Osaka, Japan, November 18, 2009: Brazil began their defence of the FIVB Men’s World Grand Champions Cup with a hard-fought 3-2 victory over Cuba. The South American champions beat the NORCECA champions 25-22, 24-26, 25-18, 23-25, 15-10 in a match full of fire and powerful spikes.
In the first set, the bearded middle blocker Lucas was particularly prominent for Brazil, piercing the Cuban court with some huge smashes. With Rodrigao also finding his range at the net, Brazil went into the second TTO with a three-point cushion, 16-13. Osmany Camejo through the middle, Michael Sanchez on the right and Joandry Leal on the left kept Cuba in touch. At 19-19, Vissotto pummelled Brazil back into the lead, at which point Cuba called a TO. The Cubans were off again trailing 22-20, but the mistakes continued and they lost the first frame 25-22.
In the second set, tempers began to flare as the teams slugged it out, with the motivation occasionally boiling over. Setter Raydel Hierrezuelo won a furious net joust as Cuba tried to break free, and captain Giba needed all his experience and leadership qualities to keep Brazil settled. A Murilo fireball serve edged Brazil in front, only for Leal to pound Cuba level, before that man Giba soared and spiked on the left for 16-15 at the second TTO. The Cubans are famous for their swashbuckling attack, but they defended resolutely to win some unexpected points as the second set progressed. Captain Roberlandy Simon combined power and placement to serve two straight aces for 20-18, and a left-handed swish from Hierrezuelo undid the great defensive work of Giba. A Leal block on Vissotto pushed Cuba ahead 23-21, but they could not finish the set as Brazil played the more consistent Volleyball. At 23-23, outstanding defence from libero Sergio enabled Lucas to bring up set point for Brazil, but the next rally was halted when Leal suffered a right ankle injury. Murilo served long on the restart for 24-24 and Brazil’s chance for 2-0 was gone. A sizzling Sanchez ace took Cuba to set point at 25-24, and Simon blocked Vissotto to end it 26-24, 1-1.
Brazil shrugged off the disappointment to start the third set with a calm and patient game to lead 8-5 at the first TTO. Murilo was at the centre of all their best moves, appearing in a flash of yellow to beat the Cuban defence with some smooth, angled spikes. Wilfredo Leon kept Cuba in the set with some savage blows across court from the left, but the Cubans were making too many mistakes and trailed 16-11 at the second TTO. A Bruno tip-over for 21-15 sent Cuba into a TO, but they could not recover and went down 25-18 as Brazil pulled away.
Brazil led 8-7 at the first TTO of the fourth set, thanks to some resilient serve reception and passing, and the back-court defence of Giba and counter-attacks of Murilo, Lucas and Vissotto kept the points flowing. With such strength and athleticism in the Cuban team, though, the NORCECA champions were always capable of scoring and managed to lead 16-15 at the second TTO thanks to a Bell ace and Sanchez bullet spike. Substitute Theo Lopes and the irrepressible Leon exchanged spikes as the teams stayed neck and neck, and Leon demolished the Brazilian defence with an ace for 20-19 Cuba, at which point Brazil took a TO. He served another on the restart for 21-19, and completed a hat trick with a delivery that crashed into the net cord and bobbled over for 22-19. The Brazilian block nudged the team ahead 23-22, but wild spiking from Vissotto and Murilo enabled Cuba to take the fourth frame 25-23 on their first set point and set up a tiebreak.
The centre play of Rodrigao and Lucas helped Brazil into a 5-2 lead in the tiebreaker, but Leon’s spiking and serving brought Cuba level at 6-6, despite some astonishing defence from setter Bruno. Brazil turned round 8-6 in front thanks to a Vissotto block, before Giba’s spike and block opened a three-point gap at 10-7. Giba continued to lead from the front as Brazil wrapped it up 15-10.