Milan, Italy, September 21, 2018 – The Azzurri claimed their sixth victory in a row at the FIVB Men’s World Championship, this time against Finland, doing so in three straight sets (25-20, 25-18, 25- 16). The result is courtesy of the powerful performance of their star players, captain Ivan Zaytsev and Osmany Juantorena, who scored 14 points each, thus setting on fire the 12,600 fans in attendance at the Assago Forum.
Italy coach Gianlorenzo Blengini opted for the same six starting players from the last match in Florence, with Gabriele Maruotti stepping in for Filippo Lanza, who this time played as a libero. After a close start (6-6, 10-10), Finland, determined not to give Italy a run for their money, eventually took a surprising two-point advantage at 13-11. Daniele Mazzone was pivotal to the comeback of the home side (13-13) but to the delight of the handful of Finnish supporters in attendance, opposite Urpo Sivula – who emerged as best scorer for his side in the end with 12 points - pushed his team ahead at 14-13. Italy were resilient and with the commanding performance of Osmany Juantorena edged ahead at 19-17 and the hosts never looked back (25-20).
The second set was firmly in the hands of Italy, who reached the first mandatory break leading 8-4. Finland coach Tuomas Sammelvuo tried to change the course of the game by replacing Elviss Krastins with Antti Ronkainen but the Azzurri broke away at 11-7. Libero Lauri Kerminen fought hard for every ball and the new entry Ronkainen served an ace that shortened the distance to 13-10. This did not scare the Azzurri, however, who immediately claimed a decisive lead 20-16. The powerful services of captain Zaytsev closed the set in Italy’s favour at 25-18.
The blocks raised by Simone Anzani and Mazzone, together with the powerful spikes of Zaytsev, at the end, proved to be too much for Finland, who soon trailed 8-16. Coach Sammelvuo called a timeout by the score of 8-17 hoping in some kind of a reaction from his players, but co-hosts Italy kept their performance at high levels and marched towards a landslide 25-16 win.