Argentina were the last team to secure a spot in the semifinals of the FIVB Volleyball U21 Men’s World Championship 2021. They did so after surviving a tough five-setter against the Czech Republic. On Wednesday, the players around head coach Martin Ariel Lopez showed mental strength in a match, full of turnarounds, to eventually join the top four of the tournament. In the last fixture of the second round, Italy extended their winning streak to six victories, after outperforming the team of Belgium. The young Red Dragons, as well as the Czechs, continue their journey at the competition, fighting in the fifth-place playoffs.
Argentina survive thriller, fly into U21 semis
Italy remain unbeaten
Published 08:06, 29 Sep 2021
Czechia opened in their favour after a better performance in reception (75% to 50%). Both sides fought hard and showed a rather equal performance, with only one more successful attack making the difference in the first set. Argentina were still struggling with some unforced errors (two on the serve), but led by Agustin Gallardo in the deciding points of the second set, found the strength to come back. Czech middle blockers Petrk Spulak and Jakub Klajmon gave their best with two blocks each, but it was not enough. Inspired, Argentina sped up their attacks (11-6) with Lorenzo Nieto on fire (6 points), and with improved performance in reception as well, got closer to the victory. The players of Jan Svoboda did not give up, and although Armoa of Argentina recorded some important balls, the Europeans got back on track. Long and intense rallies highlighted the last set, but Argentina showed great motivation, and after being back in the score, eventually seized the important victory.
Statistically, four more winning spikes turned out to be Argentina’s key to the success (57 to 53). Czechia, on the other hand, were slightly better on the block (13 to 12), and aced seven times (compared to five by the South Americans). Manuel Armoa shined once again for his team, with 27 points to his name. Valentino Vidoni added as many as 18.
“Our secret? We are a real team, showing teamwork. I believe that when we do things as a team, we show that we can win. This is Argentina! We are now in the semis! It is incredible, because we have worked really hard before the competition. We will continue training and preparing as if there was no tomorrow,” Vidoni, opposite hitter of Argentina, told Volleyball World.
Italian head coach Angiolino Frigoni started the match, giving rest to some of his key players like Tommaso Rinaldi and Tommaso Stefani. However, it did not cause any serious problems to the Italian side, as Belgium struggled in attacking (only 14% success). The young Red Dragons surprised their opponents in the first minutes of the next set, taking a 7-0 lead, but Italy pushed on the serve, and equalized at 16-16. After a cat-and-mouse game, Tommaso Stefani, who entered to help his teammates, contributed in the deciding moments with a block. Nicola Cianciotta turned out to be Italy’s trump card, acing for the set point. Belgium were in the lead for most of the third set, finding a way to respond to Italy’s strong serves. Ferre Reggers was giving his best, but Italy took the initiative with a decisive attack by Stefani for 24-24 to eventually record another victory.
Italy dominated in all the elements, besides the blocking, where Belgium recorded 10 (Ferre Reggers contributed five). Star Alessandro Michieletto became top scorer with 16 points to his name.
“We are happy that we won again. The coach gave a chance to all of us, and in the important moments, the right people were on the court. It was a nice match, a close one. The fans in the hall helped us a lot, and it was important to make them happy. On Saturday, we play against Poland, and we will have to prepare this match. We want to use the two days off to take some physical and mental rest,” Andrea Schiro, opposite of Italy, told Volleyball World.