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Lasko, the best scorer of the competitiion, added 24 points to his record

Hamamatsu, Japan, November 29, 2011 - Italy and Argentina faced off in the third round of the 2011 FIVB World Cup, with the Italians walking away the victors 3-1 (34-36, 25-20, 25-19, 25-20). The match saw Italy again involved in an epic first set, having set the World Cup record for the longest set earlier in the tournament against the US (41-39). Italy's Michal Lasko started Tuesday as the tournament’s leading scorer with 141 points, and he added 24 points to that total in Tuesday’s victory. He was supported by his captain, Cristian Savani with 19 points, and the match’s most impressive player Ivan Zaytsev with 16 points. For Argentina, it was Federico Pereyra leading the way with 17.

The first set was close from start to finish with, Pereyra attacking well for Argentina early, countered by Lasko and Alessandro Fei for Italy. Conte put Argentina up 13-11 with an ace, but Zaytsev countered to pull back even just as quick with an ace of his own. It stayed that way until 24-24, when Lasko (who scored nine in the set) gave his side plenty of chances to win. But service errors plagued the Italians late and kept Argentina in the match. A Travica serve long gave Argentina their first set point at 28-27. Italy stuck close, and Argentina likewise squandered two chances to finish with their own service errors, but eventually they would take an epic set 36-34, a frame where neither team held more than a two-point lead.

That trend continued in the second, as Savani and Zaytsev were firing for Italy and Pereyra for Argentina as the teams edged out to 12-12. A hard Savani spike gave Italy their first three-point lead of the match at 17-14, and Lasko subsequently put them up four with another. The Italians relied heavily on the big lefty again late in this set (seven points in the second in total), until Zaytsev gave them set point with an ace, and Savani closed with a smart tip, 25-20.

In the third Savani helped his side go up 10-6 with his third ace of the match. And while Argentina came back within one, Travica ensured Italy kept a three-point lead with another one. Lasko again played closer with a late spike to go up 20-16, and they would cruise from there to take it 25-19, going up two sets to one.

Italy came out hot in the fourth with birthday boy Fei (he turned 33 on November 29) delivering an ace to open, followed by Travica’s second ace to help their side up 6-1. Conte countered well for Argentina, but the savvy Savani tipped down a stray Argentina pass to keep Italy out from 14-9. A Lasko spike pushed them ahead 23-16, and while Sebastian Solé put up good resistance late with two blocks, a Luciano De Cecco service error gave it to the Italians 25-20, three sets to one.

Press Conference:

Argentina coach Javier Weber: First of all congratulations to Italy, they played better than Argentina today. In the first set Argentina served and attacked well. But after this Italy played with better serving. We had problems in serving and reception, and for us it’s not a good result today.

On facing the USA next in Tokyo: They are a very good team with consistent blocking and defense; very organized. For us it’s very important to play our style, and we expect too a very hard match against the USA.

Argentina captain Rodrigo Quiroga: For today’s game I think Italy played a perfect match in service, and we couldn’t play as we potentially can because they pressured us hard with service and blocked well. For the third round overall, I think it was totally negative as we lost all three matches and lost all the points. Now we have to think about four round in Tokyo, because these last three matches are important for us. The most difficult match is the first one against the USA.

On playing well early, and then dropping the next three sets: I don’t know why, perhaps we lost the focus maybe in the second set, and also the third set. AsIi said before they pressured us with very good serving. They have six jump servers who are very strong. That’s why our setter couldn’t play as he normally does. They had very good blocking also, and we just didn’t play [to our potential] in the second part of the match. We now have to think about next matches in Tokyo.

Italy coach Mauro Berruto: I’m happy about today. I expected much from Argentina today, as they play wonderful volleyball. The first set was a fight, one which we lost as a result of some mistakes. But I’m proud that we controlled the game, with three very good sets against Argentina, which is not easy. I’m happy to go to Tokyo and follow our dream to fight for an Olympic ticket. This match wasn’t easy. The second part of this match showed to everyone that this team has energy and is consistent physically and mentally, and I hope in last three matches those tools will serve us well.

Italy captain Cristian Savani: The third round has been very difficult with three tough games. We played well — we were beaten by Cuba, but we won the other games, so we’re satisfied with the result. We’re tired but we still expect a top three finish and an Olympic ticket. Our goal is to do as well as we can now in the final round.

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