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Russia's 'Big Red' downs off-colour Brazil

Visakhapatnam, India, August 14, 2005 - Russia brushed aside Brazil 3-0 in the final of the FIVB Men's U21 World Championship on Sunday. In another powerful all-round team performance, the "Big Red Machine" romped home 30-28, 25-18, 25-23 in 73 minutes.

Brazil, wearing an unfamiliar dark green uniform as opposed to their customary canary yellow, never really got going against the European aristocrats, and finished well beaten.

It was Russia's third victory in the 13th edition of the junior men's world championship, and followed four earlier gold medals by the former Soviet Union.

Brazil had been seeking a third gold, but in the end had to settle for a fifth silver to go with their three bronze medals.

Pavel Kruglov has been a giant amongst Russian giants during his team's unbeaten seven-match campaign, and led all scorers in a tense, scrappy final with a modest 14 points, including 13 spikes. He always seemed to score at the right time, too, to deny Brazil the chance of a comeback.
 
In contrast, Brazil's captain and most lethal weapon, Thiago Alves, was restricted to 10 points, such was the quality of the Russian block and defence, led by their inspirational captain and setter, Serguei Grankine, and agile libero Vadim Putintsev. Thiago had the consolation of being named MVP, as well as best spiker.

Russia's head coach, Yuriy Marichev, did not want to bask in the golden glow of a world title, as he quickly turned his thoughts elsewhere. "I have forgotten about the result today," he said at the official press conference. "Tomorrow we will be in another country and thinking about the future, with our clubs in the Russian championship.

"Today we won but this is history."

The player sitting to his left had changed history, though: his captain, Grankine. With Brazil leading 23-16 and cruising toward the first set, Grankine's blistering serves dragged his team back into it, and his teammates were
visibly lifted by the display.

Brazil's head coach, Marcos Lerbach, could only comment: "We were leading, and then the No. 8 changed the game.

"That was exceptional serving. You don't often see serving like that, even in the seniors. I want to congratulate the Russian team."

Lerbach was generous in defeat, and congratulated the organisers of the 12-team championship. "It's been excellent," he said, "and I think it's important in the future for India to hold another World Championship. You have the support and the spectators."

Cuba won the bronze medal by beating the Netherlands 3-0 (25-23, 25-18, 30-28). It was Cuba's third medal in the 13th edition of the men's junior world championship, and followed a silver in 1987 and bronze in 1985. Cuba's powerful serves laid the foundations for the victory, notably from the brilliant Osmany Juantorena.

The Netherlands' head coach, Gido Vermeulen, said Cuba were a better serving team than their semi-final conquerors Russia, because the Central Americans had five experts compared to Russia's two.

This had played a big part in his team's two defeats in the knockout rounds, he added, as their pool games were more tactical against the likes of Germany, USA and Iran.

Still, he was mighty pleased with his team's efforts in reaching the last four in the world.

"The world will know Holland is back in world junior Volleyball, and I am proud that they have left a good image of Dutch Volleyball," he said. "I want to congratulate the Cuban team. We had chances to win the third set, but we made a pretty bad start."

The Dutch, in fact, had two set points in the third, before Cuba won the set on their seventh match point, following a collapse from 24-20 ahead.

Cuba's captain, Yadier Sanchez, has had an in-and-out championship, but came good in the bronze medal game with 16 points, including 13 spikes.

"We are very happy to win the bronze medal, because all four teams in the semi-finals are of a high level," he said. "We played against the Netherlands how we planned to play in practice, and that is very satisfying."

The Dutch had one of the outstanding individuals in Jeroen Rauwerdink, who led his team with 20 points against Cuba, but none of his teammates could manage double-digits.

Iran beat Korea 3-1 (21-25, 25-22, 25-18, 25-19) to finish fifth, and Serbia-Montenegro downed USA 3-0 (25-15, 25-19, 25-21) to finish seventh in the classification rounds.

Individual Awards:
MVP: Thiago Alves (Brazil)
Best Scorer: Moon Sung-Min (Korea)
Best Server: Alexei Ostapenko (Russia)
Best Blocker: Alexei Ostapenko (Russia)
Best Spiker: Thiago Alves (Brazil)