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Serbia, Poland join hosts Brazil, Russia, USA, wild-card Japan in FIVB World League Final Round after exciting end to Intercontinental Round action
Serbia celebrate advancing to the FIVB World League Final Round after victory over France
Lausanne, July 20, 2008 - Serbia and Poland joined host Brazil, Pool B winner Russia, Pool C winner USA and wild-card Japan in the FIVB World League Final Round as the Intercontinental Rounds of the premier annual Men's competition featuring the world's best players came to an end.
On another weekend of big attendances at World League matches around the globe, Serbia downed France 3-2 in front of 6,900 fans and 3-1 in front of 9,100 to finish with a 7-5 win-loss record which gave them second place in Pool A behind Brazil, who qualify for the Final Round in Rio de Janeiro as hosts. France finished 6-6.
Poland (9-3) made sure of their place in the Final Round that runs through July 23-27 after beating Egypt (4-8) 3-0 and 3-1 at home in front of a total of more than 16,000 fans.
Elsewhere, in Pool A Brazil (10-2) were cheered on by crowds of 11,200 and 11,332 as they notched two consecutive victories against Venezuela, who finished 1-11.
In Pool B, hosts Russia (10-2) downed Korea 3-1 in their first match before the Asians came back from two sets down in the second to record a brilliant five-set victory and notch their first World League victory of this edition. Italy (7-4), meanwhile, beat Cuba (5-6) 3-1 twice.
In Pool C, Bulgaria (8-4) notched two victories over the already qualified USA (9-3), 3-2 and 3-1, the second match being FIVB's free-for-broadcasters "Match of the Week," while Finland (4-8) did the same against Spain (3-9), winning 3-2 and 3-0.
In other Pool D tie, Japan, the team the FIVB awarded the Final Round wild card to, beat China 3-0 before the visitors came back to claim the second match 3-1. The Chinese finished with a 6-6 record and Japan 5-7.
The Serbians produced an exhilarating fight back from two sets down in their first match against France in Nis to win 23-25, 18-25, 25-21, 25-19, 15-8 to claim their 100th World League victory in total before winning the second match 25-20, 25-22, 12-25, 25-17 in Belgrade to ensure qualification ahead of the French. Ivan Miljkovic was the star of the show as he top-scored both nights with 21 and 23 points. Said Serbian Head Coach Igor Kolakovic. "I am extremely happy with the final result and two victories. We achieved our goal as the whole World League was a mixture of ups and downs and our goal was to qualify for the Finals. The players were patient and they did what they had to do. We have entered into a good form and good level of playing but it is only a question of how far we will go now for the Finals after a long trip."
The yellow-clad hordes of Brazilian fans packed into the Goiania Gymnasium in Goiania to see their team beat Venezuela 25-23, 25-16, 29-27 and 25-19, 25-20, 25-17 in a good warm-up before the Final Round. Surprisingly, Venezuela's Ernardo "Harry" Gomez was top scorer both nights. Said Brazilian Head Coach Bernardo Rezende: "Each match we play better than the previous. The Final Round is approaching and we still have conditions to grow up in many aspects.
Russia were pushed hard by Korea in the first match in Khanty-Mansiysk 22-25, 25-23, 25-23, 26-24, which would have given them a clue on how fired-up the visitors were. This was made clear in the second match as the Koreans stormed back from two sets down to win 20-25, 17-25, 25-19, 25-23, 15-13. Said Korean Head Coach Chi- Yong Shin: "I would like to thank all my Volleyball players for wonderful match. They have not given up till the last moment of the match." Sung-Min Moon fired in 26 points in the second match to help the Koreans to victory, with Moon finishing way at the top of the scoring charts after the Intercontinental Rounds with 284 points, 76 ahead of second-placed Yuan Zhi of China.
Italy won 21-25, 25-23, 25-21, 25-21 in front of 4,950 in Torino before switching to Monza and winning 25-20, 21-25, 25-21, 25-23 to end their World League campaign on a high. Italy's Hristo Zlatanov, who played a starring role in the last match of the Intercontinental Rounds on Sunday evening, said: "I am happy to close this phase with two successes. We are working for the future. Not a good shape but it was important to win in order to say that we will be in Beijing to try to do something important."
Finland came from 2-1 down in Tampere to beat European champions Spain 25-21, 23-25, 23-25, 25-23, 15-11 in front of 5,410 fans before easing to a 25-17, 25-15, 25-19 win in front of 5,860 the next match. A proud Finland Head Coach Mauro Berruto said after the second match: "It was a tremendous match for us in every way. I want to thank all my players and staff for excellent work. Finland deserves to be in this great competition. It is amazing how well the end of the World League went to us and I am really happy."
In a dress rehearsal for their match-up at the Olympic Games, Bulgaria sent a warning shot across the bows of USA by winning a tough five-setter 25-22, 24-26, 25-16, 23-25, 15-10 in front of 6,250 at the Palace of Culture and Sports in Varna before claiming the second match 25-20, 20-25, 25-20, 35-33. Todor Aleksiev top-scored 28 points in the first match while Sean Rooney did likewise with 21 in the second. Said Aleksiev after the second match: "I am satisfied that we have played our best match in this World League edition. People are happy and we are so because we are getting in shape for the Olympics. We have to work hard because we have great goals in Beijing."
Poland beat Egypt 25-21, 25-21, 25-16 and 25-20, 25-23, 23-25, 25-23 in Poznan and Bydgoszcz, respectively, to claim their place in the Finals. Said Poland Head Coach Raul Lozano: "Now we'll face the best teams on the globe and, at the same time, the last stage of our Olympic preparation. If a player is going to suffer any kind of injury or discomfort, he will not play. Giving the best possible performance in Rio is not our first goal. We want to get to the Olympic Games in the best possible shape. I want to add that this is the best Polish volleyball team since the times of Hubert Wagner. It's a result of four years' of hard work."
Japan hosted China in Osaka and, inspired by young southpaw Kunihiro Shimizu, won the first match 26-24, 25-20, 25-13 in front of 8,600 fans before China turned the tables with a 25-20, 25-21, 27-29, 25-23 win in front of 8,000. Said Head Coach Tatsuya Ueta after the first match: "The result did not happen by chance. The important thing was the process, and through the physical training we were able to make good serves. Our team condition is very good, so we want to prepare for the Olympics through these games."
Match of the Week
The sixth Match of the Week between Bulgaria and USA was broadcast by 13 TV channels. A total of 23 different TV channels have broadcast the Matches of the Week during the 2008 edition of the World League. The "Match of the Week," which is free for use by television channels, is available to the World League's valued Host Broadcasters and other TV channels on each weekend of Intercontinental Round action and amplifies the interest in the World League among TV viewers
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