Florence, Italy, September 18, 2018 – Italy completed the first round of the FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship with a perfect record of five wins in as many matches. The fans at Mandela Forum in Florence expected a close fight between Italy and Slovenia but after losing the first set, the hosts were able to pull out a rather comfortable 3-1 victory (23-25, 25-19, 25-13, 25-18).
Italy team captain Ivan Zaytsev was once again the leader and top scorer with 18 points to improve his tally in the competition to 83. Middle blockers Simone Anzani and Daniele Mazzone scored 11 points each. On the Slovenian side, Mitja Gasparini recorded 14 points to his name.
Italy will continue their journey in Milan playing there the Netherlands, Russia and Finland in an all-European second round pool.
Slovenia started resolutely and enjoyed a small advantage for most of the opening set. At 23-21 for the visitors, Zaytsev cut the deficit with a pipe before Alen Sket stepped in for Gasparini (top scorer in the first set with six points) to move the score to 24-22. Klemen Cebulj sealed a 25-23 win for Slovenia, which made less mistakes and was slightly better in serve and reception than the home side.
Italy trailed in the early stages of the second set as well before they eventually edged ahead at 11-10 after an amazing rally, featuring a foot defence by Anzani and a rush by libero Colaci to save that ball. Osmany Juantorena made up for a net violation with two consecutive aces, before Anzani closed the set with two points in a row (25-19).
Italy ran away to an 8-3 lead at the first technical timeout of the third set thanks to an attack by Gabriele Maruotti who had stepped in for Filippo Lanza. The hosts extended their lead to 18-10 and 23-12, before Anzani closed the set again, this time at 25-13. It was a sort of a “perfect set” for Italy: 11 attacks, 2 blocks, 2 aces, plus 82% positive reception, great defence and only 3 unforced errors.
Italy stormed to a 9-6 lead in the fourth set but blocks by Jan Kozamernik and Gasparini helped Slovenia close in at 11-12. However, after that Slovenia made a way too many mistakes to stay in contention and – yet again – Anzani scored the last point of the set, this time at 25-18. With this victory, Italy made amends for the loss they suffered to Slovenia in the semis of the 2015 European Championship in Sofia.