Italians played perfect game against Finland, losing only first set. Well presented Dragan Travica, who sperfectly set balls, losing Finnish block many times. Not only Italian wing-spikers, but also middle-blockers spiked often and with nice efficiency.
FINLAND – ITALY 1-3 (25-23 20-25 22-25 22-25)
Line-ups and scores:
Finland: Esko (7), Kunnari (7), Shumov (3), Sivula (22), Siltala (10), Ma.Oivanen (12), Kerminen (L) and Lehtonen (3), Mi.Oivanen (6)
Italy: Travica (5), Kovar (6), Birarelli (14), Vettori (17), Zaytsev (18), Beretta (14), Rossini (L) and Giovi, Saitta
Both teams had offensive success and lacked defensive work in the beginning of the first set where middle-blocker Konstantin Shumov spiked Finland ahead 4-2. Italy came back but Finland’s top spiker Urpo Sivula started his engine and spiked his side to the front at 7-6. The match was well played with lots of intense rallies and spikes marring the floor. Finland took the lead by a few points but Italy rallied and came back. 18-18 and Finland took the lead with a double block. At the end of the first set the spectators were treated to a great rally: Finland tried to open the Italian defense, but the Azzurri had four blocks before Sivula finally powered it home for a 22-20 lead. Shumov put up the Finns 24-20 with a good block and Finland took the set 25-23.
In the second set Sivula and Thomas Beretta respectively kept the two defenses busy with a high spiking pressure. Sivula put Finland up 14-11 with his eleventh point but Italy immediately drew level after good serving from Ivan Zaytsev and Luca Vettori spiked it for 14-14. Italy continued to pressure and took the next two points with Beretta closing the set 25-20 to draw level 1-1.
Third set was close midway through. Beretta still impressed with perfect attacking and hammered home another one to keep his stats at 100% of efficiency in the third set. Zaytsev had found his game and the trio of Beretta, Vettori and Zaytsev lead the Italian resurgence. With a buffer of four points at 20-16 Finland tried to overthrow Italy using two good spikes from Jukka Lehtonen but all in vain. Italy proved too experienced and kept cool to take home the set 25-22 for a 2-1 lead.
Finland came out in the fourth set determined and opened up a commanding 5-1 lead but let Italy come back in the set. Vettori powered up a serve to keep the pressure and spiked it home himself for 3-5 and Zaytsev followed up moments later to put Italy ahead 8-6 at the technical time-out with two aces. Italy could see the trip to Copenhagen and the Final Four in the horizon and when Vettori hammered home yet another point for a 15-11 lead, the Finns seemed out of hope. They made one last surge and closed the score to 16-18 but Italy tightened their grip on this match and used up one match ball before setting Beretta up for an easy spike to claim the set, the match and the Final Four trip to Copenhagen, 25-22 in the fourth set.
Urpo Sivula had 22 points in the game while Ivan Zaytsev and Luca Vettori registered 18 and 17 respectively for Italy.
Mauro Berruto, head coach of Italy: “We again had to change the starting six and that affected our performance in the first set. We have to find the balance in our game, but when that came together in the second set, I think we play very good. I am very happy, that we are now in the Final Four in Copenhagen. That has been our goal right from the beginning. I really think that the guys played together as a team today. Now I hope that many Italian fans will come to Copenhagen and Parken to support the team. The Italian fans that have supported us in Odense and here in Aarhus have been great and the team really appreciates their cheers!”
Antti Siltala, team captain of Finland: “We played an incredible first set and played like we should play: we were controlling the spikes and covering all the balls and were patient. Italy started blocking really well and it made a difference to our own blocking game when our serves didn’t work like in the first games – it’s always easier to block when the serves are good, and our service wasn’t very good today. I’m disappointed now even though our minimum goal was the quarter final. When you beat good teams you get hungry and want to win and today we had a chance to take it but we missed it”.
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Description and press conference: CEV