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Puerto Rico and Cuba complete the teams qualified to the 2018 World Championship


PINAR DEL RÍO, Cuba, November 12, 2017 - Puerto Rico and Cuba claimed the last two tickets for the FIVB Men's World Championship 2018 at the NORCECA Group B Qualifying Tournament, which ended with a sensational match between the two teams and a three-way tie that included Mexico all with 10 points.


After the needed 3-0 sensational victory of Cuba over Puerto Rico (25-21, 25-22, 30-28), the two top placed were decided by points-ratio with Puerto Rico (221-191 / 1,157) and Cuba (218-194 / 1,124) finishing ahead of Mexico (204-194 / 1,052). Fourth place was the battling Guatemala team (0-3).


Cuban Miguel David Gutiérrez (20), followed by teammates Miguel A. López (16) and Javier O. Concepción (10), contributed to the close win by the Cuban side, while Ezequiel Cruz (17) was the only one to reach double digits for Puerto Rico.


The action by Cuba had nothing to do with their pale show on Saturday, when they were overwhelmed by Mexico (0-3) and forced to sweep today against the Puerto Ricans, whom they outscored in attacks (45-36) and blocking (8- 3), and tied in serving aces with four each.


Ramón Hernández, Puerto Rican coach, could not hide his tears while acknowledging that "this is the greatest emotion I could feel in my career, although it was an extremely strong tournament and despite the setback against Cuba in a great battle, we were able to win it and achieve the world championship pass."


"This victory is for our people who are following us despite the difficult situation they are experiencing," he said under emotion.


His captain Angel Perez, happy for the collective triumph and the possibility of being in his fourth world championship, expressed that "if they call me to the ranks I will respond to the homeland, we wanted to win the last game but we fulfilled, and I am double happy because I have Cuban blood, my whole family is precisely from this province of Pinar del Río."


The local coach, Nicolás Vives, said that "I expected this reaction from my boys because we work to continue making achievements for Cuban volleyball, I think all the support we received from the Federation, the INDER and here in this magnificent venue did not deserve other demonstration that the one we had today."


Liván Osoria, Cuban captain, assured that "the team came out with its usual claw and decision, we could not lose this opportunity for which our country made so much effort to reach the World Championship".


Puerto Rico and Cuba join the NORCECA teams of  the United States, the Dominican Republic and Canada, winners in that order of the September Qualification in Colorado Springs.


The others teams going to the World Championship in Bulgaria and Italy are the two host teams Poland as defending champion; France, Netherlands, Slovenia, Russia, Serbia, Finland and Belgium from Europe; Brazil and Argentina from South America; Japan, Australia, Iran and China from Asia and Tunisia, Egypt and Cameroon from Africa.