Baku, June 27, AZERTAC
Germany will face Bulgaria in the men's Volleyball gold medal match after beating Russia 3-1 (25-17, 18-25, 25-18, 25-18) in the second semi-final on Friday at Crystal Hall.
It was another big step towards the Germans taking maximum ranking points towards the Rio 2016 Olympic Games qualification tournament, but their Belgian coach Vital Heynen insisted that a final is not enough.
"I want to be happy on Sunday," he said. "We came for one thing. I told the guys three weeks ago we are coming for gold."
Russia dominated the first set early on and took a 6-2 lead against the world no.7 side. However, Germany responded and eventually levelled things up at 14-14 after a poor block from Ilia Vlasov. The Germans then took the initiative and Russia won just three more points as the set was closed by Michael Andrei's kill block.
The teams were level at 5-5 in the second set before Russia won four consecutive points to give them a cushion. Finally it was an inaccurate spike from Tom Strohbach that handed the Russians the set, after dominating at the net.
Germany took the lead for the second time in the third period as Heynen's side rediscovered the form that had seen them beat five teams in a row before this match. It was an opponent error that gifted them the set, as Victor Poletaev served into the net.
Heynen's side had an 18-12 lead in the final set as Jochen Schops and the match's top scorer, Christian Fromm, continued scoring and Russian confidence began to droop. Fromm delivered the crucial blow when his final kill was just too hot to handle.
Russia defeated Germany in their opening pool match, the Germans only loss to date, and Heynen identified the prevention of Vlasov playing well as a reason for victory.
"Our serve block defence was better and we did a great job of stopping the Russians, the coach said. "If you can take a guy like Vlasov down to 50 per cent then you've done a fantastic job."
In the first semi-final of the day, Bulgaria beat Poland 3-2, setting up a bronze-medal match between Russia and the Poles for 10:30 on Sunday.