Serbia's Drazen Luburic makes a recovery against Argentina
Cordoba, Argentina, June 16, 2017 – Drazen Luburic
led the scorers as defending champions Serbia
qualified for the 2017 World League Final Six after withstanding a brilliant Argentina
fightback to win a five-set (25-22, 19-25, 25-22, 28-30, 15-12) thriller in Friday’s final match.
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The Serbs struggled throughout to claim their sixth victory in seven games and level Group 1 leaders France. They relied on the four-headed threat of Drazen Luburic (19 points), Marko Ivovic
(18 points), Uros Kovacevic
(17 points) and Srecko Lisinac
(16 points). Martin Ramos
led Argentina with 18 points.
Argentina dominated the service, recording six aces, including four for the Luciano De Cecco
. Serbia managed just three aces in the five sets.
With just one win after two weeks and six games, Argentina headed into the game knowing they couldn't afford to lose if they were to stay in the race. The defending champions, with only one loss going into the match, needed to win to all but seal their ticket for the Final Six in Brazil.
Six of the last seven World League matches between these teams, including the last three, finished in straight sets, with Argentina winning four and Serbia two, the last time in the opening game of Week 2.
An aggressive start gave Serbia the early lead, but a huge block from Nicolas Bruno
, one of the smallest players in the 2017 World League, to stop Uros Kovacevic and tie the game put Argentina back on track at 9-9. Serbia started well but finished even stronger as the Europeans made the best of the South Americans' mistakes.
Serbia maintained the pace as they started much better than their opponents and went ahead 5-2. But Luciano De Cecco spearheaded the South Americans' charge back and turned things around as the lanky setter served a couple of aces that helped put Argentina 17-14 ahead. Serbia continued to fall back and lost the set 25-19.
The Serbs clawed back into the game, fighting tooth and nail in an epic third set. Drazen Luburic was on top form but it was Uros Kovacevic who sealed the deal (25-22) with the Europeans demonstrating tremendous solidity in defence as they started to snuff out the Argentinians' threat and move ahead 2-1.
They kept the momentum and raced to a 7-5 lead but the South Americans showed they are a tough opponents and hit back superbly as they moved level at 14-14. Argentina took the lead once more (19-16) after a series of mistakes from the visitors despite another strong showing by Marko Ivovic. The game remained tightly contested until the very end and Argentina tied the game at 2-2 after a wonderful demonstration of high-octane volleyall in a set that stretched to 30-28.
In the tie-break, two straight aces by Kovacevic gave Serbia a comfortable lead (6-2) to mute the partisan crowd. The home side fought back but the visitors maintained the gap (10-6) with well-placed attacks. A last-minute rally kept the home side's hopes alive but Ivocic closed out the match with a powerful spike.