Serbia react to beat Cuba in direct battle for a spot in Paris

Serbia react to beat Cuba in direct battle for a spot in Paris
Fecha de publicación: 
20 June 2024
Imagen principal: 

Serbia completed a massive comeback against Cuba on Wednesday in their opening match in the third week of the Volleyball Nations League 2024 Preliminary Phase in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and managed to stay inside the qualification zone for the Paris Olympics just five days before the deadline.

  • Watch Volleyball Nations League 2024 live on VBTV

Down 2-0 after the first two sets of the match, the Serbians finally found their rhythm and benefited from an increased number of errors made by their opponents to turn things around and leave the Stožice Arena with a critical 3-2 (22-25, 21-25, 25-16, 25-21, 15-12) victory.

The Serbians started the week less than a point ahead of Cuba, the first team sitting outside the qualification zone, in the FIVB World Rankings, adding a lot of weight to the duel between the teams on Wednesday. Their five-set victory has, by no means, decided the duel in favor of the Europeans, but it increased their lead to just over ten points (256.50 to 245.69), giving them more comfort to navigate the final three matches of the VNL Preliminary Phase, which also marks the end of the qualification period for the Games.

“It was an unbelievable match,” middle blocker Marko Podrašcanin said. “It was a really important win for us, but it’s not over yet, we have three more matches. Coming back from 2-0 against one of the top teams in the world is an amazing result for us. We just kept believing. I think we managed to change the rhythm of the game a little bit and that led them to make some errors they typically don’t make. We didn’t play the Olympics in the last 12 years and that brings some pressure to our team, but I hope we can keep this same spirit for the end of the week.”

Opposite Drazen Luburić, who led the team with 21 points (17 kills, four aces), and outside hitter Miran Kujundźić, who got to celebrate his 27th birthday with a 15-point (13 kills, two blocks) performance, were key pieces in the Serbian comeback.

Drazen Luburic Serbia Cuba Volleyball World 2024-min

With 21 points, Luburić was Serbia's top scorer

On the Cuban side, captain Miguel Ángel Lopez, who played as an opposite, and outside hitter Marlon Yant were the focal points of the team’s offense, producing 21 and 16 points, respectively.

Despite the upset, Cuba continue inside the qualification zone for the VNL Finals with four wins (13 points) in the standings. Serbia jumped from 12th to ninth with four wins (12 points) and have a real chance of qualifying too.

Volleyball Nations League 2024: schedule and results

The duels between Serbians and Cubans for an Olympic spot and a place in the VNL Finals will continue until Sunday, with each national team set to play three more matches in Ljubljana. The Serbians face Türkiye on Friday, Poland on Saturday and hosts Slovenia on Sunday. Cuba will play Slovenia on Thursday, Bulgaria on Friday and Poland on Sunday.

Poland and Italy to play later

The second match of the day in Ljubljana will also be a big one, reuniting the national teams who place first and second in the World Rankings, Poland and Italy, at 20:30 local time (18:30 GMT).

The Polish are currently in fourth place in the VNL 2024 with six wins (18 points), but are already guaranteed in the Finals as the host country. Italy are in second place with seven wins (21 points) and can return to the top of the standings if they are able to get a point in the encounter.

Starting on Thursday, the days will get busier in Ljubljana, with three matches. The first day with three encounters will have Türkiye facing Argentina at 13:00 local time (11:00 GMT), Bulgaria meeting Italy at 16:30 local time (14:30 GMT) and Cuba battling Slovenia at 20:30 local time (18:30 GMT).

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