Spain's fighting spirit and nerves of steel swept them through to the last 16 of the men's World Volleyball Championship Saturday after winning a five-set thriller against Korea. The Spaniards twice fought back from a set down before edging the Pool A preliminary stage match 7-15, 15-6, 13-15, 15-13, 16-14 to add to Friday night's opening victory over host-nation Japan. It couldn't have been closer as the 5,770 fans at the Marine Messe Stadium watched the ebb-and-flow of fluctuating fortunes through a tension-filled 2 hours 26 minutes. In the end, only three points divided the two teams over the five sets. Spain's star spiker Rafael Pascual had mixed fortunes, some scrappy moments amid purple patches. Fortunately for Spain, his magic touch was present in the rally-point decisive fifth-set, one moment accomplishing a skidding retrieve which sent him crashing into the side-court boards and the next unreeling one of his trademark spikes. He finished top scorer with 20 points, one more than Korea's wing spiker Kim Se-Jin, who looked much sharper against the Spaniards than he did a on Friday when Korea beat Egypt. Spain's Italian head coach Vicenzo Di Pinto was a relieved man. "It was a very difficult game," he conceded. "We were quite tired after our game against Japan yesterday and were not able to concentrate very well." Korean head coach Jin Jun-Taik said: "Our players were extremely fatigued and ran out of energy. They simply had nothing left." Japan was playing Egypt later Saturday. The top two teams in each of the six four-nation pools go through to the second stage along with four third-placed teams decided on their match statistics.
The Japanese men's Volleyball World Championship team defeated long-shots Egypt in straight sets Saturday and you could almost hear the sighs of relief being expelled from the mouths of 7,610 hopeful fans at the Marine Messe Stadium. The host-nation took 1 hour 52 minutes for their 15-9, 15-12, 15-9 victory over the African representatives, one of the weakest teams in the 24-nation line-up. But after losing their opening Pool A preliminary stage match against Spain Friday night, the Japanese could afford no more slip ups. Only the top two teams from each of the six Pools are guaranteed a place in the last 16, alongside the four third-placed teams with the best match statistics. Sunday sees the crunch meeting between Japan and Korea, both having beaten Egypt and lost to Spain. Egypt fielded their triple tower block- Ayman Elnekery (2.11 meters), Mohamed Ibrahim (2.05) and Hamdi Awad (2.02) - but it was to no avail as the home team cut the trio down to size with Yoichi Kato and Nobutaka Hirano leading the way. The only time Egypt made any inroads was in the third set when they held an early lead, however, it was not long before Japan siezed back the initiative. Japan's head coach Futoshi Teramawari was pleased with his team's performance and aware where their priorities lie. "Now we are ready to fight against Korea tomorrow," he said. Egypt's head coach Ibrahim Fakhreldin was in a philosophical mood. "The Japanese team showed us their strength today. Tomorrow's game against Spain is important. It will be our last chance, so we will have to do our best."
The easiest way to talk about this second preliminary match played in Kobe between World champion Italy and newcomerThailand could have been to descript the five Thai points. Let's just remind the first one : it happened in the second set after a "difficult" Thai first set (0-15!) : on a Charunsiriwont's serve, Fei attacked outside... and that was a public ovation for Thailand ! Before that event, Italian Meoni's floating serves, a tremendous Giani's dive on a Papi's dig revelated that Italy did not care at all the opponent level : when you play, you play, and if you can score 15-0, you do it. Italy did it. But Thailand showed its world qualification was not luck : against a World champion, the final score looks terrible, but Chinese coach Kun Xing Wu has already did a good job : back slides with Jitjumroon (what an ability !), double back cross with Tontongkum (a new combination in volleyball history !), men Thai team had been working a lot. But when your height average is fifteen centimeters below the opponents and the weight average twenty kilos below, inventions at the net are not enough. First of all, in front of super world big stars as Giani, Gravina, Rosalba or Papi...
This second Pool B preliminary match between North American brothers looked as a "Dead or Alive" match : on the six thirds of the Pools, the two worse ones will go home on next Monday with the six fourths. In the first set, US receiving was "eaten" : Canadian setter Greves floating serves, left hander Ballard's jumped serves kicked out US team. Add a much more quicker Canadian digging, and, except skinhead Sorensen, Doug Beal's team was somewhere, but certainly not in the Kobe Green Arena for that second Pool B match : 5-0, 14-2 (!), 15-6, too incredible to be true. In fact, yes. Canada followed that excellent start with Ballard's aces and digs, while tall Grapentine succeeded in the middle block : 7-3 for Canada... but that was the beginning of the end for Pischke's players for Canada stopped blocking. Not a block until the end of that second set. That means the 7-3 quickly became a 7-11 and a 9-15 ! As usual in these cases, at one set all, the third set becomes quite interesting. With a lot of equalities. It happened with super rallies on both sides : a beautiful back cross with Landry and a very high Hoff on short attacks on the US side; Sanheim and Duerden's aces on the Canadian side, and, of course... 14 all. But, on an ordinary american setter Ball's jumped serve, Canadian libero did not move of an inch, as this serve looked quite easy to catch. And 16-14 for the US, leading two set to one... Could that enormous mistake in the money time have terrible consequences ? Canada's offensive suffered of a lack : main spiker Duerden was continuously served on three meters attacks (with an excellent purcentage, one must say), but the US block had not far to look whom they had to stop... In the fourth set, however, Canada flew away with Grapentine's blocks and Ballard's aces : 5-2, 10-5 and 13-10 with three winning blocks in a row : everyone expected a tie-break. But, suddenly, in three minutes, Canada cracked alone (13 all), sending five ball everywhere, except on the US court !
Garth PISCHKE (Canadian coach) Q : That was an important game... A : "I am proud of my players and of the fight they showed in this match. Something obvious is we lost two close sets although there were momentum changes. In times of a set-back, all the substitutes played very well." Q : In terms of points gained, it was 52-51 for US. How do you find this ? A : "The US controlled the majority of the match. We did not have a luck. Hopefully, we can improve on them. Jason HALDANE (Canadian captain) Q : You were so close of the US... A : "We got a false impression on the US in the first set and relaxed too much in the 2nd. Our passing was awful and US block was tough. After 2nd set, both teams were good and... we lost the close one." Doug BEAL (US coach) Q : What about Canada ? A : "Canada is a good team and getting better : we have played it many times and we know each other very well. Canada has the possibility to be a good team in one year. I was happy to be able to win, but we began the match very low level, mostly because players are young and don't know how to play... and changes made were good for us. I was not happy to lose the first set. I think one of the coach's important role is to change performance and make the team better." Q : Your ranking in the World Top 12 is just around the corner. These matches would be your barometer to be in the Top 8 ? A : "A few days ago, first thing I thought was to proceed to the next round. I would like to stick to this. For the past two years, we have not fought any one of the teams as Russia, Italy, Holland, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria or Spain : I'am excited for the game with Italy on Sunday !" Q : You played worse in the 1st set and very good in the 3rd and 4th sets. Why is that ? A : "There are two reasons : 1. Important players are young, not in age, but in international games, like Hoff, Barnett, Lambert and Eatherton; 2. Players like Sorensen and Nygaard are only recently established players. Sometimes, players are looking for someone else for important roles : cohesive leadership like Giani, Bracci and Gardini is very important." Q : On Sunday, you play Italy, the defending champion... A : "We won't play like the first day against Canada ! If we play with heart, it will be a very good match and we will be able to win because we are getting better. We spent a lot of energy against Canada, but it will not affect us : we played only two games..."
Match Results (Adobe Acrobat .pdf file)
Match #17 - Pool C (Preliminary Round)
NED beat UKR 3-0 (15-8, 15-10, 15-7) - duration 1:27
14/11/98, start time: 14:00 - Attendance: 3,000
After losing a set to the Czech Republic in their first game of these 14th Men Volleyball World Championships, The Netherlands wanted to make a much better impression for their second Pool C match against another Eastern European team, Ukraine. The Dutch appeared completely different to the public in Sendai Gymnasium: their gameplan was working perfectly and they gave their opponent little space to score points. The Netherlands' coach Toon Gerbrands seemed relieved: "Our strategy worked really well today. We played much better than yesterday and our game will hopefully improve even more as the tournament moves on." The king reigning at the net during the whole match was undoubtedly Guido Gortzen (The Netherlands, number 5), who hit spikes with an incredible strength. His teammate Reinder Nummerdor (The Netherlands, number 4) also played a very regular match. On the other side of the net, in spite of setter Igor Zaytsev's (Ukraine, number 8) creativity, captain Oleksandr Shadchin (Ukraine, number 12) and Brazil-based smasher Yuriy Filippov (Ukraine number 7) were unable to respond effectively enough to the dutch speed and power. Facing the facts, Ukraine's head coach Leonid Likhno put in his replacement team in the third set with only Yuriy Filippov (Ukraine, number 7) and Oleksiy Gatin (Ukraine, number 9) from the original six remaining on the court. Smart move: the team's best players need to rest in order to be perfectly ready for the following game against the Czech Republic. That will be Ukraine's last chance to move on to the quarter-finals, and judging from their general spirit, they definitely don't want to lose it.
Just like The Netherlands, China didn't seem to appreciate the fact of losing a set in their first game in Sendai. Against the Czech Republic, coach Jiawei Wang's formation didn't want to spare many points. They therefore built a block as impressive as the Great Wall of China to stop the czech spikes. The first set was nevertheless a tough battle, both teams winning sideout after sideout. The Czech Republic could count on an unbelievable fighting spirit and team spirit throughout the game. Never did they abandon the fight. Czech Republic's number 6 Petr Karabec even dived behind the publicity to try and keep the ball in play! Both the first and second sets ended on a 15-9 score to China, which is a little tough on the Czechs: the match was actually tighter than it looks. But after those two sets, it was pretty clear who would walk out of Sendai Gymnasium with two extra points. So the czech coach Miroslav Nekola acted exactly as ukrainian coach Leonid Likhno did earlier: he introduced some other players and made his important blockers rest on the bench. But it would be unfair not to mention all the work and devotion of China's libero Tieming Li (number 18), who did an amazing job on the backline, always there to defend impossible balls. He put those back into the game and then both Gang Zhu (China, number 16) and Yong Zhao (China, number 13) only had to do their job at the net. Tomorrow's game between the Czech Republic and Ukraine promises to be explosive, as both teams will be looking for a qualifying third place.
As it was to be expected, Cuba won their second game in Sapporo in three straight sets. It was sort of frustrating for the players of the Islamic Republic of Iran: They tried the best to achieve as many single points as possible in their first game in history against Cuba. But their opponents were so strong in every single skill that the Iranian players couldn't develop their usualy quit successful attack-game." What shall I say", was the slightly disapponted comment of Irans Captain Hossein Madani (No.13) who was replaced in the second set . " They were so strong that we couldn't receive the normal way. That is a pitty because our attack is our strongest point." As the Cuban Coach Juan Diaz promised his team played on a much higher level than in the first game:The Cuban attackers delighted the Japanese public with nice combinations - above all the masterpiece with a player faking a short attack while setter Diago served the attacker in the back-row . There can be streched out the excellent performance of Ramon Gato (No. 12). But also each other substitute fits perfectly in the very well developped teamwork, like Angel Dennis (No.7) who replaced Sanchez in the third set. The Cuban Coach expressed his satisfaction about the good performance of his team but he still is expecting an even higher level oh his team.
In the first set Marcos Milinkovic (No.1/ARG) opened the gap from a 5-3 to a 7-3-lead with two superb jump-serve-floaters. Although the Polish blockers jumped very high they were not able to stop the fiery Argentine attacks because of a lack of technically mature blocking. Poland was down 3:10. At the score of 11-6 for Argentine the spectators were offered an acrobatic highlight as Argentine setter and team-captain Javier Weber (No.6) set the ball in a very difficult position with the close fist in a perfect manner all over the court. Thanks to their increasing fighting spirit the Polish players improved the score ( 9-11) but unstable as they still are they "offered" the first set ball to Argentina. But the South-Americans surprisingly weren't able to finish the first set and lost with 14-16. Argentine setter Javier Weber explained what happened: " The game today was so important and very delicate. At 14-11 we wanted absolutely to finish the set, so we got a little bit nervous and there was lacking one little thing." The experienced Argentine team - with 10 players improving their skills in foreign leagues - made a strong comeback and controlled the next three sets (15-5,15-7, 15-8). In the third set again there were some hot long rallies from both teams but in general the Argentine team directed the game. The young Polish team where setter Andrzej Stelmach (No.2) is the only one playing abroad (Italy),was too unstable. In Argentines team once more Marcos Milinkovic (No.1) impressed with 12 points and 18 side-outs. But Weber stretched out:" Our strength are not single players, but all skills . In the third set we played good defense and had a strong team-play." This result means that Cuba and Argentine are already qualified for the Quarter-final round. Poland has to beat Iran to ensure the chances to advance as a third -ranked team.
Although Algeria tried hard to encounter Brazil, the skill and performance of Brazil was superior to that of Algeria and it resulted 3:0 victory for Brazil. Despite the effort of Algeria to spike the ball into Brazil, Brazil predicted the course of spikes and accumulated block points. Then, Algeria tried to target at the top of blocks and made spike mistakes. Brazil Captain Nalbert Bitencourt (Number 12) contributed to service points as well as spike and block points. Brazil gained the first set by 15:2. The second set was started with Algeria lead by 2:0. Then, Brazil concentrated to send set up ball to Captain Nalbert Bitencourt (Number 12) to be 3:3 tie. Then, even Brazil setter Lima Mauricio (Number 6) made a block point to take a lead. Algeria kept playing very well to keep up the core with Brazil. They kept the tension by 7:9, but Endres Gustabo (Number 13) of Brazil finished up the set with two consecutive block points. Brazil gained the second set by 15:8. In the third set, Hedroug Nassim (Number 7) and Gharzouli Faycel (Number 13) of Algeria hit many spikes from front and back zone and have got side outs very well, but those were not enough to break the Brazil receiving formation to get points. Brazil gained the third set by 15:6, and won the match by 3:0. The coach of Algeria Said Mohand Kaci said, "It was very good match result for Algeria, because we have got 8 points from Brazil, the one of gold medal candidate." While, Filho Lattari, the coach of Brazil said, " It was a satisfactory match result. Especially, spike variation and service were excellent." It was obvious that Algeria is improving their skills and fighting spirit game by game.
Good game with very close score was fought between two European teams, Bulgaria and Greece. Greece coach Stellios KAZAZIS almost cried but said after the match, "It was a really close game. If we would play such a game again, we could have a chance win." He was so occupied for trying to cheer up his crying players. It seemed that neither teams were in the top condition at the beginning as both teams made obvious mistakes at spikes and receptions. Both teams were getting point by point and kept the score close in the first set so that it looked as if they diverted each other. Then, from 10:11, Bulgaria sent ball to left spiker and gained 5 consecutive point to gained the first set by 15:11. Greece began using formation spikes in the second set, especially fast set up from right to left, and center quick spikes. Greece made a lead at 12:10. Then, center spike point by Chatziantoniou Theodoros (Number 3), block point by Kovatsef Antonios (Number 16) and Tsakiropoulos Antonios (Number 10) defeated Bulgaria and took the second set by 15:10. In the third set, both teams began concentrating on the rallies, and getting point closer to each other again. After 12:12, they competed each other very well and the set was close finish of 16:14 for Bulgaria. There was a change of pace of the game happened, and Greece allowed Bulgaria a lead of 6:1. But, Greece have got back in the match and chased Bulgaria and brought the score back to Greece 10:8. Then, the set was finished with Greek two consecutive block points. Greece took the fourth set by 15:11. Block and counter spikes of Bulgaria were exceeded to Greece in the rally point game of fifth set and they made a lead as 8:5. Greece did not have enough guts to reverse the set. Bulgaria finished the set by 15:9, and won the match by 3:2. Bulgaria coach Gueorgui Vassilev said after the match, "We achieved a big victory towards quarterfinals. Every player did everything what I said before the match."
For Australia, this World Championship is almost over. The Aussies, host team of the next Olympic Games, could only score twenty points in their clash with Russia. The silver medallist in last World League, had an easy afternoon in Uozu City. The formation of coach Guennadi Chipouline needed less than one hour and a half to win with 3-0 and to qualify for the quarterfinal round, next week in Chiba Makuhari. Like yesterday, the Russian coach could afford to make some changes. For example in the third set, he took setter Konstantin Ouchakov (number 11) out of the team. The other setter, Vadim Khamouttskikh (number 2), entered the court for the first time tournament. His set-ups were not so precisely, but Australia didn't take advantage from it. At 12-9 in Russian favour, there was a characteristic rally. The Russians couldn't attack proper for at least four times. But Australia was also not able to finish the rally. Every time it was quiet easy for the Russians to defend the opponents attack. Like during the whole match, Russia won this rally. It was not one of the Russian players who scored a point, but one of the Aussies made a stupid mistake. Chipouline had almost the same game-plan as yesterday. But the difference with the match against Turkey was that now all twelve players entered the court. Most of them played one complete set. It looks like the Russian coach took advantage of the weak opponents in Uozu City. Because all coaches know that this tournament is very long. With this result the World Championships is almost over for the Australian team. The team cannot reach the first or second spot in this group anymore. For being the best ranked third team, probably one or maybe more winning sets are necessary. Australia has a big problem, because the team didn't win a set yet.
Turkey is the second team in group F of the preliminary round of the World Championship who felled the strength of Yugoslavia. The team of head-coach Gilberto Herrera had completely no chance against the number two of Europe. In all skills, the formation of coach Zoran Gajic was the better team. The Turkish players succeeded sometimes to make side-outs, but scoring some points was very difficult. Yugoslavia had no troubles with the relatively easy serve of their opponent. Whatever Herrera did, nothing kept Yugoslavia away from dominating the match. Yugoslavia could defend almost every Turkish attack in a proper way. Yugoslavia has another strategy in the preliminary round of this big championship than Russia, the other team in Uozu who already reached the next stage. While the Russian coach does some experiment-work, it looked like Gajic rely on his starting six. Like in the first match, against Australia, Gajic only made a few changes. But from the beginning the six starters were always on the court. For Turkey it is a pity that the team has to play in such a strong group. With the two big defeats, it is almost impossible to reach the next round. Maybe in another group, the team was able to reach the quarterfinal stage. The only thing Turkey can do to go back proud to Ankara is to win the last match against Australia, tomorrow afternoon.