Omsk, Russia, September 21, 2008 – Hosts Russia and Germany are the third and fourth European team together with Netherlands (already qualified) and Poland (wild card) to book their ticket for the 2009 FIVB World Grand Prix. Germany clinched their spot with a straight-set win against France. Russia overpowered the Netherlands 3-0. The 2007 European champions Italy and runners-up Serbia go away empty-handed.
In the first match of the day at SKK im Blinova sports hall in Omsk, Germany outclassed France in straight sets (25-16, 25-20, 25-19). Italy beat Serbia 3-2 (25-19, 19-25, 27-29, 25-15, 15-9) and hosts Russia displayed their power against Pool leader Netherlands 3-0 (25-9, 25-19, 25-17) in front of 4,200 delighted spectators.
The eagerly awaited duel between hosts Russia and Pool leader Netherlands to decide the last spot for the 2009 FIVB World Grand Prix turned out to be a Russian display of power, especially in set No. 1 (25-9!) and in the beginning of set No. 2 (8-3). The Russian quartet Maria Borodakova, Olga Fateeva, Natalya Safronova and Yulia Merkulova dominated their opponents in almost all aspects of the game. Dutch Head Coach had got his hands full, taking time outs and changing players. Even when the flying Dutch came closer in the second set, the Russian express was unstoppable (25-19). The match was over as a contest now, and when marvelous Russian setter Marina Sheshenina set up for Ekaterina Gamova, the home crowd cheered for the first match point. A searing winner from Safronova some moments later wrapped-up the set and the match in Russian’s favor.
“I’m very happy,” said Russian Head Coach Vadim Pankov. “We improved a lot during this tournament. Playing the 2009 FIVB World Grand Prix will be very important for the Russian team in order to rebuild a new strong team for the future.”
Italy needed a 3-0 or 3-1 win against Serbia to book their ticket to the 2009 FIVB World Grand Prix unassisted. Right from the beginning, Valentina Fiorin on fire put a lot of pressure on the Serbian squad. Some brilliant combinations from 16-15 to 21-15 raised Italian hopes of reaching their goals early in the match. Six Italian blocks to one were another argument to quit the court as winners. The Azzurre kept the lead, closing out the first set 25-19. Serbia kick started into the second set apparently showing less fear towards the 2007 European champions than in the beginning. Head Coach Zoran Terzic brought in Bizitka Molnar for inefficient Captain Jelena Nikolic to bounce to a 10-3 Serbian lead. Jovana Brakocevic and Ivana Derisilo-Stankovic turned up the head, scoring both from front and back row. Brakocevic brought up set point at 24-18 and Molnar ended the set a minute later. Teams exchanged points head-to-head until 27-27 in the third set. Brakocevic stepped up; delivering blistering spikes that ruined Italy's defense and finished off the third set 29-27. But Italy bounced back strongly, taking the fourth set quite easily 25-15. In the decider, Italy took an early 8-5 lead. Martina Guiggi had a big block to continue the Italian string of success. The Azzurre attacked strongly through Centoni and Bosetti. Italy pulled away while Serbian Brakocevic sat on the bench. Italian Libero Paola did a great job in defense until a Centoni spike from the right ended the set 15-9 and the match.
“We’ll need maybe five or six years to rebuild a strong team as we had one in 2007,” explained Serbian Head Coach Zoran Terzic. “2008 was a heavy year for the Serbian team.” For Italian Head Coach Massimo Barbolini, “the World Grand Prix qualifier here in Omsk was important to draw conclusions for the future. It will be hard to miss the 2009 World Grand Prix but we’ll take advantage of this situation to work hard during next summer.”
France committed too many mistakes in attacking and defending early in the first set against Germany, with German hitters Saskia Hippe and Margareta Kozuch converting for an early lead (8-3). The team of Head Coach Giovanni Guidetti kept up a high rhythm, playing disciplined in defense and powerful on the net to take the first set 25-16. Germany edged ahead in the second set as their weaker opponent could not set up a decent combination due to their irregular serve reception and uncoordinated blocking on the net. The Germans eventually took set point from an attack from Hippe and French Alexia Djilali attack on the opposite side was blocked, which clinched the set 25-20. Heike Beier and Kozuch kept their composure and ran Germany's offence exceptionally in set No. 3, with only Djilali’s offence keeping France in the match. The French squat tried to bounce back but when Christina Bauer’s attack got going, Germany sped away with the set and match.
“We played a strong tournament here in Omsk”, said German Head Coach Giovanni Guidetti. “It was important to compete on such a high level, all the more as we played for the first time without Angelina Grün. Playing at the World Grand Prix becomes more and more significant. Best example were the Olympic Games in Beijing, where teams like Brazil, USA, Cuba and China playing the World Grand Prix seriously have been ranked in the first positions.”
There will be 12 participating teams next year in the World Grand Prix with the tournament scheduled for a four-week period in July and August. The Preliminary Rounds are set for July 31 to August 16, including a stop in Brazil for the first time, and the Final Round from August 19-23 in Tokyo. Japan, China, Brazil, USA, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Netherlands, Russia, Germany and Poland (wild card) are the teams already qualified. Two other places will be decided at the Asian Women’s Cup Volleyball Championship from October 1-7.
MVP: Manon Flier (NED)
photo Getty Images
photo Getty images