Montreux, Switzerland, September 7, 2018 - The Group Phase of the 2018 Montreux Volley Masters reached a dramatic conclusion in Pools A and B as Brazil eased to a victory over Cameroon in straight sets, which proved enough to qualify for the semi-finals as Pool B winners after Russia came out on top in the afternoon’s Pool B crunch match which saw the Sbornaya go through as runners-up at the expense of a heartbroken Poland. Elsewhere, Turkey comfortably saw off hosts Switzerland in the opening game of the day to top Pool A and march onto the last four alongside second-placed Italy.
The Brazilians knew that whatever the outcome in Pool B’s other match, that a win in straight sets over Cameroon would guarantee progress, and they got the win they needed with minimal fuss, whilst Poland were the unlucky team of the day, bowing out after defeat to the Russians despite going into the final round of games atop the group.
Turkey had already secured safe passage to the last four, but ensured they took their place in the semi-final line-up as the only unbeaten team left in the competition.
Pool A, 07.09.18. 16:30 CET: Switzerland 0:3 Turkey (21-25, 15-25, 22-25)
Giovanni Guidetti’s Turkey ensured that they qualified for the 2018 Montreux Masters semi-finals with a nigh perfect record, collecting a maximum nine points from their three group matches, conceding a mere one set, following a 0-3 (21-25, 15-25, 22-25) win over Switzerland.
Guidetti opted to rest some of his star names with Eda Erdem Dundar, leading scorer Meryem Boz, Meliha İsmailoğlu, and Cansu Özbay all rested, but Ebrar Karakurt stepped up to the plate in their stead to notch 22 points (13 spikes, three blocks, six aces) in a star performance to help her side to victory.
Despite much of the game featuring some tightly-fought rallies and some excellent individual pieces of play, the skill and craft of Karakurt proved the decisive difference for Turkey as they held the edge and the momentum for the majority of the tie and killed off a relatively inconsequential match with minimal fuss.
Guidetti looks set to call upon his big guns once again as the ‘Queens of the Net’ prepare for a semi-final blockbuster with Russia on Saturday night (08.09.18. 21:00 CET), with the prize a place in the coveted Gold Medal final, but Karakurt’s performance alongside spells of brilliance from teammate Hande Baladin, will give their Italian coach a welcome selection headache ahead of the big game.
Pool B, 07.09.18. 18:45 CET: Russia 3:0 Poland (25-16, 27-25, 25-18)
It was a winner-takes-all clash next on the agenda as the action moved over to Pool B, and it was Vadim Pankov’s Russia who held all the aces as they leapfrogged rivals Poland in a convincing win in straight sets to put pain to the hopes of Jacek Nawrocki’s side. The Sbornaya advance to the semi-final where Turkey lie in wait, whilst the Poles contest the classification ties- and rather unfortunately so- for the second year running despite going into Friday’s games top of the group. China are the opposition that await them, both teams taking to the court at 13:00 CET on Saturday afternoon (08/09/18).
Nataliya Goncharova orchestrated Poland’s downfall, scoring 21 points for the Sbornaya as they maintained a degree of control over the contest throughout, whilst there were many happy returns before and after the match for teammate Irina Fetisova, who celebrated her 24th birthday in perfect fashion by helping her team to their vital win, after being awarded with a gift on the court by tournament officials prior to the start of the match.
Russia knew that they needed victory within four sets at minimum to at least temporarily top Pool B but also to confirm their progress onward to the semi-finals, and they did it with a set to spare despite Poland coach Jacek Nawrocki recalling his attacking lynchpin, Malwina Smarzek, who was rested for the win over Cameroon. Her impact was limited as she managed a meagre 11 points throughout the game, a factor that proved decisive as Russia dispatched a comparatively more toothless Poland compared to their opening day heroics against Brazil.
Pool B, 07.09.18. 21:15 CET: Brazil 3:0 Cameroon (25-11, 25-15, 25-13)
There would be no fairytale giant killing for Cameroon in their final group match as defending champions and FIVB World Number Four seed Brazil were worthy winners in straight sets to cruise into the semi-finals ahead of Russia.
Middle Blocker Adenezia da Silva was the standout performer for José Roberto Guimaraes side as she scored 11 points, including five spikes, five blocks and an ace as she effectively beat off the threat of Cameroonian duo Christelle Tchoudjang Nana and Laetitia Crescence Moma Bassako, who threatened throughout in some enthralling rallies, with the efforts of the African champions drawing the most approval from a partisan crowd in attendance at Salle Omnisports du Pierrier.
But Brazil had far more attacking punch all over the court, the penetration provided by talent such as Rosamaria Montibeller- excellent throughout this year’s Masters-, Fe Garay and Roberta Ratzke simply proving too hot for the tournament debutants to handle, whilst the imposing figure of Thaisa Menezes was once more a behemoth in patrolling the net in the Brazilian block.
With Cameroon never taking Brazil to even within ten points in the final score of a set, it was a comfortable workout for the South Americans as they wrapped up their group campaign with seven points from a possible nine, progressing as winners of Pool B to a semi-final bout with Italy (08.09.18. 18:30 CET).
Cameroon will conclude their first Montreux Masters campaign with a classification tie against host-nation Switzerland (08.09.18. 15:30 CET) and look to bow out on a high with a first win. They remain the only team at the tournament not to win a single set so far, and will aim to put that right before the journey home.