Volleyball: Russia, Poland qualify for Olympics
Russia and Poland became the first teams to qualify for the London Olympics next year, securing two of the top three places at the World Cup men's volleyball tournament on Saturday.
Russia, champions in 1999 and four-time cup winners as the former Soviet Union, overcame a tough first set before scoring a 31-29, 25-21, 25-18 win over Iran for a 9-1 win-loss record in the 12-team round robin competition.
Poland booked their ticket to next year's Olympics when they took the first two sets to secure a crucial one point, but in their excitement they allowed a Brazilian comeback for a 18-25, 21-25, 25-18, 25-19, 15-12 victory.
In the current standings, Russia are now on 27 points and Poland are on 25 points. Vying for third place and the final London 2012 spot are Brazil and Italy, both tied on 21 points.
Italy outgunned Japan 25-22, 26-24, 25-22 to keep their Olympic hopes alive, while Cuba gave up their own as they lost to the United States 25-20, 14-25, 25-18, 22-25, 15-11.
"I'm really happy that we qualified for the Olympic Games," said Russian coach Vladimir Alekno.
"I'd like to thank my players who did their job pretty well and obtained very good results. We will have an important match tomorrow against Poland. Hopefully, we can take the chances that we will have," he said.
Russian captain Taras Khtey admitted the team were tired at the end of the long tournament, but steadied himself looking forward to the match against Poland on the final day on Sunday.
"We will have the most important match against Poland tomorrow. We are going to be ready for it," said Khtey.
Zbigniew Bartman, who scored Poland's best of 26 points for Poland, said his team lost their concentration in the third set.
"Definitely we are very happy that we qualified today for the Olympics in London, it was our goal, we achieved it," said Bartman.
"But on the other side, I was very disappointed that we lost this game, because we haven't won against Brazil since 2002. Today we were amazingly close to achieve this goal.
"The big change was the third set when we were leading 13-8 and Bruno Rezende came in. He made a few amazing blocks and they started playing better. Our game stopped. We tried to come back, but we couldn't," Bartman lamented.
In other action, European champions Serbia defeated China 24-26, 25-18, 25-19, 25-12, while Argentina whipped Egypt 25-20, 25-21, 25-17.
© 2011 AFP