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11/08/2019 23:00
Poland, Italy and Russia qualify for Tokyo 2020 Olympics
News from the FIVB

Luxembourg, August 11, 2019. Italy, Poland and Russia secured on Sunday their participation in the men’s Volleyball tournament of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Poland dropped the first set of their match with Slovenia but they qualified for the Olympics by taking the next one before cashing a 3-1 victory to complete a clean sweep of their matches in Gdansk. Russia thumped Iran 3-0 to book a ticket to Tokyo 2020 – just as Italy did by routing Serbia in three straight sets to make amends for the rather shaky performance displayed on Saturday night against Australia in Bari. The last ticket to Tokyo 2020 will be at stake in early January through a continental qualifying event featuring the top eight teams – bar those already qualified – taken from the European Ranking published after completion of the upcoming EuroVolley.

In Saint Petersburg, it took Russia just over an hour and half, including a come-from-behind third set, to claim their place at the men’s volleyball tournament of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games with a 3-0 (25-19, 25-23, 25-23). It was not as easy as the final score might suggest, with Russia having to fight back from 17-20 down in the third set, before tying at 21-21, breaking clear with an ace of Egor Kliuka for 23-22 and taking the final point on an attacking error by Amir Ghafour.

Victor Poletaev was top scorer of the game with 19 points (two more than Ghafour) as Russia dominated play in all skills and also took advantage of a full set’s-worth of points on Iranian unforced errors.

Russia (including as USSR) have played in every single Olympic Volleyball tournament, bar that of the boycotted 1984 Los Angeles Games. They top the medals standings of men’s volleyball at the Olympic Games with a total of 10 medals, including gold in Tokyo 1964, Mexico City 1968, Moscow 1980 and London 2012. In fact, they have been absent from the podium only four times in their 13 appearances.

World champions Poland qualified for the Olympics with a clean sweep of their matches in Gdansk.

In Gdansk, reigning world champions Poland had made it through to Tokyo 2020 after claiming one set against Slovenia, before going on to win the match outright 3-1 (21-25, 25-23, 25-23, 25-21). Slovenia needed a straight-set sweep and a point difference of 17 or more to complete the upset and get the Olympic ticket themselves.

It was a seemingly impossible task, but the Slovenes were not about to throw in the towel and promptly shocked the pool hosts by taking the first set (and reducing the gap to 13 points). But Poland were having none of that. Although the two teams were still neck-and-neck at 20-20 in the second set, Poland made a break to open up a two-point margin on back-to-back aces by Wilfredo Leon and kept siding out until a service error by Tine Urnaut brought it all to a rather abrupt end and the Poles could properly celebrate. At that point, Poland coach Vital Heynen brought all his reserves on court, though his Slovenia counterpart Alberto Giuliani stuck with his original starting lineup throughout the rest of the match.

Poland will be at the Olympic Games for the 10th time in their history, having won a sole medal since their first appearance in Mexico City 1968 - gold at Montreal 1976.

Italy wrapped up a thrilling day of Olympic qualifiers across the world, crushing Serbia Sunday night in Bari 3-0 (25-16, 25-19, 25-19) in just an hour and a half to secure the weekend’s last available ticket for the men’s Volleyball tournament of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Ivan Zaytsev was the man of the match for Italy on Sunday night against Serbia.

Led by Ivan Zaytsev’s scoring (13 points including all three of his team’s aces), Italy totally out-blocked Serbia side 6 to 1, as the Balkan side conceded as many as 18 unforced errors in the three sets. At no moment in the game were the ‘Azzurri’ threatened by Serbia, who failed to reach into the 20s in any of the three sets. Tokyo 2020 will mark Italy’s 12th appearance at the Games - still aiming for that all-elusive gold medal after collecting three silver and three bronze since their first podium finish in 1984.

Elsewhere, Argentina, USA and Brazil also qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Argentina edged China 3-2 to complete a clean sweep of their matches in Ningbo as USA did in Rotterdam where they beat the Netherlands 3-1. Brazil survived a scare coming back from 1-2 to edge Bulgaria at the tiebreak and secure the right to defend the title they claimed on home soil in Rio de Janeiro.

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