Turin, Italy, September 28, 2018 - Defending champions Poland never left in any doubt who the boss was, promptly took the first set to seal their 2018 FIVB World Championship semifinal ticket and knock out hosts Italy - despite eventually losing the match.Saturday's semifinals:
• 17:00 local time (15:00 GMT): Brazil v Serbia
• 21:15 local time (19:15 GMT): Poland v USA
Poland totally controlled the crucial first set from the very beginning, cruising to an astonishingly easy 25-14, silencing the sellout crowd at the Pala Alpitour and prompting huge celebrations as their subs swarmed the court like it was the end of the match.
With Poland coach Vital Heynen bringing on his subs after the deal was done, Italy managed to balance the game and show just a bit more spirit to at least finish the tournament with a 3-2 (14-25, 25-21, 18-25, 25-17, 15-11) win - though it was hardly any consolation.Michal Kubiak is hardly bothered by Italy's double block of Italy's Ivan Zaytsev and Daniele Mazzone as he leads Poland to victory in the critical first set, Friday night in Turin.
In a sold-out Pala Alpitour, Italy was rewarded by a warm applause despite failing to offer their best effort against Poland, who enter the semifinals with full merit.
Italy's National Anthem needed no background music as over 12,000 fans chanted it with all their voice: a perfect prelude to a barely impossible collective effort, as Poland needed to win one single set or score 61 total points to clinch first place in Pool J of the Final Six - and eliminate the home team.
It took only one set, though, with Poland too focused and tactically prepared against the desperate efforts of the opponent: coach Vital Heynen asked Michal Kubiak to mark Ivan Zaytsev one-on-one, and the experiment was a success as the Polish captain hit two killer blocks on his rival and accumulated 7 points in a single set.
After achieving the main goal, coach Heynen chose to give space to the players on the bench; and Italy, set free of the huge pressure they suffered as the host of the Final Six, could then play more freely.
As the Italians try to imagine their future and start preparing for the long road to Tokyo 2020, good news for coach Gianlorenzo Blengini came from Luigi Randazzo's impressive fourth set (7 points, 7/8 attack for the 24-year old) and Davide Candellaro's 12 points coming out of the bench. Mateusz Bieniek lead Poland's scoring with 12 points, as the others saved their best for Saturday.Quick links - Volleyball:FIVB Volleyball Men's World Championship Italy-Bulgaria 2018NewsScheduleCompetitionTeamsResults and rankingTicketsVolleyball TV