Elated Serbian players lift the World Championship trophy
Lausanne, Switzerland, December 28, 2018 – The spectacular final of the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship in Japan ended after five sets with a historic first-time title for Serbia. Coming back from a set down twice, Zoran Terzic's players snatched a nail-biting 3-2 (21-25, 25-14, 23-25, 25-19, 15-12) victory over a determined Italy to triumph with their maiden World Championship gold.
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Under Terzic, who has coached the national team since 2002, Serbia have collected their first World Championship medal (bronze), in 2006, won the CEV European Championship twice, in 2011 and 2017, claimed silver at both the 2015 FIVB World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, before peaking with the World Championship trophy on October 20, 2018 in Yokohama.
The southern European side made no secret of their intentions in the early stages of the event, when they went through the first round with five emphatic wins in their Pool D in Hamamatsu as the only team among the 24 participants not to lose a single set along the way. With this fantastic record counting towards the second round, the Serbs added two more straight-set victories to their impeccable streak before relaxing a bit and allowing losses in the next two games, still finishing third in Pool E in Nagoya and advancing to the last six of the World Championship.
At the same time, Italy’s spectacular run in Japan lasted as many as ten matches, but it was Serbia that handed them their first defeat, in a four-set battle for the top of third-round Pool G. With both teams having beaten hosts Japan in front of eight thousand cheering spectators, they had already booked their tickets to the semifinals in Yokohama.
In the other third-round pool, defending 2014 world champions USA were dethroned after suffering two narrow five-set losses to China and the Netherlands. The Asian team, reigning Olympic champions, then beat the Dutch in four sets to top Pool H and set up a semifinal encounter with Italy.
In the first of two hard-fought battles for the spots in the final, Serbia lost only one set to the Netherlands and advanced. The second semifinal lasted five sets with the drama culminating in the fourth and the fifth, both of which ran deep into overtime. China took the fourth by 31-29 to prompt a tie-breaker, which Italy claimed by 17-15 to emerge with a ticket to the gold medal match. The Chinese bounced back with an emphatic shutout of the Netherlands to claim bronze before it was time for Serbia and Italy to settle the title, meeting each other in the first ever all-European World Championship final.
And what a final it was - the perfect ending to 103 matches, 364 sets, 15,739 rallies, or a total of 159 hours and 50 minutes of exciting volleyball! The 11,500 spectators at the Yokohama Arena and the millions watching the spectacle on their screens enjoyed a dramatic five-set battle, featuring a phenomenal scoring race between two incredible opposites. While Italy’s Paola Egonu hammered out a match-high total of 33 points, eventually it was Tijana Boskovic, with 26 points, and her Serbian teammates, who rejoiced as world champs.
“I am very proud of this historic victory!” Serbia’s captain Maja Ognjenovic exclaimed at the end of the match. “We played good volleyball. It was amazing! It was tough! To be the champions is our dream come true!”