Serbia and Russia settle for silver and bronze at inaugural Men’s U23 Worlds
News from the FIVB
Uberlandia, Brazil, October 13, 2013. The tournament’s highest-scoring match provided a magnificent finale to the first ever Men’s U23 World Championship with Brazil taking gold in a pulsating 3-2 (29-27, 15-21, 21-17, 19-21, and 15-13) victory against Serbia at an ecstatic Arena Presidente Tancredo Neves. Russia won the European derby with Bulgaria 3-1 to settle for bronze.
Brazil twice took the lead, but Serbia fought back both times and forced the home team to earn gold in a tense tie-break. Opposite Rafael Araujo led Brazil with 23 points and was well assisted by team captain Ricardo Lucarelli (12) and middle blocker Otavio Henrique Pinto (11). Serbia captain Aleksandar Atanasijevic led his team brilliantly with 25 points, but it wasn’t enough to resist Brazil’s challenge.
“We had our chances in this match, especially in the first set,” said Atanasijevic before saying his team were happy despite the defeat. “Brazil is a very strong team. They have been building this team for more than five years. We just hope that in the future, maybe in Rio [2016 Olympic Games] we get our rematch.”
Brazil coach Roberley Leonaldo said that victory was special give the strength of the opponent and then highlighted the tournament’s importance in terms of development. “The game was very difficult, as we imagined, but we were prepared technically, tactically and we worked hard. It was a big victory. The renovation of the Brazilian team is continuous, it’s not always noticed and it’s a job always done working with young players alongside the principal team, training together and playing competitions than the main team wouldn’t play. This [U23] competition came to show this work.”
Russia claimed the bronze medal with a blocking master-class that produced a 3-1 (22-24, 22-20, 27-25, and 21-15) victory against Bulgaria. Despite Bulgaria claiming the first set, Russia’s suffocating blocking game was a constant problem for them maintaining any momentum, especially given that it was very much a team effort. Bulgaria played their part in a high-scoring match, but the all-round defensive effort from Russia simply proved too much to overcome. Opposite Bogdan Glivenko (6), team captain Dmitry Kovalev (5) and wing spiker Leonid Shchadilov (5) were the biggest contributors in a tournament-leading total of 25 blocking points, seven points more than the next best total.
Glivenko said Russia were expecting more from the tournament, but were still happy with bronze, a thought shared by his coach Sergey Shlyapnikov. “This bronze medal is good for the team. Some of our players might even make it to the senior team after playing here.”
Bulgaria head coach Dragan Ivanov conceded Russia’s defence was too much for his team to handle. “They made a great difference with their blocks. They’re taller than us, so they overpowered us physically.”
Iran claimed fifth position with a 3-0 (21-14, 23-21, and 21-17) victory against Venezuela, a repeat of the teams’ final pool B match when Iran also claimed a 3-0 win. Iran opposite Reza Ghara was in superb defensive form, with five blocking points in an overall total of 16, which took his tournament total to 89, just ahead of team-mate Mojtaba Mirzajanpour, whose spiking was prominent at the end of the second set. Despite a fifth-place finish, Iran head coach Payman Akbari lamented the fact that he was without some of his best players in the competition due to the Asian Championships taking place at the same time, but his Venezuela counterpart Ivan Nieto was able to look at sixth place in a much more positive light. “This was a very positive tournament for us,” said Nieto. “Not only we were able to advance from the group stage but also we managed to climb in the final ranking. Now they [the players] can move on into the senior category having achieved something for our country.”
In the day’s first match Argentina ended their tournament with a comfortable 3-0 (21-19, 21-15, and 21-15) victory against Tunisia in the 7th-8th place play-off. Argentina avoided a repeat of their first match in the competition when they lost a 2-0 lead against Tunisia before recovering to win on a tie-break, finishing off the match in three sets with wing spiker Ezequiel Palacios the team’s leading blocker and top scorer with 15 points.
“We have a bit of a weird feeling,” admitted Palacios after the win. “We came here with a goal and we bumped into something different. When we played bad, we were very vulnerable and that reflected on the court. Luckily, we could wrap this up with a good game of the entire team and it’s the best way to go home.”
Tunisia head coach Mohamed Mounir Gara said defeat against Iran had affected his players’ confidence and their performance had lacked the necessary concentration against Argentina.
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