Russian volleyball team grab World Cup

Tokyo : Russian head coach Vladimir Alekno (top) is tossed into the air by players and staff members as they celebrate their victory over Poland on the final day of the Men's World Cup volleyball tournament in Tokyo on December 4, 2011. (AFP Photo/Toru Yamanaka)
A day after securing an Olympic berth, Russia’s national volleyball squad brought their World Cup campaign to a triumphant conclusion, beating team Poland in the gold-medal game.

After Poland’s Saturday’s defeat against Brazil the Russians needed to win only two sets in order to become unreachable on top of the World Cup standings.

They hit the ground running and claimed the first set 25-23. The Poles repaid in kind to level matters on the court.

The teams went on to exchange sets again – 25-22 for Russia and 25-17 for the Poles – to bring things down to a tie-break.

Though the final set did not decide anything in terms of the teams’ final places in the competition, both squads showed their best to thrill the sell-out crowd in Tokyo. The more experienced and seemingly more agile Russians squeezed their opponent 17-15 to raise the World Cup for the first time since 1999.

“Going into the tournament the team had to carry out two important tasks – to qualify to next year’s Olympics in London and win the tournament,” shared team Russia head coach Vladimir Alekhno, who celebrated his 45th birthday on Sunday.

“Honestly, the first task was much more important, but we couldn’t afford to lose the final game and waste the chance to claim the trophy.”

Team Russia won 11 out of their 12 games in Japan, leaving behind Poland, who settled for second, and Brazil, who finished third.

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