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FIVB Men's Olympic Games 2008

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USA and Brazil advance to gold-medal match in Men's Olympic Volleyball Tournament in Beijing

Brazilian and Italian fans cheer together during the South American's semi-final victory on Friday

Beijing, China, August 22, 2008 - Reigning Olympic champions Brazil and two-time Olympic champions USA will meet in the Men's Olympic Volleyball Tournament gold-medal match after winning their respective semi-finals against Italy and Russia.

The 2008 FIVB World League-winning Americans held on to win in five sets (25-22, 25-21, 25-27, 22-25, 15-13) against three-time Olympic champion Russians in 2 hours, 17 minutes in front of 12,500 spectators at Capital Indoor Stadium in the first semi-final Friday. World No. 1 Brazil came back from a set down to beat the Athens silver medallist Italians 19-25, 25-18, 25-21, 25-22.

Brazil and USA will compete in the gold-medal match on Sunday, August 24, at 12:00 local time at Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing. The bronze-medal match between Italy and Russia will take before the final at 10:00 local time at the same venue.

The Women's Olympic Volleyball Tournament gold-medal match on Saturday, August 23, also features Brazil and USA.†Italian referee Massimo Menghini will officiate his last match in the Women's gold-medal contest as first referee. Umit Sokullu will be second referee.

It is the second time that the two finalists in the Men's and Women's tournament are the same. In 1968, USSR and Japan faced each other in both competitions.

There have been two occasions when the Men's and Women's tournaments have had the same country winners, with USSR winning both events in 1968 and 1980, when the Women beat East Germany and the Men downed Bulgaria.

USA 3 - Russia 2

One day after the American women secured their first final berth in 24 years at Olympic Volleyball, the American men spikers also clinched the final ticket for the first time in 20 years after holding off Russia in a five-set semi-final.

With the hard-fought victory, the Americans' seventh straight at this tournament, the world No. 3 took a sweet revenge on its 3-0 loss to the European runner-up in the bronze medal match of the Athens Games four years ago.

It will be the second time in history that both teams of the United States make the Men's and Women's Volleyball finals of an Olympic Games at the same time. The American Men captured gold at the Los Angeles Games in 1984, when the Women won silver behind China The American Men also won gold four years later at the Seoul Games.

The Russians rallied from two sets down to force the tiebreaker where they overcame an early 6-3 deficit to overtake the lead at 12-11, but David Lee scored the last four points of the United States and stopped ice Russian leading scorer Maxim Mikhaylov to wind up the marathon match. Lee finished with 12 points and Clayton Stanley served seven aces to lead the American scoring with 19 points, while Mikhaylov's game-high 31 points turned out to be in vain, with the Athens Games bronze medallists now having to play the bronze-medal match again.

The first set was closely contested and it was tied at 11-all before a Sergey Tetyukhin spike and consecutive blocks of 2.06-meter Alexey Kuleshov and 2.03-meter Mikhaylov, against Stanley and Lee respectively, pushed Russia up at 14-11. Stanley, who came into the semi-final as the tournament's second best scorer chart with 90 kills, 11 blocks and six aces, soon roared back with three aces in a row to lead the United States to a 5-0 run that helped it surpass Russia at 17-15. Then the Americans just held on before a serve error of Mikhaylov awarded the opener to them.

The Russians fought back strongly in the second set for a 17-14 cushion and held it to 20-17, but the United States closed out the set with an amazing 8-1 run. In the third set, Russia was up again at 20-15 before the Americans steadily pulled within 23-21. After Mikhaylov drove a ball home to make it 24-21, the Americans beat off three set points in a row to level it at 24-all, only to see Mikhaylov come up big for a smash to give Russia its fifth set point, which is converted by Alexander Volkov through a solid block against Stanley. The Russians continued their winning momentum in the fourth set, jumping to a 16-13 lead at the second TTO and never looked back but the Americans had enough in the tank in the fifth to clinch.

USA Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon said: "We knew it would be a tough match. I'm proud of the way our guys were able to deal with the pressure of the consistency Russia showed in the second half. For these guys this is a chance at the podium and I'm very pleased for them. They're great players, they let that go and focused on the next play, the next task at hand. It's easy to get wrapped up in the big picture, but it's a testament to the character of this team that they were able bring it back to the present, the next play. Of course I'm very pleased to advance to the finals."

Italy 1 - Brazil 3

Brazil secured a spot for the gold-medal match by beating Italy. Italy won the first set after strongly blocking Giba and Andrť. The Italian offence was based on attacks from Alberto Cisolla and Mauro Gavotto. Alessandro Paparoni was the Italian libero, since Mirko Corsano was out again with a bad knee.

Brazil took an early lead in the second, defending the Italian spikes which prepared Giba and Andre for counter-attacks. Andre Heller contributed to the Brazilian offence with quick middle attacks. Gavotto was Italy's only attacking option as other hitters were well-guarded by the Brazilian block. Italy struggled on their reception allowing Brazil to level the match.

In the third set, Giba led the way with his powerful left-side spikes, while Italy committed service errors that allowed Brazil to pull away. Luigi Mastrangelo twisted his ankle on Cisolla's foot while falling from a block and Italy was forced to battle on. Brazil then deflected attacks from Matteo Martino which allowed them to pull-away.

Brazil Head Coach Bernardo Rezende: "For us, it was a tough match, very tight. The team was nervous and very tense."

"There is a heavy burden on our shoulders after we lost the World League. I was worried that the players would think too much about what would happen if they lost again, instead of focusing on playing."

"In the first set Italy played very well, served well. From the second set our players forgot about the upset and became more concentrated."

"Right now we have to focus on the USA. They played very well, consistently. We have to play better."

Women's finals: Saturday, August 23

12:30 Bronze-medal match, Cuba-China, Capital Indoor Stadium, Beijing

20:00 Gold-medal match, USA-Brazil, Capital Indoor Stadium, Beijing

Men's finals: Sunday, August 24

10:00 Bronze-medal match, Russia-Italy, Capital Indoor Stadium, Beijing

12:00 Gold-medal match, Brazil-USA, Capital Indoor Stadium, Beijing

Follow Me

Volleyball legend Andrea Zorzi is blogging from Beijing with his popular "Follow Me" blog, linked to the FIVB website.



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