Italy (ITA) vs. Ukraine (UKR) men - Pool A #7229953

The Italian libero had nine digs against Ukraine

After an unexpected first-set loss to Czechia in their opening match, on Saturday, everything has been going according to plan for Italy at the Volleyball Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

With three victories in as many matches, the Italians sit at the top of Pool A and are strongly positioned to claim one of the two spots in play at next year’s Paris Olympics.

  • Watch all matches of the Men's Volleyball Olympic Qualifying Tournament on VBTV

Returning to the court after a day off, the reigning world champions had arguably their best performance in the tournament so far on Tuesday, taking Ukraine down 3-0 (25-23, 25-16, 25-16).

“The start of our journey here in Rio has certainly been positive,” libero Fabio Balaso reacted. “We had some difficult moments, but did what we had to in order to get the wins. It’s important that we continue on this path. We’re a little bit tired because of the intense season, but qualifying for the Olympics is a huge goal for us and we need to continue doing our best and remaining focused on our objective.”

Italy (ITA) vs. Ukraine (UKR) men - Pool A #7229681

Setter Simone Giannelli serves against Ukraine

Star outside hitter Alessandro Michieletto was the individual standout in the Italian victory against the Ukrainians, delivering a match-high 20 points (12 kills, four blocks, four aces). Fellow outside hitter Daniele Lavia added ten points, with nine kills and one ace.

“We did a very good job of maintaining our focus during the entire match and secured a big win,” middle blocker Leandro Mosca commented. “I thought we played better than in our first two matches and some areas of the game that hadn't worked so well before were really solid today. We're on the right path.”

Volleyball Olympic Qualifying Tournament - Match Schedule and Results

Following the triumph against the Ukrainians, Italy have four more matches ahead of them in Rio, the next one against Germany, on Wednesday, at 13:30 local time (20:30 UTC). The Europeans will then have a day off before facing Iran, Cuba and hosts Brazil over the weekend.

“After these first matches, we just confirmed what we already knew – every team is giving its absolute best and there will be no easy matches,” the libero commented. “Each match has its own story and we’re approaching each one of them as a final. We’re focusing on the next match and not trying to think about what comes next. We believe the level of the matches will continue to rise and we need to limit our errors.”

Also on Tuesday, Iran secured their first victory in Rio by taking Asian rivals Qatar down 3-1 (25-23, 23-25, 25-17, 25-23). Star opposite Saber Kazemi led the Iranians with 26 points (17 kills, five aces, four blocks), while outside hitter Amirhossein Esfandiar added another 14, with 11 kills and three blocks.

Cuba, who had lost to Germany on Sunday, got back to winning ways with a 3-0 (26-24, 25-21, 25-21) triumph against Czechia. Opposite Jesus Herrera and outside hitters Miguel Angel Lopez and Marlon Yant carried the Cuban offense with 16, 14 and 13 points, respectively.

The fourth and last match of the day had a major upset, with Germany stunning Brazil and giving the hosts their first defeat at home, with a 3-1 (21-25, 25-19, 25-19, 28-26). Veteran opposite György Grozer led all scorers with 27 points (22 kills, three aces, two blocks).

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FIVB Road to Paris Volleyball Qualifiers
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