Kraków, Poland, July 16, 2016 – Uros Kovacevic scored team-high 20 points to send Serbia into the 2016 World League leaving Italy blank 3-2 (23-25, 25-21, 25-23, 25-23, 15-11) after the five-setter.
Not qualified for the Olympic Games Serbia were highly-motivated to show the best volleyball in Kraków and they did it properly. Italy's Ivan Zaytsev was the best scorer with 21 points, but on the other side of the net Uros Kovacevic clinched only one point less. Nikola Grbic’s players made 8 errors more, but thanks to great serving made it to the final.
Serbia qualified for the FIVB Volleyball World League final for the second time in a row, however even if they won eight medals, they are still missing the gold one. Italy can't reach the final since twelve years.
Four points in a row for Serbia opened the first World League semifinal in Tauron Arena, forcing coach Gianlorenzo Blengini to use the time-out in the second minute of the game. It helped and Italy quickly tied, but they could not take the lead. Both teams seemed to be a bit nervous, which was visible especially when Simone Gianelli again set less than precisely and Marko Ivovic sent a huge spike through the Italian block at 19-16. Blengini asked for another time-out and his team tied again at 22 all. A final rush of Ivan Zaytsev in spike surprisingly gave Azzurris the 25-23 win in the opener.
Osmany Juantorena blocked Drazen Luburic in the first action of the second set, his teammates followed his example and did the same with other Serbian scorers. Nikola Grbic’s players were not happy about the course of events, Uros Kovacevic attacked without holding back and the result was 11-10. Marko Ivovic fearlessly blocked the 10 cm taller Zaytsev and enlarged the advantage further. Another point-by-point race happened, but in the end Serbia stepped up their efforts and had the comfort of three setballs to spare. Luburic used the first one and served an ace, sealing the score at 25-21.
The next set started tight as well. Luburic continued his good play and Serbia took a two-point lead at the first technical time-out. A monster block of Juantorena allowed Italians to break their opponents winning streak after the second TTO, but Lisinac stood on guard and there was 17-14. Obviously it was not Gianelli’s day on set, so after the change to Rossini Italy improved their game, started chasing the score again and achieved tie at 22 all. Serbia withstood the pressure ending at 25-23 with Marko Podrascanin’s block-out.
Italy did not give up and showed their will to play in the final. They were on a good way, because Serbia was making a lot of mistakes in each element, letting the opponents build a comfortable advantage. Juantorena smashed the ball one by one starting from 8-5. Matteo Piano, who substituted Simone Buti, performed very well and blocked the efficient Luburic, distracting Serbian players. Sottile served an ace and there was 19-11. Serbia woke up for a while and reduced the gap, but coach Blengini reacted quickly asking for time-out, so his team closed the set smoothly 25-18.
Team Azzurri were on the winning wave and grabbed a 3-1 lead but Emanuele Birarelli mistakened and Serbia tied at 4 all. They did not stop – Luburic dinked cleverly and gave an 8-7 lead at switching the sides. Captain Stankovic ended a long rally with a block-out and Serbians were only four points away from the World League’s final. Filippo Lanza prolonged the ending with massive spike, but Juantorena served the ball to the net at 15-11.