coliseum, and the noise kinda took the japans out of focus. At some point in the second set the match was one-sided. Cuba leaded 16-5, even without pushing too hard with their serves.

Yoshihiko Matsumoto made some damage sending the ball to Leon, who lost two easy serves. But it was a mirage: soon Cubans got their timing back and Takeshi Kitajima swallowed a hard spike from Leon. The final result was 25-13, sealed by an ace from Simon.

“We gave the best of ourselves, but it wasn’t enough. It was a tough game, a great show”, admitted Japan Captain Daisuke Usami later on. 

Japan never gave up and started willing to win at least one set, but was easier said than done. They made some good plays and celebrated some Cuban’s errors. They even approached 10-13 and could get closer, but Cuban blockade stopped once again.

Yoandi Leal was lethal spiking from behind and libero Kleiber Gutierrez did a great job defending. The public saw the end standing and leaving the Coliseum, because they knew how it will end. The Nippon team fought to the very end, and players celebrated each point as it was the championship’s one. Rolando Cepeda got greedy and lost a serve, but later veteran Osdelvis Dominico made the match point with a huge spike.

“Tonight I really realized how strong Cubans are”, confessed Japan Head Coach Tatsuya Ueta.


Possible Starting Lineups


Daisuke Usami, Yoshihiko Matsumoto, Tatsuya Fukuzawa, Takaaki Tomitatsu, Yuta Yoneyama, Shiro Furuta, Yusuke Inoue (libero)


Cuba: Wilfredo Leon, Yoandi Leal, Osmani Camejo, Michael Sánchez, Roberlandy Simon, Raydel Hierrezuelo, Kleiber Gutierrez (libero).



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