Spain played like losers, but ended up winners Sunday, coming back from two sets down to edge Egypt and finish top of the Pool A preliminary stage of the 32-nation men's World Volleyball Championships with three wins from as many matches. The Spaniards, taking an unscheduled siesta, woke up just in time to defeat Egypt 9-15, 13-15, 15-9, 15-1, 16-14 in 2 hours 15 minutes. Spain had already clinched a quarterfinal place on the back of victories over Japan and Korea, and could be excused for lacking motivation, but therir Italian head coach Vicenzo Di Pinto was not in a forgiving mood. "The game was shameful because our players did not use their brains at all. I am rerally upset and annoyed at the way they played," he said. Certainly, it was not a glorious Spanish conquest as Egypt capitalized on a lack-lustre performance from the Europeans. However, there was no mistaking Egypt's improvement on their performances against Japan and Korea when they were beaten in straight sets. The giant Ayman Elnekery (2.11 meters) was much sharper and Hamdi Awad (2.02) was equally effective until he injured his left ankle midway through the third set. Even when Spain got into winning mode, they lacked precision and penetration. Star spiker Rafael Pascual, who headed the tournament scoring list after two matches with 34 points, added another 19 Sunday, but was not at his best. Japan and Korea were playing later Sunday to complete the Pool A action at Fukuoka's Marine Messe.
When it came to the crunch, host nation Japan delivered the goods Sunday, grabbing a lifeline to qualify for the quarterfinals of the men's World Volleyball Championships in style with a straight-sets victory over arch-rival Korea. Coming into Sunday's Pool A preliminary stage showdown, Japan needed to take at least two sets off their Asian neighbours to make the last 16 after both teams had beaten Egypt and lost to Spain. With a capacity crowd of 7,700 cheering them on at the Marine Messe Stadium, the Japanese ignored mathematical equations as a qualifying path, preferring the direct route to emphatically beat Korea 15-8, 15-12, 15-2 in only 87 minutes. Korea, who had taken Spain to five sets compared to Japan's zero resistance, could find no way back after the home team snatched the early initiative and the third set was embarrasingly one-sided. Norihiko Miyazaki had his best game for Japan, top-scoring with 11 points. "Our mental toughness was greater than the Koreans. This was a game we were desperate to win," said Japan's head coach Futoshi Teramawari, whose team finished second behind Spain followed by Korea and Egypt. Korea's head coach Jin Jun-Taik was blunt about the result. "We were completely defeated today," he commented. Jin's only consolation was that Korea also qualified for the next stage as one of the best four third-placed teams from among the six Pools.
Against Thai team, the Canadian deal was clear : third in its Preliminary Round played in Kobe on Sunday, knowing that the two worst thirds of the six Pools would be out of the competition, Pischke's players had not to lose one set, of course, and, in case of trouble with other thirds, show an excellent point-average. That was done Sunday afternoon. But Haldane's teammates had to wait until the end of the day and all the results to be sure to stay in Japan and in the Top World 16. If Thai team looked always smiley, Canada, which had to stay quite concentrated, played a very relax match, with lot of talks and laughs between the court and the bench. In that real sympathic atmospher, Duerden's jumped serves and Haldane's middle blocks permitted an easy Canadian start (5-0, 5-2, 13-2...). Thai team could answer only with a superb Tontongkum jumped ace and a quick Jitjunroom's heavy short attack. The second set was the most exciting : suddenly, Chinese coach Kun Xing's players, with any pressure at all, became euphoric : digging and digging, flying attacks, and they played an exciting volleyball for ten minutes. But Duerden's blocks and eternal winning spikes on the three meters right wing, setter Greves technique (he sent Haldane on a short attack, landing on the ground !) and prominent Grapentine at the net were problems Thais could not solve.
In that last Pool B preliminary round day played in Kobe between Italy, defending champion and the US, "defending" bronze medal and former World champion ('86), the qualification for the quarter-final Pool was sure. But don't believe both of them decided just to watch themselves playing ! Psychology and improvement are the the rules to respect in a starting high level competition. In the two first sets, Italy showed its national championship stayed the best of the world : US had not played at such level for two years, and they saw : jumped Bracci's serves, Papi like an acrobat at the net on his favourite left wing, Meoni's digs and sets, Gardini middle blocks : impressive Italy ! It was pleasant to watch Gardini's joyce after a winning middle block : the same attitude he had fourteen years ago when he started international career in the Junior European championship played in France ! We even admired a foot Bracci's defence, while Meoni and Gravina were blocking poor Barnett twice in a row and while Giani jumped serves created panics on the US court. Fortunately, came the third set : a sudden lack of concentration on Italian side, an extrordinary fighting spirit on US side, and then, started an equal set, each one answering the other : Meoni's blocks to Barnett's serves (suddenly in a good mood), Landry's serves to excellent libero Corsano's (he plays in Milano, Italian Serie B !) digs. Italian coach Bebeto tried many substitutions (setter De Giorgi, Sartoretti) in a third set which had become a very high level match. And, finally, US succeeded : they caught the set they were looking for. But what a job ! Exhausted, they failed immediately in the fourth set : 0-11 and 2-14 (!), before a last reaction (led by libero Sullivan'digs)which concluded a more reasonable score in front of the defending World champion.
Paulo DE FREITAS ("Bebeto", Brasilian Italian coach) Q : You are on your way after this last First Round match... A : "I think we made a spectacular game. US teams always play well. But our side-outing was good and the reception positioning was well formed." Andrea GARDINI (Italian captain, middle blocker) Q : You easily advance to quarter final after that match against US. A : "We played well in the two first sets. But in the third and fourth, we could not clinch the game easily because of good US performance." Doug BEAL (US coach) Q : You played the defending champion... A : "We fought quite a high level game, but at the beginning, the team didn't respond very well but got better later on. Italy is one of the teams which can win this World championship. We want to improve during the tournament. We still look for the best group of players. Our defence was weak at the beginning, and a little bit better later... and I made bad decisions."
Match Results (Adobe Acrobat .pdf file)
Match #29 - Pool (Preliminary Round)
UKR beat CZE 3-0 (15-5, 15-6, 15-6) - duration 1:10
15/11/98, start time: 11:00 - Attendance: 2,591
Sendai Pool C preliminary round's last day opening match was announced as a tough battle. The two Eastern-European teams needed a 3 :0 victory to hope to carry on their road towards Tokyo in these Men's World Volleyball Championships. Sadly for the Czech Republic, it wasn't really the case. Ukraine walked on the court standing tall, extremely concentrated and not wanting to let anybody stand in their way. They found their first day level again, playing simple yet very powerful exchanges. Partly because of a very poor reception, the Czech Republic only managed to score a total of 17 points throughout the game. Captain Stanislav Pochop's (number 9) teammates made way too many mistakes to hope to disturb Ukraine's supremacy. Coach Miroslav Nikola's (Czech Republic) formation's only victory was to gain the heart of the Sendai Gymnasium audience. They thanked some fans who had gone through the effort of wearing Czech Republic hockey shirts to the game. Sunday morning in Sendai, the ball definitely bore the same colours as the ukrainian uniforms. Coach Leonid Likhno's (Ukraine) boys taimed almost every ball , with incredible spikes from captain Oleksandr Shadchin (number 12), Oleksiy Gatin (number 9) and Yuriy Filippov (number 7). But certainly the most outstanding player was Igor Popov (number 2). He was unchallenged at the net and also made a great performance in defense. Now the whole Ukrainian team has to be patient, since they will have to spend all afternoon with their fingers crossed, hoping this straight victory will send them to the quarter-finals.
There is only one word to describe the first set of the match opposing China and The Netherlands in Sendai : beautiful ! Even though both teams already had their ticket to Chiba-Makuhari quarter-finals in their pockets, they gave the Sendai Gymnasium an electric show. Electric also because of the tension that was felt during the opening set. Both coaches were standing up and The Netherlands' captain Bas Van De Goor (number 9) spent quite a lot of time talking with the head referee. China's setter Hebing Wang (number 11) made great choices throughout the first three sets, constantly avoiding the dutch block. With strikers Weizhong Lu (China, number 6) and Xiang Zhang (China, number 12) at the top of their shape, and with a dutch libero Marko Klok (number 14) sometimes forgetting to play, China managed to win the set 15-9. But then Bas Van De Goor's (The Netherlands, number 9) teammates started to stick to the strategy. Guido Gortzen (The Netherlands, number 5) took too many risks on his serve, but the Dutch made a great impression in defense, to match their opponent's performance. Setter Misha Latuhihin (The Netherlands, number 1) managed to tire the chinese team out with his excellent choices and striker Richard Schuil (The Netherlands, number 6) finished the points off nicely. China managed to come back a little in the fourth set , with good blocking from Liang Zheng (number 3), but that wasn't enough. The Netherlands are playing better and better, as says coach Toon Gerbrands : I am satisfied with today"s game because we played even better than yesterday. We rarely get a chance to play a team with such quick offense as China, so now I"m sure that our strategy is working.
In the match where both teams had to win and to leave as few points as possible to the opponent it was the Iranian Team which had a good start. It were the substitute-players who energized the crowd with their cheering and pushed their players on the court to a 5-4-lead. But then the favorite Polish team woke up and the energetic play of Dawid Murek (No.8) - a mixture of hard spikes and smooth block-out balls - changed the momentum: Poland could add point for point and finished the much quicker second half of the first set with 15:5. During the second set the result of the match between Ukraine and Czeck Republic (3-0) gave the Polish journalists a calculating task: They found out that their team could give away the maximum of three little points for the rest of the whole game in order to surpass Ukraine and be one of the four happy teams which advance to the next round ! The young Polish team showed a very controlled sideout-game and went in the lead with 13-1. To finish the set they had to give away another point (15-2). That meant that the last set had to end 15-1 for Poland... But at the score of 6-0 Murek was blocked and shortly after that Michal Chadala (No.7- IRI) smashed the ball into the Polish court for the 7-2. From this point on Poland lost a little bit concentration whereas the Iraniens had their best moments of the tournament and said good-by with some nice last rallies. Poland won with 15-8 and then there was the long waiting for the results of the other respective teams (Japan, Greece and Canada).
The game between Cuba and Argentina had to decide about the positions one and two in Pool D but this was not an issue at all for the continuation of the World Championships since both teams will start at zero again in the Quarter Final-Round in Hiroshima. Considering the length of this tournament, it was no surprise that the starting six of Argentina were quite different from the games so far: With Alejandro Spajic (No.4) only one Argentine player of the usual line-up was nominated by Coach Daniel Castellani. On the other side Cuban coach Juan Diaz prefered to give his strongest players one more chance to practice the highly developed combination system. According to this premise the first set belonged undoubtedly to the Cubans (15-7). The second set began much more equal because the Argentine substitutes proceeded with much more coherence. Juan Pablo Porello (No.18) had some highlights with a superb "flying open-hand -defense" and strong action at the net. But the Cubans showed a distinctive reaction and turned from 3-5 to a 11-6-lead. Setter Raul Diago (No.9) always found some time to rouse the female spectators in the Makomanai Stadium. The Argentines had their best moments in the last set when they managed to keep the score close for a long time (8-6). Special applause for Guillermo Quaini (No.5 - ARG) who showed spectacular soccer qualities. For the next step in Hiroshima Cuban coach Juan Diaz can count on a well prepared team but he is anxious abouth the length of the tournament: " That will be extremely difficult to keep the game stable on a high level. I think that the next round might become much more difficult and stressy than the Final Four." This spectacular game also delighted the President of the International Federation of Volleyball FIVB, Dr. Rubén Acosta and his dear wife Malu Acosta who received in their VIP-Lounge several honorable guests, among others:
- Tatsuya Hori, The Governor of Hokkaido - Nobuo Katsura, The Mayor of Sapporo - Tsuneo Yama, Sapporo SuperintendentMatch #33 - Pool (Preliminary Round)
Greece obtained ticket to the quarterfinals by the 3:1 victory over Algeria. However, they were less maneuverable due to the depressed mind from the match with Bulgaria yesterday. Finally, they recovered in the fourth set and play their usual volleyball. Algeria was impatient in the first set to hit spikes into Greek blocks or out of bounds and Greece led the points. Greece was steadily getting points by blocks. Greece also controlled set up ball fast enough so that Algeria blocks became solo sometimes. Greece took the first set 15:6. There were a few uncertain moment for Greece in the middle of the second set that let Algeria to take a lead 10:7. But, Greece finished up the second set 15:11. Algeria was trying to get this set by center combination spikes, counter spikes and blocks, but they synchronized pace of the game with Greece and made mistakes as well. Greece caught up Algeria at 7:7 and then reverse the game 12:9. However, Algeria gradually got points by blocks and took the third set 15:13. Though they made quite a few mistakes in spikes, Greece finally became vivid and aggressive to play strong volleyball in the fourth set. Algeria made the best effort to catch up with the opponent, Algeria caught up till 12:14. At last, Guemmadi Hicham (Number 14) of Algeria committed back attack resulting out of bounds which ended the fourth set 15:12. " We have been targeting Bulgaria and Greece. I am not satisfied with our performance during tha match today. But, it is important to go to quarter-finals and we achieved the first step. ", said Greece captain Giourdas Marios (Number 2). Also, Algerian head coach Mohand Kaci made a comment, "I am satisfied with today's game very much." Algeria finished their world championships today, however, they certainly obtained improved skills and stronger performance as souvenir.
The match between FIVB world ranking 5th, Brazil and that of 7th, Bulgaria supposed to be a very tuff game. In spite of the guess, It resulted an easy victory for Brazil 3:0 to finish the preliminary round as the first place. Brazil steadily led the match with their dynamic, sharp spikes and sky high blocks. Brazil showed very high performance in spikes, blocks and led the points very easily. Lima Mauricio (Number 6) set up balls to everywhere as he wishes and captain Bitencourt Nalbert (Number 12), Filio Godoy Gilberto (Number 7) hit hard spikes into Bulgaria court.. Then, Filio Godoy Gilberto (Number 7) finished the first set with his service point 15:4. Bulgaria had a lead 5:3 in the second set. But, Brazil never lost their pace in this game. Brazil caught up the score 5:5. In a mean time, Gavrilov Ivalylo (Number 13), Stefanov Ivarilo (Number 6) of Bulgaria hit strong spike to trying to keep the lead. However, Brazil reversed the score by 2 consecutive service points and steady offences. Bulgaria tried hard to encounter Brazil, but they rather accumulated fault by spike and service reception mistakes. Brazil took the second set 15:8. Brazil utilized their various offence formation and easily managed pace of the game. The third set was started with the very hard spike hit of Filio Godoy Gilberto (Number 7) of Brazil. On the other hand Bulgaria was still making service fault etc. to even help Brazil to construct the match as Brazil wishes. Difference of the playing skill level of two are so wide that quite a few people might feel the game was a piece of cake for Brazil. Brazil finished the third set 15:6. Brazil head coach Filho Radames Lattari said, "I am very much satisfied with the result. The defense of today was good as expected. And, the block was also good as we practiced.", and captain Bitncourt Nalbert (Number 12) added, "It was a very important match for us. So, I am very much satisfied and pleased with the result of the first place at Kawasaki."
After a very long fight with Turkey, Australia can go home proud. The formation of head-coach Stelio de Rocco won the clash in the preliminary round of the World Championship in Uozu City with the European team. Although this match was not important anymore for a spot in the next round, both teams wanted to win the battle, because no team would like to go home without a win in this big tournament. The organiser of the next Olympic Games succeeded in this job. After winning the first set, Turkey came back and had an opportunity to win the match with the score of 3-1. But Australia won the fourth set and cruised to the victory in the deciding set.
Yugoslavia took the first position in the preliminary group F of the World Championship. In Uozu City, the team of head-coach Zoran Gajic was just a little bit better than Russia, the number two in the pool. Both teams were already qualified for a spot in the quarterfinal group, for these teams in Chiba-Makuhari and Hamamatsu. But both teams showed that they wanted to win this big European fight. Russia had the best chance in the beginning of the match. The formation of head-coach Guennadi Chipouline, who is also the club-coach of the famous Russian club Belgorie Belgorod, won the first set after the Russians saved some setpoint from Yugoslavia. In the second set, the same thing happened. Yugoslavia was leading 14-12, when Dmitri Fomin (number 8) equalled the set with two tremendous kill-blocks. When Russia had a setpoint at 15-14, the ace of Roman Iakovlev was the successive action. Yugoslavia won the third and the fourth set without any problems. Therefore a rally-point set had to bring the result. Yugoslavia was always in front, till Russia took over the lead at 13-13. A service-error saved Yugoslavia from losing the match. Two points later, an ace from the formation of Gajic was the winning-point. The result doesn't travel together with the teams to Chiba-Makuhari and Hamamatsu tomorrow. Both European formations will meet each other again on the 26th of November in Hamamatsu City. Than the result is more important. Only the two best teams of this big European Group (where except these two teams also The Netherlands and Italy will participate) will go to the medal-round.