Defending World League champion Russia faced the tough battle against European champions from Serbia in the first game of 2012 FIVB World League competition in Japan.
Russian team has brought an experimental team to the first group stage in Japan, missing the likes of “the scoring machine” Maxim Mikhaylov, both of main setters Butko and Grankin, experienced outside hitters Khtey and Tetyukhin and even the head coach Vladimir Alekhno. But the strength and depth of Russian men’s volleyball still allows the squad to be called the clear favorite of the group. Some very promising new talents were given the chance to prove themselves – the best scorer of Russian Superliga opposite hitter Pavel Moroz, 21 y.o. setter Igor Kobzar and outside hitter Alexey Rodichev.
The Serbs came to Japan in full strength and look in good shape. They even managed the unthinkable – to find a decent substitute for the Great Ivan Miljkovic – young opposite hitter Aleksandar Atanasijević has undoubtably outplayed his Russian opponents.
Both teams have shown pretty solid game and the ambitious young team from Balkans forced the Russians to the deciding set showing to everyone that the title of the group winner is anything but certain.
Russia – Serbia – 3:2 (25:21, 25:22, 19:25, 20:25, 15:9)