The 24th edition of the FIVB World League was begun! Finland and Portugal went first crack at the competition in pool C and the whole tournament. ‘Suomi’, coached by a former player Tuomas Sammelvuo, beat Portugal confirming its high aspirations to book a spot to Final Six in Mar de Plata.
Finland-Portugal 3 – 0 (25-13, 29-27, 25-18)
Finland: Esko 4, Sivula 10, Matti Oivanen 8, Mikko Oivanen 12, Siltala 10, Shumov 6, Rajala (L) and Kerminen, Hietanen, Tervaporti
Portugal: Pinheiro 4, Andre 4, Marcel 6, Sequeira 15, Ferreira 4, Jose 6, Coelho (L) and Idi 6, Violas
Finland took the command immediately and built a solid lead leading by seven, 13-6 when Portugal took a time out. Suomi impressed a powerful serve and cooperation between block and defense. The major problem for Portugal was to anticipate Mikko Esko intentions. The most experienced player of Finland disorganized opponents block and gave an easy way to finish off a lot of balls to his teammates. The hosts won six of the next seven points to lead the first set 19-7. Portugal had problems passing Finland’s blocking, and the Finns could gain points even from a few triple blocks. Finland coasted to set victory 25-13.
In the second set, Portugal picked up its ability to read the Finnish blocking and started to find striking spaces, and the team managed to hold on to the ball better during interchanges. Finland again started leading 4-1, but Portugal took the lead for the first time at 6-5. With Finland leading 13-10, Portugal won six of the next seven points to lead 16-14, and with Valdir Sequeira stepping to the fore with 10 excellent spikes, the guests fought to the end for the set. A smart off-speed hit by Idi and a fast combination finished by Ivo Casas set up by Nuno Pinheiro fended off a couple of Finnish set points, but Matti Oivanen’s hard serve gave Finland the set victory at 29-27.
The third set was open by successful counterattack of Urpo Sivula and impressive second-touch spike of Mikko Esko and it showed Finland wants to end up the game already in that part. However, the team of the Iberian Peninsula did not give up still fighting. Idi was trying to catch up the Scandinavians with effective attacks but it was not enough. Finland led 8-7 on the first technical time-out and then got the score increased. Sequeira was wasting ball by ball and Joao Jose as well while neither Mikko Oivanen nor Antti Siltala did not pay attention to opponents taking advantage chances to point (18-12). Flavio Gulinelli’s players were not able to answer being reconciled with the upcoming failure. Konstantin Shumov did successful block bringing Finland home with a 25-18 set victory.
Portugal’s Valdir Sequeira topped all scorers with 15 points, while the best scorer for Finland was Mikko Oivanen 12 points, followed by the game’s next highest scorers, Antti Siltala and Urpo Sivula at 10.
In the end, the serving efficiency by the Finns proved the biggest difference. Finland got five direct points from Matti and Mikko Oivanen, but the serves also built up several good spike finished. Finland also got 29 points from Portuguese errors of different kinds.
Thanks to the victory Finland took the leadership in pool C which is composed of Canada, The Netherlands and two Asian teams Japan and Korea.
According the new World League system (read below), only the winner of pool C will advance to the Final Six.
The new Word League system
The 18 teams are split into three pools of six. Pools A and B are determined using the serpentine system based on the world rankings as of August 13, 2012. Pool C features teams ranked as the next best four in the world rankings after the 12 teams in Pool A and B plus two wild cards decided by the FIVB.
The top three world ranked teams in each pool will play three matches at home and two away with the bottom three world ranked teams playing twice at home and three times away.
Each pool will play over six weekends before the Finals take place from July 17 to 21. Six teams will qualify for the World League Finals featuring the top two teams from Pools A and B, plus the winners of Pool C and the host country. As Argentina is in Pool A and is already among the qualified teams, the best ranked team of pool A – not already qualified – will be selected.
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