Italy back on track to play Finland for semifinal spot
2013 CEV VELUX Volleyball European Championship - Men
Aarhus, Denmark, September 24, 2013. After surprisingly losing to Belgium this past Sunday in Odense, Italy got back on track edging the Netherlands 3:1 (24-26, 25-18, 25-21, and 25-18) to play Finland on Wednesday with a spot in the semis at stake. Italy did dissipate a clear lead in the first set but eventually regrouped to sweep the next three and get the right to challenge the Finns on Wednesday in a game that will be very special for their head coach Mauro Berruto, who mentored the “Suomis” from 2005 through 2010.
This was a match on fire right from the start as hard hitters Italy and the Netherlands clashed in Aarhus for the first Playoff match of the day. Italy’s opposite Luca Vettori and Dutch wing-spiker Jelte Maan were the players to lead their teams with 6 and 7 points respectively in the first set. Spikes were flying through the air in the beginning and Italy was up 8-6 and 11-7 before the Dutch made a surge. Wing-spiker Maan was unstoppable and scored two in a row to cut the deficit to 10-11. At 13-13 the Netherlands forces Italy to time-out after three points in a row and they also took the lead 14-13. Six long Dutch arms reached out to take the point away from Italy’s wing-spiker Ivan Zaytsev but he didn’t care and hammered a spike through for a 17-18 deficit. The Netherlands got a 20-17 lead and though Vettori got some more points for Italy the Dutchmen cashed the opening set 26-24 when Zaytsev spiked the ball out of the court.
Exciting rallies opened the second set where Zaytsev and Simone Parodi had to take hits to the chest from the Netherlands but kept on going in a great rally where Italy took the point in the end. After 4-4 Italy started to move away, 6-4 was the first two point lead in the second set and an ace set them up 10-6. From then on it was Italy in control and Zaytsev and Vettori continued leading the Italian way. Italy took the second set 25-18 and leveled the score 1-1.
Third set and the Netherlands got off to a clean 3-0 start. Zaytsev spiked it home for his tenth point and Italy’s first in the third set for a 1-3 deficit. The Netherlands aced it for a 5-8 lead but Italy came back and especially Thomas Beretta, Vettori and Zaytsev played well. Zaytsev gave Italy the lead 17-15 and the strong Italians continued to throw down points on the Dutch half to finish it off at 25-21.
Italy continued to dominate the Dutch and took a very commanding 6-0 lead in the fourth set. The Dutch realized the danger and started to play good Volleyball. Nimir Abdel-Aziz killed blocked it for the 6:9 and the Dutch eventually drew level at 11-11. Italy nevertheless continued to dominate offensively and defensively and after the lead was cut to 19-17, they again pulled ahead and controlled the remainder of the set to cash it at 25-18 with yet another spike killed by Luca Vettori.
Italy captain Emanuele Birarelli said: “We had a tough match against Belgium which we lost but today we showed that we can win against every team in Europe. It was a good match for us with good blocking and good serve”.
Italy coach Mauro Berruto: “We were disappointed after the match against Belgium, and it was a tough first set but I am happy and proud of what happened from the second set. Very proud, we were very consistent today. I know Finland very well; this is not the first time we meet. Finland is consistent and plays good Volleyball; it’s not only attacking Volleyball. All teams should focus on themselves and that’s what we have done so far and we will continue to do the same”.
Edwin Benne, head coach of the Netherlands, commented: “We started off good but could not keep the level and Italy brought back their top level in this match. I’m impressed to see how they built the game and congratulations to the team, their win was well deserved. We showed our maximum level, ad though I’m not satisfied, we gave it our best”.
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