A great atmosphere and packed venues greeted the teams – every player loves to perform in front of a few thousand volleyball enthusiasts!
All teams had their ups and downs, as is typical for this period of preparations. Canada started out well, beating Finland 3-0 (33-31, 26-24, 25-23), while Poland had to kick off without Bartosz Kurek, who was plagued by knee pains. A scan showed no serious problems, but coach Andrea Anastasi decided not to force his star player. Poland proved, however, that they don’t have to rely on any one player and won a thrilling match against Brazil 3-2 (25-22, 27-25, 25-27, 22-25, 15-12) – the country’s first victory against the seleçao in ten years!
Brazil didn’t do any better the next day either: without their FIVB Heroes Murilo and Giba, they lost to hosts Canada 2-3 (23-25, 25-20, 20-25, 26-24, 10-15). Poland also had a bad second day, as Zbigniew Bartman and his teammates conceded defeat to Finland 2-3 (25-23, 23-25, 21-25, 25-22, 9-15).
But the best was yet to come. Brazil, motivated by their fans playing samba by the court, took an easy victory from Finland 3-1 (23-25, 25-13, 25-22, 31-29) and finished the tournament with five points. For FIVB Hero Bartman and his team the next game was decisive. They could win and finish first in the rankings or lose and have a much harder time reaching the Final Six in Sofia. At the beginning of the match against Canada it looked like the latter scenario was going to unfold, as in the second set Piotr Nowakowski twisted his ankle. A setback that proved to be highly motivational for Poland, however, who really upped their game and defeated Canada 3-1 (17-25, 25-19, 25-21, 25-19), with Zibi scoring 31 points! 29 kills with 60% attack efficiency and another two kill blocks on the opponents saw Poland grab three points and lead the pool with six points in total!
The next stop will be Poland where the teams will play in the heart of the Polish volleyball world: Spodek Hall in Katowice. Will Poland be able to turn its home advantage into another pole position or will the Brazilians take revenge after their humiliating losses? We will find out in two weeks – stay tuned at www.FIVBheroes.com!