Tehran, Iran, July 9, 2017 – Cristian Poglajen's
15 points were not enough for Argentina
to see off Serbia
as the defending champions started with a quick 3-0 win (25-18, 25-22, 25-23) in their first match of Pool D1 in the FIVB Volleyball World League.
In a recovering team, rebuilding after missing out on the 2016 Rio Olympics, wing spiker Uros Kovacevic
may be one of the youngest players in the roster but the 24-year old Serb showed why he is considered one of the most talented receivers in the planet. He also shone in attack, scoring 12 points.
Kovacevic and Marko Ivocic combined for 23 points altogether while Argentina's main threat was Poglajen. The opposite spiker claimed 15 points to his name but that proved insufficient for Julio Velasco's men who conceded their 148th World League defeat. Coming into the weekend, only Japan (221), Korea (176) and Cuba (150) have lost 150 or more World league matches.
After two wins against USA and Canada alongside a surprise 3-0 defeat to Belgium, the Serbs needed a win to get back on track. But going into this second week of the World League, Argentina had a slight psychological advantage over their opponents, having won their last two encounters thanks to straight 3-0 victories in both 2011 and 2016.
Recent form was no indication of what was to come, however, as the South Americans' losses against Russia (3-0) and France (3-0) were only compensated by a hard-fought 3-2 win over Bulgaria.
In the first set, the Serbs took an early 3-1 lead and never let go as they increasingly widened the gap after a monster spike by Drazen Luburic. Marko Ivocic was also on top form as last year's Most Valuable Player claimed four points and two blocks by himself. The Argentines, who made seven mistakes, threw caution to the wind as they attempted to claw back the deficit but they were simply outclassed as Serbia sealed the first set 25-18.
It was more of the same in the second half as Serbia, once again took the reins of the game. Nikola Grbic's men fought tooth and nail to remain on top (18-16). With opposite spiker Cristian Poglajen leading the charge for Argentina, the South American ate away the gap to pull it back to within one point (23-22). But Serbia were unstoppable and finished off the set 25-22.
And, despite two aces for Alejandro Toro, Luburic finally got the job done for Serbia, as his smash was deflected out. The Argentinian marksman's efficiency was no match for the Europeans, who cruised past their opponents (20-16). Serbia were in full momentum and were looking to wrap up the tie early. But Argentina was not going to go down without a fight and fought to stay within reach of the title holders (24-23).
Matches on Saturday