Madrid, July 12, 2003 - If volleyball was an opera, it fell to Brazil on
Saturday to sing the leading aria as they faced newcomers Czech Republic
in the second semifinal of the FIVB $15 million World League, the elite annual
And with a swift straight sets (25-12, 25-20, 25-18) victory to Brazil, all
that stands between them and the World League title is to sing the encore
against finalists and Olympic champions Serbia and Montenegro on Sunday.
"We played very well in defense and tactics and this was what made the difference,"
said Brazilian captain Nalbert Bitencourt. The Czech captain Ivo Dubs agreed.
"There was only one team on the court today. We were unable to find the key
to unlock their defense and we lost to the best team in the world," he said.
The Czechs powered through their Intercontinental Round and the finals preliminaries
to secure their semifinal berth but their road to glory came to a dead end
on Saturday when the World Champions outran and outplayed them. The Czech
side now faces another stiff opponent in Italy in Sunday's bronze medal match,
but whatever the outcome, they can leave the tournament proud of their achievement.
Brazilian coach Bernardo Rezende praised the Czech team saying that Brazil
had been worried before the match. "They have some very good players and
we did not want them to break away and play loose so we made a lot of pressure
right from the start," Rezende said.
Brazil was on board with a stunning lineup of talent led by their captain
Nalbert and from the first whistle they out-blocked and out-served their
opponents, neutralizing their big hitters and sneaking around their defense
in the lightning moves that characterize their game.
It was high flying Gavio Giovane who drove home the winner to wrap up the
first set 25-12.
After that shock the Czechs settled and leveled at 6-all in the second and
seemed less intimidated, hanging on until the middle of the set before Brazil
again ignited their rocket fuel. Then Andre Heller delivered the winning
point for Brazil when he leapt skywards and smashed straight into the Czech
court to make it 25-20 and 2-0 for the World Champions.
Again the Czechs hung on during the opening phase of the third set but Brazil
had a solid five-point lead at 20-15 when Anderson Rodrigues delivered a
terrifying spike that opened the way for them to polish off the match.
Czech Michal Rak smashed his serve into the net to give Brazil match point,
the Czechs defended but then incurred yet another service error to give the set to Brazil 25-18 and a well deserved place in the finals.
Earlier Serbia and Montenegro also beat Italy 3-0 to snatch the first finals
berth. The teams make volleyball history on Sunday when as world champions
and Olympic champions they face off for the first time ever in the final
of a top international competition.
Follow all the World League action on www.fivb.org