Italy’s 24-year wait for their fourth world title came to an end on Sunday, as the Italians silenced a packed Spodek Arena in Katowice and triumphed at the FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship 2022 by downing defending champions Poland 3-1 (22-25, 25-21, 25-18, 25-20) in the gold medal match of the 20th edition of the tournament.
Fantastic Italy regain world title after 24 years
Guided by Giannelli, the Europeans claim their fourth World Championship gold
Published 09:54, 11 Sep 2022
A few hours earlier, Brazil defeated Slovenia 3-1 to claim bronze, taking their place on the podium for the sixth-straight time at a World Championship, following golds in 2002, 2006 and 2010, and silvers in 2014 and 2018.
The title was the fourth won by the Italians, who also topped the podium in 1990, 1994 and 1998. Their country is now the second with the most triumphs in the competition, trailing only the former Soviet Union, who won the World Championship in 1949, 1952, 1960, 1962, 1978 and 1982.
“It doesn’t feel real,” setter and team captain Simone Giannelli said. “Last year, when we won the European Championship, I cried a lot. But now I can’t cry because I’m so happy and so excited. I can’t think of anything, I can only smile and laugh. I’m so proud of my team, proud to be Italian and proud to be a world champion.”
Head coach Ferdinando De Giorgi is the only Italian to have been a part of each of the country’s four victories. The 60-year-old was part of the nation’s squad in the 1990, 1994 and 1998 competitions as the team’s setter, before leading the squad from the sidelines in their campaign of seven victories this year in Poland and Slovenia.
The victory was also special for 20-year-old outside hitter Alessandro Michieletto. After winning the U19 world title in 2019 and the U21 world title last year, he joins a small group of players who won gold medals at all three levels, also including Brazil’s Nalbert Bittencourt and Leandro Vissotto and Poles Jakub Kochanowski and Bartosz Kwolek.
The success of the 20-year-old Michieletto reflects what is a very promising moment for the Italian national team, which, after winning the European title with an extremely young squad last year, secured the world title while starting the gold medal match with six starters age 26 or less.
In the gold medal match, Italy benefited from the outstanding performances from their three main offensive players. Outside hitter Daniele Lavia led the way with a match-high 19 points, with 16 kills, two blocks and one ace.
“This is an incredible group,” Giannelli added. “We just play hard. It doesn’t matter what’s on the scoreboard and what the other team is doing, we just stay in the game and play hard. We love playing this game and enjoy so much doing it together. I hope it’s the start of something special. We have a lot of young guys who are very talented and we have to continue to grow and create something big. It’s a very good moment for us, but we have to keep looking forward.”
Italy had a better start in the gold medal match, quickly building a 4-2 lead, but the Poles fought back and surpassed them at 9-8 after Mateusz Bieniek spiked to end a rally. With back-to-back kills, Lavia got the lead back for Italy at 14-13. An ace by Michieletto placed the Italians close to the set victory at 21-17, but Bieniek had a good serving run, which ended with an ace of his own, to even things at 21-21. In the end, Sliwka came up big for the Polish, tallying a kill and an ace to take the first set for Poland 25-22.
The Poles kept a good rhythm at the start of the second set, scoring the first three points. Italian coach Ferdinando De Giorgi called a timeout and his strategy worked as his team fought back to tie 7-7 with an ace by Lavia. With Lukasz Kaczmarek on the court, the home team got some separation again at 16-13, which encouraged De Giorgi to make a second timeout call. Again, the move had an impact and the Italians scored three in a row to tie the score. After good moments from both sides, the Italians won the set 25-21 with a monster block by Simone Anzani.
Despite the second set victory, the Italians had a difficult start in the third and saw the Poles take a 7-4 lead after Michieletto spiked out. The team stabilized, took the lead at 9-8, following an error by Polish captain Bartosz Kurek and improved their advantage to 14-12 with Michieletto. The Italian middle blockers played a key role for their team as Roberto Russo scored consecutive points to make the team’s lead a comfortable one at 19-15. Anzani hit the ball hard to bring the set to an end at 25-18.
The fourth set started even, but Italy were able to get a three-point lead when Tomasz Fornal spiked out at 9-6. A big block by Anzani a few plays later improved their advantage to 12-7 and silenced the Spodek. An ace by Kurek reduced the lead to three points (13-10) and gave the Poles some hope, but the Italians did not slow down and remained in control until the end, when Bieniek served at the net to give the Southern Europeans a 25-20 victory.