While until that point the various stages of the World Championship were played in round-robin format, the first knockout rounds were introduced in 1978, when the Soviet Union hosted the event for the third time (in Belarus, Latvia and Russia). With Tunisia as the first-ever African participant, the tournament wrote history by including teams from all five continental confederations. In the first-ever semifinals, Cuba stunned USSR in four sets and, in the final, they swept Japan to break the 26-year domination of those two nations and rejoice as world champions, leaving them with bronze and silver, respectively.
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