Tokyo, Japan, September 23, 2015 – Italy claimed their spot at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games
after dealing Poland a 3-1 (26-24, 22-25, 25-22, 25-19) loss, their first of the FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Cup Japan 2015, on the final day of the tournament.
The match was followed by scenes of elation as the Italians put Poland’s chances of Olympic qualification in doubt. The world champions now need to rely on Argentina beating USA in the final match of the competition to claim a berth.
Osmany Juantorena was on top form for Italy as he claimed 25 points. Bartosz Kurek topped the scorers for Poland with 21.
Not much could seperate the two sides at the start of the match, with neither taking a commanding lead. A quick tip from Fabian Drzyzga took Poland ahead by two at 12-10 before a Filippo Lanza ace pulled Italy even again on 14-all. Things started heating up as the set reached its conclusion before Juatorena hammered home a spike to take the first set. It was the fifth time in the tournament the Poles had lost the opener.
Italy were quickly up 5-2 in the second set. But they were drawn back into the fight by Poland following a Michal Kubiak spike to make it 7-all. There was nothing between them throughout the frame, and with so much at stake, neither was willing to take a step back. Poland went two up at 22-20 and held that lead to bring up match point before Juantorena was blocked to move the world champions to within one set of Rio 2016.
Poland were fired up for the third and quickly opened up a 6-3 lead on the back of a Rafal Buszek ace. Italy came storming back and took control with a Juantorena spike on 8-7 and this was extended to 16-12 as Poland began to let the occasion get to them. The frame reached its climax as Ivan Zaytsev claimed Italy’s first set point before thundering a spike at the Polish defence to bring them within a set of Olympic qualification.
It was do or die for both Italy and Poland in the third set, with both knowing that victory in the frame would give them a berth at the Olympics. The Italians dealt with the pressure better at the beginning of the set, going 8-6 up at the first technical timeout. Poland mounted a comeback with a phenomenal ace serve from Kubiak but Italy maintained control, with the tension unbearable for fans of both sides at the Yoyogi. An incredible dig from Zaytsev and block from Juantorena sent Italy into the second technical timeout ahead on 16-13. A huge block from Simone Buti on the backcourt pipe took Italy to within four points at 21-16 and the set and match was delivered with a long Buszek serve.