Kristian Gamba is his team's top scorer as the Italians prepare to take on Russia in the semifinals of the 2019 FIVB Volleyball Men's U21 World Championship in Bahrain
Manama, Bahrain, July 25, 2019 – Italy and Brazil completed the second round with a sweep of their matches to lead the final four cast of the 2019 FIVB Volleyball Men’s U21 World Championship.
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The Italians are undefeated heading into the knockout round after collecting full points in their six victories, while Brazil kept a strong pace to earn three triumphs in the second round, dropping only their match against the Italians during the opening round play.
Italy relied on great teamwork and balance in offence to reach the semifinals, with at least three players – Kristian Gamba, Daniele Lavia and Francesco Recine – sharing scoring chores in their previous outings. In the defence department, the Italians reigned at the net and in reception with Lorenzo Cortesia claiming the highest average of 0.95 blocks per set and Recine passing with a 50.57 per cent efficiency.
Brazil are led by Victor Aleksander Almeida Cardoso who was the most effective attacker so far in the competition with a success rate of 60.34 per cent from the three-metre line. The Brazilians likewise took good care of defending their side with Guilherme Voss Messias Dos Santos, Bruno Bello Ruvio and Lucas Augusto Figueiredo reinforcing their blocking, digging and receiving, respectively.
Victor Aleksander Almeida Cardoso in action for Brazil
Italy and Brazil’s respective opponents in the semifinals, Russia and Iran, recovered from their losses in the second round with straight-set wins on Wednesday to secure their spots in the semifinals.
Maksim Sapozhkov had double-digit performances in the second round for Russia to become the second best scorer so far in the tournament with 119 points. The opposite spiker is Russia’s go-to hitter and has been their key player in their five victories. Against Brazil on Tuesday, Sapozhkov led all scorers with 22 points, but it was not enough to overcome the South American team who retained an edge in attacks and blocks.
The Russians will face the Italians in the first semifinal match on Friday, July 26 at 16:30 local time. A victory by Russia against Italy would improve their 2017 Men’s U21 World Championship podium finish of bronze and get redemption for their four-set loss to Cuba in last edition's semifinals. A win by Italy would give their side their fourth opportunity to claim the title for the first time since they last saw action in the final in 1993.
Iran are bannered by 2017 U19 World Championship players, including MVP Amirhossein Esfandiar, best middle blocker Amir Hossein Toukhteh, Porya Yali, Mehran Feyzemamdoust and Morteza Sharifi, who all have performed well in the current competition. Esfandiar is currently the tournament’s best server, Yali ranks third in the best scorer and best attacker categories, and Feyzemamdoust is the second best blocker.
Amirhossein Esfandiar of Iran (12)
Iran are also hoping to improve on their bronze medal finish at the 2007 U21 World Championship in Morocco, when they beat Italy in four sets. But first, they have to face Brazil in the second semifinal at 19:00.
The Brazilians are gunning for their fifth U21 world title. Their last podium finish was second place to Russia in 2013. They are also the second most successful nation at this age-group competition with four gold, six silver and three bronze medals under their name.
Meanwhile, China face Bahrain and Argentina play Korea for the classification matches for 5th-8th places, then Cuba meet Canada and the Czech Republic face Poland for the 9th-12th classification. Three African sides and one NORCECA squad seek better standings in the 13th-16th classification matches.