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17-07-2013

FIVB WORLD LEAGUE FINALS: VICTORIES OF RUSSIA AND BULGARIA

Quiroga had a good performance at the host team of Argentina

Mar del Plata, Argentina, July 17, 2013 - World No. 8 Bulgaria collected their eighth successive win over Argentina following a 3-1 (28-26, 25-23, 20-25, 25-23) victory in the second match of the opening day of the FIVB Volleyball World League Finals on Wednesday.

Argentina, ranked No. 9 in the world, won this match in 2011 3-0 before going on to finish fourth however Bulgaria have won seven matches since, including at the 2012 Olympics.

On this occasion, Bulgaria lived up to their pre-match favouritism by proving too powerful in all facets. The World League’s second best scorer in the Intercontinental Round with 209 points Tsvetan Sokolov was again Bulgaria’s impressive scoring weapon with a day-high 29 points.

But Bulgaria didn’t have it all their own way. The home side, buoyed on by the passionate home fans opened a 18-13 lead in the first set however Argentina seemed to stall under the expectation as some great cross court attacks from Todor Skrimov and captain Aleksiev Todor slowly ate into the Argentina lead. Former skipper Rodrigo Quiroga impressed with his attacking forays but it wasn’t enough for the hosts to hold on as Bulgaria clinched the first set 28-26.

The second set was a lot tighter but continued the trend of the lead swapping hands many times. Sokolov was the catalyst behind Bulgaria staying in the set while the Conte-less Argentineans relied on Quiroga with supporting roles from Sebastian Sole and Pablo Crer. With both teams jostling for position Bulgaria put their noses in front at the finishing post and claimed the second set 25-23 and go 2-0 up overall.

By this stage it looked like Bulgaria, with Georgi Bratoev pulling the strings superbly, were going to run away with a straight sets victory however Quiroga and company had different ideas. They steamed to a 25-20 third set win to reduce the match deficit to 2-1 giving the 5,000 fans plenty more to sing about.

This seemed to spark Bulgaria back into life. Sokolov was unstoppable as last year’s World League and Olympic fourth-placed team did enough to get home 25-23 consigning Argentina to their 10th consecutive defeat and improving Bulgaria’s record against Argentina to five straight wins in the World League including three straight this year.

Bulgaria captain Tsvetan Sokolov says there are no easy matches in the World League and was relieved with his team's 3-1 opening-day win against home team Argentina.

"It was a difficult match for us, but we are very happy with this victory. The first set was even and it's important start the match winning it. In this World League every match is hard, but we hope to play the next match at a high level."

Argentina captain Luciano De Cecco thought his team played well and had a good share of the match, but still need to improve their performance.

"We had opportunities to win the game but we couldn't, and that is an error that we have to correct. But we played well, better than previous matches. We have to see what we did wrong [before] the next game against Italy."

Coach Javier Weber agreed with his captain that the match was close, lamented some crucial lapses.

"We had really good moments, but we didn't play all the time as we had to. When we play against very good teams, like Bulgaria, we are usually close to winning but unfortunately we couldn't make it."

On the first match of the evening, Olympic champions Russia took a significant step towards the FIVB Volleyball World League 2013 semifinals with an impressive 3-2 (25-17, 23-25, 22-25, 25-19, 15-11) win over nine-time winners Brazil in the opening match of the FIVB World League Finals on Wednesday.

World No. 2 Russia have now beaten world No. 1 Brazil twice in succession following last year’s Olympic Games final result which was also by a 3-2 score line. The previous 3-2 contest between the two heavyweights also went Russia’s way in the 2011 World League final while the Europeans have won four of their last six games against Brazil.

Of course, considering the history, there was much anticipation about this match, the first since they contested the brilliant London Olympic Games final. Some of the player lists may have changed but the Olympic champions still had 2.18m Dmitriy Muserskiy in their ranks while Olympic Games top scorer and blocker Maxim Mikhaylov also made his first appearance of the 2013 World League.

Olympic silver medalists Brazil were aiming to make amends for their worst ever World League result of last year when they finished sixth and their serious intention to start the World League Finals on the right foot was obvious considering only three players backed up from their last Intercontinental Round match against USA.

The Intercontinental Round third best scorer Nikolay Pavlov continued in the same vein by top scoring in the match with 27 points with Muserskiy the next best with 14. Wallace, Lucas and Lucarelli top scored for Brazil with 13.

Pavlov set the tone for the rest of the match by scoring the first point. The 2011 World League champions were in great form right from the start as the 31-year-old, who had scored 201 points in the qualifying rounds, proceeded to record five in the first set to lead all top scorers as Russia took a 1-0 lead courtesy of a 25-17 first set win.

The momentum was all with Russia but the world champions Brazil have too much class and pedigree to lie down easily. The record nine-time World League winners kept their noses in front throughout the set. All eyes were on referee Frans Loderus at 21-19 as a toss ball was changed to a Brazilian point. This forced Russia coach Andrey Voronkov to call on Mikhaylov for the first time in the World League. Although Muserskiy recorded an incredible ace to make it 24-22 to Brazil, a Lucas block soon sealed the deal 25-23 and tied up the match at 1-1.

Another Russian star in Sergey Grankin was called upon in the third set but again Brazil were dominant at 16-12. A monster block from Pavlov helped Russia pull within one at 18-17 before Ilia Zhilin also contributed with his own block to tie the scores as 21-21. However, the 28-year-old foot faulted at the next serve before Verbov’s bad reception and Grankin’s serve long gave Brazil the third set 25-22.

Voronkov rallied his troops in the fourth set as Russia streaked to a 11-6 lead. There was no need to move Muserskiy to wing spiker as the middle blocker was superb in defense and attack as Russia moved to 15-8 and 17-9 ahead. The passionate Alexey Spiridonov was red carded at 19-11 but another Pavlov spike off a Lucas block sealed the fourth set 25-19 to take it to a decider.

It was even until Pavlov opened a two point lead at 11-9. Two spikes from Spiridonov gave Russia match point at 14-11 and they needed only one with Pavlov serving up the winner over a Fonteles block.

Lucas - one of Brazil's top scorers in the 3-2 defeat at the hands of Russia explained that Russia's serving was one of the major reasons for their victory.

Brazil player Lucas on the fourth set:"We didn't have a lot of chances with the first ball because they served really strongly and broke our phases a lot, and their distribution also made it more complicated.

"It was a really quick set, we didn't have a lot of options to get into the set, they continued serving well and scoring points."

On the strategy for the tie-break: "To have patience to play, because they had a very big block, but we didn't do this at the start. After we started to play with more intelligence the game was more even, but they had a lot of happiness because they served really well in the last two sets."

On the team's reaction to defeat: "We will rest, focus on the game against Canada and watch what happens in the game [Canada v Russia] tomorrow. I believe that our team is very strong but we have to battle and we have to play well."

On how Brazil turned the match around after losing the first set: "We played really well. Our serves went well and we managed to get points and forced them to make errors. That's the biggest reason we won the second and third sets."

Statistics: RUS-BRA P2 - P3 | ARG-BUL P2 - P3

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