Russia were superior froom the very beginning especially from the service line and block. Iran, however, could not execute decent passing, making it hard for setter Marouf to set-up their plays. The Olympic champions jumped to a 21-14 advantage and easily closed the set at 25-19, with Pavlov’s spiking and serving on target, earning 5 points and 2 points from these skills, respectively.
Iran regained their composure in the second set and led 8-7 at the first technical timeout. Outside hitter Milad Ebadipour and opposite Amir Ghafour played a key role to score 12 points for the Iranian side, while team-mate Mousavi manned the net with two blocks. Both teams played with an exchange of rallies until Pavlov finished on a counter attack to put the Russians ahead with two points at 22-20. Russia libero played spectacular defence to help Muserskiy run an tricky attack and score the final point of the second set for Russia 25-21.
The tall Russian middle blocker also showed his best skills in the third set, causing trouble on the Iranian defence. Kovac brought in some fresh energy in the court to swing the tempo to their side, but the substitutions did not help as Russia continued with good rhythm and moved ahead quickly with a 9-4 advantage. Artem Volvich’s float serve proved to be too difficult for Iran libero Farhad Zarif that pushed the score further up 12-7 for Russia. Iran could no longer dismount the big lead of the Russians and struggled with a series of errors to allow the Russians to take the set and match 25-18 for a fifth
France: Toniutti (2), N’gapeth (21), Le Roux (10), Rouzier (5), Tillie (13), Le Goff (8), Grebennikov (L) and Marechal (2), Sidibe (11), Jaumel Brazil: Bruno (1), Lucarelli (22), Lucas (16), Wallace (17), Murilo (3), Sidao (13), Mario Junior (L), Felipe Silva (L) and Felipe Fonteles (2), Visotto (8), Raphael
Coming into the court very focused, both teams knew what was at stake in the clash. They started a fierce battle from both sides of the court. With Lucarelli and Sidão’s fine block, Brazil gained the leading at the very beginning of the first set (1-0) and kept it as Sidão and Wallace displayed efficient spikes (6-3). Making a use of opponent’s problem with building defence and playing first attacks, Brazil increased their advantage to seven points (16-9) at the second technical timeout. France couldn’t find the right answer to Brazil’s kills and single trials by Antonin Rouzier or Kevin Le Roux and Mory Sidibe’s block were not enough. At 21-14, fine serve series by Earvin N’gapeth reduced Brazil’s lead to four points (21-17). However, the defending champions finished the first set 25-18, making a use of their first set ball.
The second set saw a great performance by Earvin N’gapeth. At the beginning, France managed to gain a 2-1 lead after Rouzier’s and Ngapeth’s spikes and kept the margin due to good plays of Kevin Tillie and a fine dink by Benjamin Toniutti. Staying focused and behind Kevin Le Roux’s two kills in a row, France extended their gap to five points (11-6). Additionally, France’s block worked well and three-coloured opposites did their best to force the world No. 1. ranked Canarinhos. However, Brazil started the chase and after a fine triple block displayed by Sidão, Lucarelli and Vissotto, they reduced the distance to three points (14-11). After Vissotto’s right-wing kill followed by France’s mistake, the distance was only one point (17-16). Two aces in a row by Felipe Fonteles helped them with keeping touch (20-19). The exciting second set finished 25-23 for France, after Wallace’s spike went out of bounds.
After ten-minutes break, France managed to gain 2-0 lead at the beginning of the third set. The action was played on a point-by-point basis and none of the teams could gain some comfortable leading. With spikes by Murilo and Lucas of Brazil and Kevin Tillie of France, the scoreboard showed 7-7 and a fierce attack by Mory Sidibe put France 8-7 ahead at the first technical timeout. Both teams played with a great devotion in defence which helped to produce efficient counter-attacks and made the game tough and balanced. Brazil with powerful Lucas managed to jump 14-13 ahead. After fine Nicolas Le Goff’s block on Lucarelli followed by Sidibe’s spike, France went 18-17 ahead and forced Bernardo Rezende to call timeout. This break helped his team to regain focus as they managed to jumped 23-21 ahead and finished the third set 25-23.
As it was in the previous sets, the fourth one began with balanced game. Hard spikes from both sides of the court, preceded by well passing were sometimes interrupted by technical mistakes. However, the scoreboard showed an even (4-4). After fine Kevin Tillie’s spike, followed by two Brazil’s errors, France jumped 7-4 ahead and kept the advantage at the first technical timeout (8-6). With Wallace’s spikes and some trials of playing efficient counter-attacks, Brazil wanted to catch up, but Sidibe’s kills prevented them from making a step forward till 12-11, when they finally found a way to gain the lead. Fine double block by France, followed by Kevin Le Roux’s ace pushed France 14-13 ahead, but they floundered the advance and they were Brazil, who led 16-15 at the second technical timeout. However, with great playing by N’gapeth and aggressive serves by Le Goff, France regained two-points leading (19-17). Extending their leading, Laurent Tillie’s players finished the fourth set 25-23 to open the way for a tie-break.
The final part of the mach, which decided the promotion to the great final was opened with Lucas’ kill. A quick answer by N’gapeth made the score even, but after Sidão’s spike, Brazil jumped at 4-2. France answered with Nicolas Marechal’s and Nicolas Le Goff’s spike what helped them with catching up at 6-6. As Brazil led 8-7 during changing sides, they put some pressure on France and with well-built defence (Lucarelli’s block), extended the leading to three points (11-8). During the fifth set’s ending, Brazil claimed their advance, winning 15-12 to book the ticket to the final.
The second semi-final started with the enthusiasm of the white and red fans crowd gathered at Spodek Hall in Katowice, which put some pressure on Germany from the very beginning. Due to Mariusz Wlazły’s kill and Germany’s mistake, Poland gained a 2-0 lead, but staying focused, Vital Heynen’s players managed to jump 4-2 ahead and force Stephane Antiga to call timeout. After Michał Winiarski and Piotr Nowakowski’s efficient blocks, Poland started catching up at 5-4, but the good playing of Germany with György Grozer’s ace extended their margin to four points (8-4). Host team, mostly due to aggressive serves by Winiarski and Kłos’ kill evened up at 10-10. Keeping the good passing, Germany led 16-14 at the second technical timeout and Marcus Böhme’s ace extended the gap to three points (18-15). However an efficient block by Mateusz Mika and Karol Kłos followed by two kills and Winiarski’s service winner, helped Poland to jump 20-18 ahead. It was a very exciting ending, as the scoreboard showed 23-23 before finishing 26-24, when Michał Kubiak won the battle at the net.
Starting the second set with a very balanced game, hosts Poland managed to build a two-point advantage (4-2), after a fine counter-attacks series and presenting aggressive serves. However, Germany were still just behind and with Dirk Westphal on the left wing, they tried to catch up, but they were Poland who led 8-5 at the first technical timeout. Max Günthör’s ace caused an even 8-8 score, but fine block displayed by Wlazły and Kłos put Poland on the lead again (11-9). Winiarski with his effective left-wing spikes preceded by a great serve series by Nowakowski extended Poland’s advantage to six points (16-10). Germany couldn’t have found any answer for speeding-up hosts until Max Günthör came at the service line, as he managed to reduce Poland’s lead to two points (20-18), followed by Grozer, who caught up at 21-21 due to his serves. Amazing defence by Mariusz Wlazły by his leg saved Poles from losing set 24-24. Another terrific set concluded 28-26 in favour of Poland after a fine block.
Starting after the ten-minutes break, both teams opened the third set with a fierce that caused a balanced game once again. After Wlazły’s left-wing spike, Poland went 2-1 ahead. Adding Wlazły’s point-serves’ series and double block, Poland jumped into a two-point lead (6-4). With the good plays by their outside-hitters and making a use of the opponent’s mistakes, Poland managed to increase their gap to five points (10-5). However, several Poland’s mistakes caused the advantage to narrow to jusy to one point (11-10) and a fine serve displayed by Denys Kaliberda made an even 11-11 score. As Germany still kept a pressure on Poland with their fine defence and hard spikes, the score was tight throughout the set. Both teams put all their efforts to fight for every ball so the ending of the third set was full of breath-taking emotions with Germany finally winning 25-23.
As Gemany kept their focus from the previous set, they gained a 3-1 lead. After Westphal’s kill, they were still one point in front (4-3), but hosts Poland tried their best with building efficient blocks and finishing counter-attacks. Thanks to Denys Kaliberda serving error, the white-and-reds caught up at 6-6, but the game was continued on a point-by-point basis all the time. With Jochen Schöps point serve, Germany jumped 10-8 ahead, but efficient block displayed by Kłos and Mika made a 10-10 even and an ace by Wlazły put hosts 13-10 ahead. However, Germany managed to take touch at 13-13 and forced Stephane Antiga to call timeout. Regaining the advance, Poland improved to a 21-18 difference after some amazing digs followed by efficient counter-attacks. Pumping up by twelve thousands spectators, Poland stayed focused and finished the fourth set 25-21, booking their ticket to the gold medal match.
Personal choices/predictions for individual awards:
Most Valuable Player: Mariusz Wlazły (Poland)/Ricardo Lucarelli (Brazil) Best Setter: Mir Saeid Marouf (Iran)/Bruno Rezende (Brazil) Best Opposite: Mariusz Wlazły (Poland) Best Outside Hitters: Ricardo Lucarelli(Brazil)/Denys Kaliberda (Germany)/Earvin N’gapeth (France) Best Middle Blockers: Seyed Mousavi Eraghi (Iran)/Dmitriy Muserskiy (Russia)/Lucas Saatkamp (Brazil) Best Libero: Jenia Grebennikov (France)