Madrid, July 13, 2003 - Brazil brought the carnival to town on Sunday when they met Serbia and Montenegro to fight for the coveted title of the FIVB $15 million World League but the result went down to the wire - and the tiebreaker - in what turned out to be a superb display of the modern game that really finished with two superb winners.
Brazil took the title 3-2 (25-16, 21-25, 19-25, 25-23, 31-29 in just seven minutes shy of two hours. It was however a match that will stand alone in the history of World League finals as a truly great contest between the sport's poets (Brazil) and its warriors (Serbia and Montenegro). And when the final point fell from Brazil, captain Nalbert Bitencourt leapt the barrier, jumped on a reporter's table and paid homage to the crowd.
Brazil is now World Champion, World League title-holders and on top of the world rankings in this exciting sport, but they will go home from Spain with the greatest respect for Serbia and Montenegro, who pushed them to the limit and left the court with equal credit for an exquisite display of sportsmanship and skills.
Brazil started strongly and with some early blocks from Santana Rogrigo was quickly 8-3 in front, driven on by bongo drums and near hysterical fans in this converted bullfighting ring. But for Serbia and Montenegro nothing went right in the opening phase and serve after serve failed to find its mark. Giovani Gavio and Andre Nascimento delivered a range of killer spikes and in what passed with a blink of the eye, Brazil had run up an 18-12 lead. At 23-14 Nalbert blocked Ivan "The Terrible" Miljkovic, then Giovane aced for set point. Brazil then took the set on a Serbia and Montenegro error and they were one set up 25-16.
Serbia and Montenegro tried to settle quickly in the second set and ran up a four point lead at 8-4 by deploying their greatest warriors. At 12-7 the Balkan Blues had their game going, but were still missing essential shots. A block that went astray for Serbia and Montenegro put Brazil to within one point of them at 19-18. Seconds later Miljkovic served and the ball skipped off Giovani's fingers to give them 23-19 and in a flash, the underdogs had sealed the set to draw even.
Serbia and Montenegro caught hold of Brazil's coat-tails at 5-5 in the third with a classic Nikola Grbic deceptive shot, then managed to hang on for most of the set, thanks to better timing and more accuracy. It was clear they had decided to challenge Brazil at their own masterly game of deception and they polished them off 25-19 to take the lead.
Serbia's early 4-0 lead in the fourth stilled the hysteria in the stands but Brazil took the set to force what will be surely one of the great tiebreakers.
What followed was pure drama and although the ball finally dropped for Brazil, both teams should have been showered with glory.
Miljkovic raked up 28 superb points to be top scorer for both match and tournament, while the honors for the tournament top server and blocker went to his teammate Andrija Geric. Martin Lebl of the Czech Republic (who finished fourth) was top tournament spiker.
Earlier the Italians finished third when they defeated the Czech Republic.