Varna, Bulgaria, September 14, 2018 – A lot of songs were sang, a lot of beer were drank by the fans in blue and white as Finland celebrated a 3-1 (25-19, 25-19, 20-25, 25-16) win over Cuba in Pool D of the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Men's World Championship.
Out of action since Sunday the Europeans needed some time to adapt. More than 3000 Finnish fans in the Palace of Culture and Sports in Varna were stunned as Cuba raced to an early 7-2 lead. Which evaporated just as quickly. Elviss Krastins with back to back aces capped the rally for a 10-10 tie. Markus Kaurto with fabulous blocks in a row put Finland ahead for the first time at 15-14. And young Cuban squad never recovered. The advantage soon ballooned to six points as Antti Makinen laid down the hammer – 25-19.
Finland went wire to wire in Set 2. Cuba never led and tied the score just twice. A combination of smart tactical serves, excellent digs, timely blocks and 63% success rate in attack got the final score to 25-19 for the Europeans. Who were trying to avoid their first 0-2 start at a World Championship since 1982.
To do it in straight sets proved impossible as super sub Osniel Melgarejo led Cuba to a 25-20 third set win. But the Caribbeans were uncharacteristically shaky in reception in the fourth. Finland quickly went 7-4 ahead. Just after the technical timeout Eemu Tervaportti came to serve at 8-5. And Finns won seven points in a row to put the game out of reach.
For a second straight match Urpo Sivula was top scorer for the Europeans, this time with 12 points. Markus Kaurto finished with the same tally after recording five blocks. Eemi Tervaportti became the first Finn with five aces in a World Championship game.