National team of Italy made a successful start of WL 2012, as they beat either Korea, France and then, in straight sets, the Olympic Champions United States.
It was just a week ago that the team from Apennine Peninsula, coached by Mauro Berruto, got passports to the Olympic Games in London 2012, winning with a flair the Qualification Tournament played in Sofia, Bulgaria. Encouraged by this success they started a fight in Pool C of World League with a resounding victory in the first round played at home, in Florence.
In the first day Italy made a big effort in the game against Korea and, not without problems, won in five sets. The coach Mauro Berruto highlighted it on the press conference: "After 150 minutes and 119 points each there is nothing more to say. It's a pity that we made so many mistakes for more than a half match”.
The second duel brought us a big surprise as France, coached by Philippe Blain, claimed a 3-1 victory over the current Olympic Champions, USA. The team of Alan Knipe, after a brilliant game and easy win in the first set, began to made errors and couldn't face down playing well French hitters: “We started the game well, but after the first set we felt asleep. In some way we blush with shame” - said the American captain, Clayton Stanley. “Definitely we weren’t focused on the match” - added the American coach.
Apparently, Clayton Stanley and his colleagues forgot about the defeat just the day after, when they had to deal with ambitious and fighting South Koreans. The team from Asia, led by Kim Yo-Han, made a good start, winning two first sets, but then USA found their effectiveness in block and attack and won in the fifth set. The Korean players were really disappointed after the match, the coach, Park Ki-Won, complained about the referees' work: “Sincerely I don’t agree about some referee’s decisions that demonstrated crucial for the match. We feel penalized”.
Saturday's second match was played between Italy and France. Antonin Rouzier and his teammates, after a win over the Olympic Champions, had a crush on 3 points against Italy. But they were able to won only the first set. The next three, though they were tied, dominated by the hosts thanks to great performance of Cristian Savani and Ivan Zaytsev, top scorers of the game. But despite the loss, coach Blain was satisfied: "This match makes my happy because it was useful to let the team grow. It wasn’t easy to play in front of 6000 Italian fans. I feel confident for the future” - he added.
The confidence of the French coach has been shown in the last day of the tournament in the match against South Korea. In dramatic circumstances Les Bleus won the even game after long, five sets fight. Both teams played effectively and only momentary loss' of concentration let one team or the other to get the advantage. “We could win with straight-set win, but at the end of the second frame we made too many errors and we gave a chance to our opponent “ - said after the game the French captain, Pierre Pujol. Coach Blain was happy with the atmosphere in the team and express expectations for the future: "During this round we felt good vibrations that will help us to face the next Qualification Olympic Tournament in fine shape".
To please the crowd of over 6.000 people gathered in Nelson Mandela Forum in Florence, the team of Azzurri beat USA in straight sets. It wasn't the best game of the team from North America. Italy took the advantage from the first ball and great game of the setter, Dragan Travica, and efficiency of Michal Lasko didn't allow their opponents to get closer.
That way Italy finished the first round of World League 2012 on top of the standing in Pool C with 3 victories and 8 points. On the second position there is France, above Korea, that losing all three matches, earned 3 points, one more than USA, that closes the classification.
Now the competition is moving to Lyon, France, where Pool C will play matches from the 15th to the 17th of June.