Two of the favourites, Bulgaria and Italy, out of medal contention
USA’s Sean Kelly in reception
United States upset the world’s number one youth team Bulgaria, while Korea stunned European champions Italy in the FIVB Volleyball Boys’ U19 World Championship quarterfinals in San Juan on Wednesday, all four of which were decided in straight sets. The Americans will take on France and the Koreans will challenge Iran in Thursday’s semifinals.
- Watch the Boys’ U19 World Championship live on the Volleyball World YouTube channel
FIVB U19 Boys’ World Ranking leaders Bulgaria failed to recover fast enough from the five-set battle with Brazil that had finished less than 15 hours earlier and fell victim to a well-prepared American team that managed to overcome the opponents in straight sets, 3-0 (25-21, 25-21, 28-26), mostly thanks to their blocking effort (13 stuffs against nine), but also with more precision in their actions (13 errors against 19) and a slightly more productive offence (45 successful spikes against 43). The Europeans outserved the opponents with three aces against one.
Bulgaria did put up a fight in each of the sets. In the third, they even broke away with a 7-2 lead only to lose it deep into overtime on a first-tempo swing by middle blocker Joshua Aruya for the match winner. USA’s Sean Kelly and Bulgaria’s Kristian Titriyski shared the top-scorer honours with 19 points each.
Finn Kearney added another 13 for the winners, including four kill blocks, while Bulgarian middle Kostadin Kozelov impressed with five of those also to finish with 13 points.
On Thursday, at 18:00 local time (21:00 UTC), United States will lock horns with France for a spot in Friday’s gold medal match. The French have so far dropped only a couple of sets in six matches played. On Wednesday, they hammered out a 3-0 (25-21, 25-11, 25-17) shutout of Egypt, led by Thomas Pujol with 16 points and captain Mathis Henno with 13.
In the last quarterfinal in Argentina, Korea surprised Italy with a 3-0 (27-25, 25-16, 28-26) sweep. With the exception of the second set, when the Asians dominated quite convincingly, the match offered a tough battle with both other sets pushed to overtime.
The Europeans were, in fact, way more productive in attack with 43 successful swings against 33 for the opponents. Korea, however, did better on the block (11 stuffs against seven), on the serve (three aces against two) and mostly in making…