Greece defeats Cuba 3-0

SALTA, Argentina (AP) – A revitalized Greek team swept Cuba yesterday while Spain overcame a two-set deficit to beat Japan at the 15th World Volleyball Championships. «When we came here, we never thought we’d get to the second round,» Greek player Nikos Roumeliotis said. «We have one game left against the Czechs and I believe we can take second or third.» After losing a sloppy first-round match, Greece reshuffled its lineup and looked sharp against a younger and less experienced Cuban team, winning 25-21, 25-21 and 25-19. «This is the real picture of our team,» Greek head coach Stelios Prosalikas said. «I’m happy because we won against a very strong Cuban team.» The Greeks will have to defeat a favored Czech team today to improve their chances of moving on to the second round. Cuba, which upset the Czech Republic in its first-round match, will have its hands full today when it faces group favorite the Netherlands. «This was a very unpleasant day for us,» Cuba coach Eliseao Ramos said. «Yesterday we played aggressively and today we were a different team… Nobody stepped up their game.» Yugoslavia, the gold medalist at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, improved its record to 2-0 after marching in straight sets through Kazahkstan and came one step closer to securing a first-place finish in its group. Elsewhere, Spain came back to defeat Japan in a five-set bout, 25-18, 23-25, 22-25, 29-27 and 15-13. Both teams are now 1-1 in group play and will battle to finish second in their group and move on to the second round. Fierce competition is just shaping up in this 24-nation tournament as teams fight to reach the Oct. 13 championship match. Italy is still the favorite in its quest for a fourth consecutive title after pounding Croatia in its opener. Awful opener Sunday’s opening did not go so well for Greece, as the Netherlands blitzed its way to an easy victory. A crowd of 3,000 from the colonial city of Salta, 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) from Buenos Aires, attempted to rally Greece to a comeback victory with battle cries and drums. But the Greeks failed to overcome sloppy play and unforced errors, losing in straight sets, 25-15, 25-15 and 25-22. «This was the worst game in two years for Greece’s national team,» said team captain Marios Gkiourdas, whose weak performance included a string of serves drilled into the net. «This is not the real Greek team,» said a sullen coach Prosalikas. «I hope to see the real team next match.» The Dutch, on the other hand, were a portrait of excellence, showing continued growth after defeating Italy, the world’s No. 1 team, for gold in the 1996 Olympics. «The Greeks had a lot of problems because of our good play,» said Reinder Nummerdor, the Netherlands’ star player. «We analyzed them very good and because of that we were able to block them.» The Netherlands were facing the Czech Republic in its next match late yesterday. The team’s most difficult competition will come from the Czech Republic, long a volleyball powerhouse in international competition.