The opening day of Pool D offered straight set victories and some nice actions as the sides of the hosts Germany, Bulgaria, Argentina and Portugal gathered in Frankfurt am Main.
With the idea to revive volleyball in the Hessen area, the German Volleyball Federation assigned the “Fraport Arena” in Frankfurt to stage the three-day event. The 5000-seat capacity was not even close to being sold out in the first day, but the organizers strive to promote the event better during the weekend when the home side face the likes of Argentina and Bulgaria.
Pool D opener opposed two well-known countries from last year’s Final Six edition in Gdansk (Poland) – Argentina and Bulgaria. Just like the score one year ago, it was the “gauchos” to grab the victory in a relatively easy fashion 3-0 (25-16, 25-18, 25-21). There was only one side on the field dominating most of the rallies. The Bulgarian team seemed deorganized, the volleyball community knows quite well the internal scandals that hamper their squad to show their current maximum, no need to mention that apart from problems in the direction Team (Coach) vs. Federation, there are some squad intrigues inside the locker room. All this, added to the fact that after all Bulgaria qualifies automatically for the Final round in Sofia as an organizer, contributed to a very predictable and powerless Bulgaria. The star Matey Kaziyski was the only player to remind of his true value, but he is definitely not in the shape of his life. The back-up for the injured starting setter Andrey Zhekov – Georgi Bratoev, was infertile, often inaccurate and quite easy to read for the young Argentine block. The veteran Vladimir Nikolov was replaced after a shaky start, but Tsvetan Sokolov could not impress much either.
On the other side of the field, Bulgaria faced a very determined and in-shape young squad. Lead by the captain Rodrigo Quiroga, the “gauchos” finished the game with positive team reception of 72% and discouraged every Bulgarian attempt for something more in this opener. Luciano De Cecco showed his brilliance once more, his quick sets and pipes were just unstoppable, the poor number of 2 Bulgarian blocks throughout the whole game proves the immense contribution of this player to the momentum of the team coached by Javier Weber. The substitute Cristian Poglajen, playing his volleyball for the Belgian Knack Roeselare, came on the field and also displayed a solid game in reception and even converted the match point for the convincing 3-0 win.
“We won the match because of our fantastic attack,” Argentina coach Javier Weber said. “As it was the first match, we can be very happy with our performance. If our setter plays at such a good level it will be very good for us.”
In the second game Germany and Portugal appeared with a little bit moderated rosters. On the stands among the few fans were Simon Tischer, Marcus Popp and Ferdinand Tille, whereas Markus Boehme, Georg Grozer, Denis Kaliberda and captain Bjorn Andrae stayed on the bench. For Portugal the new head coach Flavio Gulinelli left out of the 12-player group Hugo Gaspar, Joao Jose, Carlos Teixeira, Nuno Pinheiro, Joao Malveiro and Flavio Cruz.
Vital Heynen was confident that his guys will start their 2012 World League campaign easily and allowed some risks with the players list. The chosen players did not disappoint and took a well deserved 3-0 win (25-23, 25-15, 25-18). The Portuguese were a match only in the opening set when a block-out by Robert Kromm sealed an otherwise balanced set in favour of the Germans. After that on the field there were no more problems for the tall Bundesteam. Christian Dunnes played as a middle-blocker and was quite efficient in all elements despite the required change of positions (Dunnes is normally an opposite player). For the visitors special credits should be given to the discovery of the tournament so far, in my opinion – the 20-year-old versatile outside attacker Alexandre Ferreira (plays for SC Espinho in the Portuguese league). He is comparatively unknown to the wide volleyball masses, I believe he has all to expect a bright future – a decent reception, a diversity in attack and a threatening serve. Unlike my pre-game predictions, Gulinelli didn’t start with Valdir Sequeira as an opposite, instead another young guy appeared on court for most of the game – Marco Ferreira. Despite the number of unforced errors, he enjoyed a nice evening, his fast swing and good serves might be a problem for Bulgaria and Argentina in the next two days. Last, I also want to praise another talented setter the people in Frankfurt have the chance to see – Tiago Violas. He shows great maturity for his 23 years and will surely be a valuable signing for the Polish Jastrzebski Wegiel in the 2012-2013 season.
Today’s program lists Portugal – Bulgaria starting 17:00 CET and Germany – Argentina from 20:00 CET.