Finland won their opening match at a World Championships for the first time after six opening defeats
Katowice, Poland, September 1, 2014 - Ojansivu Olli-Pekka's superb performance led World No 26 Finland to rebound from 2 sets behind and win a grueling five setter against world No 7 Cuba 3-2 (18-25, 21-25, 27-25, 25-23, 15-12) in front of excited crowd mostly supporting the winners at Spodek Hall in Katowice, Poland on Monday.
• Finland's Ojansivu Olli-Pekka topped the scorers list with impressive 23 points, while Javier Jimenez led the losers with 21.
• Finland return to the World Championships for the first time since 1982. This is their seventh participation and their best result has been 11th in 1952.
• Finland won their opening match at World Championships for the first time after six opening defeats at the previous editions.
• Cuba is the youngest team in pool B- their average age is 21 years.
• Finland won the match despite losing the first and second sets and being six points behind in the third set.
Finland opened their first set and match in Katowice with a spectacular spike, in front of the great Finnish audience, who came to Poland in the astonishing number of few hundreds. However, next points were confidently scored by Cuba with Ernesto Jimenez’s ace serve and huge spikes. Strong serves displayed by Cuban team prevented Finland from reversing the advantage at the beginning, but at 9-10 Cuba’s technical mistake helped Tuomas Sammelvuo’s players to reach the score. Throughout the second half of the set, Cuba fully controlled the game and with confident reception, strong spikes and aggressive serves, they led to 25-18.
After the tight in the beginning of the second set, Cuba’s astonishing block and some huge spikes helped them with running up at 8-3 ahead. Finland fought hard, trying to reach the score with Olli Kunnari blocking aggressive Cuba’s spikes, but the force of Mesa, Jimenez and Uriarte was presented point after point and accompanied by great Fiel’s blocks. Single Miko Oivanen’s ace or effective block of Konstantin Shumov and Eemi Tervaportti didn’t help Finland with gaining control- they run up for 22-19, but they ended the second set with a serve error at 25-21.
The third set started with Finland’s ahead 3-2, but Cuba didn’t slow down and at 6-4 took back the leading in a game. Nevertheless, Finland with Jukka Lehtonen fine spikes and Olli Kunnari left-winged attack, consequently scored point by point and caught the opponent at 11-11 and run ahead 14-12 after the ace by Tervaportti. At 18-16 Rodolfo Sanchez called timeout what helped his players with refocusing. Antti Siltala finished exciting and played point-by-point ending of the third set 27-25 with a huge left-wing spike.
Cuba took over the control from the beginning of the fourth set. 8-4 ahead at the first technical timeout let them stay focused on playing technically good volleyball. Finland’s Olli Kunnari and Jukka Lehtonen tried to catch up by effective spikes, but hard answers by Cepeda and Uriarte from the other side of the net were impossible to stop. However, after some Cuba’s errors, Finland’s great spikes and aggressive triple blocks, supporting by incredible fans Finland managed to go ahead 19-17 despite six points of lost. They finished the set 25:23 with two excellent serves.
After winning consequently two previous sets, Finland displayed their powerful performance also at the beginning of the tie- break. Their huge spikes forced Cuba’s block what helped them with running up 7-5 ahead. Finland’s power did not scare Cuba, who put all their efforts in strong serves and spikes. However, confident and controlling the game Finnish team went throughout the fifth set with an advantage of two or three points and finally won 15-12.