Russia qualified for the quarterfinals after winning the World Cup second round's Pool H in the city of Cordoba over the weekend.
After a poor start in first round, where Russia lost two of three games against less ranked rivals, Russian squad improved its level and is now between the eight best teams of the tournament.
However, the road to quarterfinals was not an easy experience for the Europeans. Poland, Spain, and Portugal proved to be tough teams to defeat and offered fierce resistance to the last World League champions.
On Friday, Russia defeated Poland in a five-set thriller. Both teams started playing strongly and with great determination, but it was Poland that maintained the edge in the opening stages with superior serving. Even when Russian block was very effective during the first set, Polishes managed to keep the difference and finally prevailed. The following two sets were for Russia 25-19 and 25-20, respectively, thanks to great job of its spiker Serguei Tetioukhine, who moved in with a solid attack from the side to foil Polish attempts to dominate. Notwithstanding, Poland then retaliated and leveled 2 to force the tiebreaker after a good performance of their central players. In the tiebreaker, Russia turned up the heat and its "Rockets" closed out the match 3-2.
On Saturday, Russia needed an enormous effort needed to dismiss the spirited Spanish team. In the first set, Spain took advantage of a number of Russian unforced errors, which let them incline it in their favour. The second set was played with great intensity by both teams and was only decided in the last points after Russian block proved to be a huge wall for Spanish attempts. Then, both squads split sets in the third and fourth only to break the parity in the tiebreaker, where Russians played a clever and effective volleyball to win the match and validate their candidate tag.
Portugal did not offer as much resistance as the other two teams on Sunday. A choking service and an effective block were the keys that lead Russia to 3-0 victory.
After winning its Pool, Russia will have now to defeat USA on Wednesday to keep on advancing through its winding road to the finals.
Hernan Etchaleco PRAVDA.Ru Argentina
Photo: Russia celebrates qualification.