Brazil's Theo spikes over the Russian double-block
Gdansk, Poland, July 10, 2011 – In the “clash of the titans” Russia beat Brazil 3-2 (23-25, 27-25, 25-23, 15-11) to claim their second gold medal in the World League to repeat their success of repeating the success of 2002
Russia's Maxim Mikhaylov was the best scorer with 26 points, while both Gilberto Godoy Filho (Giba) and Theo Lopes from Brazil scored 16.
Russia may have felt cheated after beating a second string Brazil in their pool match to qualify for the semi finals, but there was no mistaking their supremacy in the final itself. A full strenght Brazilian side were eager to maintain its stranglehold in this competition making as they were their third consecutive appearance in the Final.
As expected, the match started very tight with a capacity crowd predominantly Polish, in good humour following Poland's victory over Argentina earlier. And it was Brazil who took the advantage leading 8-6 at the first TTO. Later in the set the “Canarinhos” jumped ahead to 13-9. However the Russians managed to tie the score at 15-15. The game continued on a point-by-point basis until Brazil picked up the set with Lucas Saatkamp's ace to win the opener 25-23.
The second set was similar, neither team could gain the upper hand at the beginning as both contested every ball with great determination. Russia carved out a slight lead 10-7 when their opponents scored five unanswered points. Russia's head coach Vladimir Alekno changed the setter (Alexander Butko replaced Sergey Grankin) and it was Russia's turn to get a series of points (17-15 for Russia). Brazil tied the score at 19-19 with another Lucas's ace and it stayed close till the end. Russia floundered one set ball, but took its chance with the second one as they won the set 27-25.
Set three started better for the Russians, who carried the momentum from the previous one as they smoothly gained a three-point-lead. They extended it to five points (7-2), and even though Brazil fought hard, they couldn't regain their concentration. When Russia's Maxim Mikhaylov – the star of the previous set – was slightly injured, Dmitriy Ilinykh took his place. However, it didn't knock the Russians out of their stride and they maintained the lead (13-8). At 14-10 for Russia, Brazil's coach Bernardo Rezende (Bernardinho) made a double-change in his team. His team won a spectacular and long rally, which clearly helped rebuild their confidence, as the point defecit was reduced to just one (15-14 for Russia). However, the Russians took control again and with it the set 25-23.
The fourth set started with the advantage to the “Canarinhos” (4-1), but Russia levelled the score at 6-6. Nevertheless, it was Brazil who led at the first TTO. They maintained the lead throughout, determined to tie the overall score. Russia played the end of the set in with several changes to their team but despite the changes it was Brazil who took the set eventually winning it with their third set ball (25-22).
The final was to be decided in the tie break. Nervers were fraying and Brazil's Giba's held a long discussion with the 1st referee. Brazil's early lead was wiped out by Russia and the early score was 2-2. It stayed tight until the “Canarinhos” made two errors in block (7-5 for Russia). When his team fell 3 points behind (6-9), Bernardinho called for a timeout. However the Russians were unstoppable with Maxim Mikhaylov's kill from the right wing to end the match and win the gold medal.
Russia avenged their defeat to Brazil in last year's final. The manner of their victory with powerful serving by Dmitry Muserskiy and the phenmomenal play of the MVP of the tournament Maxim Mikhaylov suggests promises much for the future
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