Men's Olympic Games 2004
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25 August
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Russia, Italy, USA, Brazil qualify for semifinals
Athens, Greece, August 25, 2004 – A breathtaking four-set replay of the Sydney 2000 final and an incredible come-from-behind victory by USA against Greece were outstanding highlights in an exhilarating day of quarterfinal play where Russia, Italy, USA and Brazil all qualified for the semifinals of the men’s Olympic Volleyball competition on Wednesday.
The semifinals on Friday will begin at 19:30 with three-time Olympic champs Russia playing three-time world champions Italy while world number six USA take on world number one Brazil at 21:30.
The quarterfinals produced an astonishing day of superb Volleyball action beginning with a powerful rematch of the last Olympic final where Russia gained revenge for their defeat four years ago when they beat Serbia and Montenegro 3-1 (29-27, 23-25, 27-25, 28-26).
The Sydney 2000 final will always be remembered because of the unbelievable effort of Vladimir Grbic, who led Serbia and Montenegro to gold with a wonderful dig and an incredible spike in the final rally. Four years on and after 210 rallies lasting two hours, he couldn't repeat the same heroics as he missed the crucial save, which gave Russia victory.
In the second quarterfinal of the day world number two Italy came from a set down to defeat Argentina in a nail biter 3-1 (22-25, 25-22, 26-24, 28-26). "We could not find our rhythm against the Italians who played a very fast match,” Argentine libero Pablo Meana said. “The qualification to the quarterfinals was very important to us, but of course we were hoping to reach the semifinals. We are unhappy, but we have to admit that Italy is a very strong team".
The first match of the evening session saw arguably one of the best quarterfinal matches in Olympic history with two-time gold medalists USA produced an exceptional comeback from two-sets-to-one down to knock Greece out of the competition 3-2 (25-20, 22-25, 25-27, 25-23, 17-15).
Down 20-12 in the fourth set the Americans launched an incredible fight back, which stunned the home side into conceding the set and the deciding tiebreaker. “We lost a great victory today because we did not play well in the fourth set,” Greek captain Marios Gkiourdas said. “We started giving up and that was the end of it. Congratulations to USA. They wanted it, they fought for it and they got it.”
The final match of the day saw world champions Brazil predictably end Poland’s dream run with a 3-0 (25-22, 27-25, 25-18) victory.
The semifinals of the women’s competition begin on Thursday with all three medalists from Sydney 2000 in action while China are guaranteed to improve upon their fifth-place finish of four years ago. The semifinal action begins at 19:30 with Brazil taking on Russia followed by defending champions Cuba playing China at 21:30.
The dream and the nightmare
Athens, Greece, August 25, 2004 - Peace & Friendship. And maybe love. How would you call the feeling for a sport hall that gave you a gold medal in a European Championship and a second World Championship title?
Samuele Papi was something more than an enthusiastic teenager when Julio Velasco called him into the starting six in the Italian Dream Team in 1994.
It happened in Athens. “Don’t tell anyone;” said “Samu” in the “Peace and Friendship” mixed zone. “But when we came here for practice before the tournament, I was shuddering. It was an emotional break. This sport hall means a lot to me. And now we’re here again, with the Olympics all around us”.
Ten years following his successful crusade at the European Championship, Pipi is back as one of the leaders in a renewed team. Lorenzo Bernardi is no more by his side, ready to pass the ball; but there’s a younger blond guy in his place, Cernic.
On the bench, a cut of that gold seeker Italy is looking to head coach Montali, the man who said: “My team knows that we need three things to win: attitude, attitude and attitude. From the first players to our warehouse-man we are all working as a team”.
Waiting to run on the court are Paolo Tofoli, two times World Champion, together with Andrea Giani, “Captain Giangio”, fifth Olympic Games for him.
And now Papi and friends are still on the court, trying to beat the Olympic nightmare more than other teams. In Barcellona they lost semifinal for one point in the fifth set with The Netherlands (the Fivb changed the rule, it was the last 17-16 in volleyball history).
In Atlanta they said farewell to gold medal for two points against The Netherlands, again. In Sydney they met in semifinal the most powerful Yugoslavia ever seen, and then was bronze.
Keep an eye over the “Azzurri”: the story continues…

Fabrizio Rossini
Pallavolo Supervolley monthly magazine
Editor in chief
Mouthwatering match ups in Men’s Quarterfinals
ATHENS, 25 August – The quarterfinals of the men’s Volleyball competition begin on Wednesday starting with a rematch of the Sydney 2000 final. Defending champions Serbia and Montenegro take on Russia at 14:00 followed by Argentina playing Italy at 16:00. The evening matches see Greece play USA at 19:30 while world champions Brazil play Poland at 21:30.
Here is a rundown of the advantages and disadvantages facing each team so far.

: The favourite
Positive: Spiking efficiency and service-aces. Gilberto GODOY FILHO, Andre NASCIMENTO and Dante Guimaraes AMARAL have been unstoppable so far and they play with the self-confidence that they are the best team in the tournament.
Negative: The added pressure of going into the final stages as hot favourites.

SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO: The reigning champions
Positive: Good blocking and serving are the keys to success in modern Volleyball. The defending champions are at the top of both tables; scoring blockers and servers.
Negative: Ivan MILJKOVIC missed two matches due to fever and could be affected by a lack of match sharpness.

ITALY: Defence is the key
Positive: Italy head the non-scoring diggers table. Andrea SARTORETTI has been the best server so far with a total of 11 service-aces.
Negative: Italy’s blocking has not yet lived up to some high expectations.

GREECE: Home advantage

Positive: Greece have the most kill-blocks so far, with 63 in total. The supporters get right behind their team when star man Antrei KRAVARIK spikes.
Negative: The lack of a 'win at all costs' mentality.

USA: Still improving
Positive: Clayton STANLEY has the leading abilities.
Negative: The States have the worst spiking efficiency of all the teams in the quarterfinals.

ARGENTINA: Star turns
Positive: The star players Marcos MILINKOVIC and Jorge Alberto ELGUETA are the competition’s two top scorers.
Negative: The team struggle when MILINKOVIC and ELGUETA are struggling with their efficiency.

POLAND: The dark horses
Positive: The win over the defending champions Serbia and Montenegro on the opening day showed their quality. Piotr GRUSZKA ranks among the top-four scorers in the tournament so far.
Negative: It has been a long time since Poland celebrated a big success in an international competition.

RUSSIA: Sydney's runners-up out for revenge
Positive: Russian blocking is a big weapon as Russia rank third in scoring-blockers.
Negative: Their blocking should have been even better.

ONS sk/tb