Milan, Italy, September 23, 2018 – Russia and Finland opened the programme of the last day of competition at the Forum di Assago in Milan, with Russia, still unbeaten in the second round, delivering an exceptional performance against the underdogs from Finland to claim a 3-0 (25-17, 25-19, 25-22) victory to qualify for the Final Six in Turin.
Finland, however gave a spectacular fight and left the court accompanied by the standing ovation of a sell-out crowd. Victor Poletaev stood out for Russia with 18 points, while for Finland Samuli Kaislasalo top scored with 12 points.
The score was close at the beginning and Urpo Sivula did his best to keep the pace with the reigning European champions (10-11). However, Maxim Mikhaylov signed the Russian lead at the second mandatory break (16-12). By the score of 22-15, Finland coach Tuomas Sammelvuo called his team to the bench to try to break the incredible serving streak of Russia, but another ace widened the gap to 23-16 before Russia eventually secured the win 25-17.
Russia offered their best performance in the second set with powerful serves and repeated kill blocks (13 in the match), that led to a landslide 8-2 lead at the first mandatory break. Coach Sammelvuo gave to his subs the opportunity to take part in the World Championship. Their young libero Niklas Breilin, only 19 years old, showed much character to close the gap at 15-10. However, Russia were unstoppable, even with powerful Mikhaylov sitting on the bench, who was well replaced by Victor Poletaev (seven points in the set) and fixed the win at 25-19.
Finland were not ready to give up in the third set but Russia edged ahead 11-8. Finland, courtesy of revelation Samuli Kaislasalo, closed in at 17-15 but Russia were again in command at 20-16. The Finns attempted a comeback with powerful services by Sauli Sinkkonen to level the score at 22-22, but three points in a row closed the game in favour of Russia.