Madrid, July 9, 2003 – Two well-oiled volleyball machines and arch rivals hit
the court at the FIVB $15 Million World League on Wednesday when title-
defenders Russia faced world champions Brazil in a match of muscle versus
magic, and strength versus subtlety that ended, surprisingly decisively 3-1 for
“It is always difficult to play against Russia,” Brazilian captain Nalbert said
after the match, while coach Bernardo Rezende said his lineup had had a good
strategy and they served and blocked well against their great rival.
The contrasts are many, the similarities rest in the two side’s ability to
produce exquisite, exciting volleyball and the stage was set for a battle
royal as the Brazilians embraced and the Russians slapped each other on the
back before the first whistle.
Smaller in stature and driven by their passionate coach, Brazil found
themselves four points up in the opener at 22-18 when, to the jubilation of
the Brazilians, a missile delivered by 208 cm-tall Russian Sergey Baranov
landed past the line. Then a deflected block that fell badly for Russia gave
the greens the first set point, first defended but then won when the 21-year-
old Baranov miscalculated and drove a meter behind the backline to give Brazil
first blood at 25-19.
For Russia the artistry of setter Vadum Khamouttdkikh was a delight to see
and Russia seized the lead at 7-6 in the second set, which they lengthened to
13-9. The Brazilians were back at 23-all only to have Pavel Abramov pierce
through the Brazilian defense to give the Russians set point. A serve by Semen
Poltavsky ripped into the Brazilian court and the set scores were again even.
But in this contest where lightning quick reactions and a sensitive touch can
serve as well as a missile fired from the backline, it was far from over.
Brazil had a four point edge in the third set that they extended to an
impressive seven. An immense block by Brazilian captain Nalbert gave them set
point and Santana Rodrigo drove home the winning spike.
The Russians, uncharacteristically, let the match slip from their grasp in the
fourth set when Brazil steamed to a 10-point lead in a sequence where little
went wrong for them and then they danced off the court as heroes after taking
the final set with an impressive 25-15.
Khamouttdkikh was critical of his Russian team saying they had played
a “disastrous match” and would now concentrate on analyzing their mistakes
ahead of their match against Italy on Thursday.
Earlier the Czech Republic spoiled Greece’s chances of a berth in the final
four with their 3-1 victory and Italy steamed past Bulgaria 3-1 to stay in the
Serbia and Montenegro meet Spain in the final second day clash.
Follow all the World League action on www.fivb.org