FIVB - Volleyball World League


Brazil beat Italy to keep Finals hopes alive

Ivan Zaytsev’s game high 30 points was the eighth highest score of this year’s World League

Bologna, Italy, July 3, 2014 – A 22-point haul from Wallace kept Brazil’s FIVB Volleyball World League Group 1 Finals hopes alive after the nine-time champions managed to overcome the “Italian Tsar” Ivan Zaytsev and his game high 30 points, with a 3-1 (25-16, 21-25, 25-19, 25-19) win over Italy in Bologna on Thursday.

Key Points
•    With one more match to play against Italy in Milan on Sunday, the victory puts Brazil on 14 points, three ahead of Poland, who play Iran at home on Friday and Saturday. Both teams are contesting the last Pool A ticket to Florence.

•    Win is Brazil’s 13th in 26 World League encounters against Italy. Previous two meetings were won 3-1 by Italy, which took place in in the first week of the 2014 World League. Last seven meetings between Brazil and Italy have been completed in four sets.

•    As the hosts of the FIVB Volleyball World League Group 1 Finals in Florence from July 16-20, Italy automatically qualify for the Final Six.

•    After winning their first six matches, Italy have now lost five World League matches in a row for the first time in team history - two against Poland and Iran and now one against Brazil.

•    Ivan Zaytsev’s game high 30 points was the eighth highest score of this year’s World League. China’s Yuan Zhi leads the way after scoring 37 against Cuba in last weekend’s Group 3 Finals.

Brazil’s greater attacking options with Sidao (13), Lucas (13) and Lucarelli (10) all entering double figures and Bruninho’s leadership allowed last year’s silver medallists to move to 14 points in the group, three ahead of the other side fighting for the last Florence spot from Pool A Poland who have a game in hand.

With everything at stake for Brazil and pride on the line for Italy, the 8,000 in attendance at the Unipol Arena in Bologna were expecting a very intense match, and were not disappointed. The Seleçao needed a win to keep fighting for a place in the 2014 FIVB World League Final Six, and the double defeat suffered against Italy on their home court in late May was an even better reason to look for payback. On the other hand, coach Mauro Berruto could count again on the six starters he had sent off for a short vacation after the first six matches of Group 1: Dragan Travica, Ivan Zaytsev, Simone Parodi, Jiri Kovar, Emanuele Birarelli and Salvatore Rossini were back in the lineup, to properly prepare for the Final Six in Florence with the rest of the team.

Brazilian coach Bernardo Rezende chose an experienced six, mixed with spirited youngsters: Bruninho and Wallace in the main line, Sidao and Lucas the middle blockers, Murilo and Lucarelli the spikers, Junior Pedreira libero. Italy started with their best six, with Ivan Zaytsev opposed to Dragan Travica, Matteo Piano and Emanuele Birarelli in the middle, Simone Parodi and Jiri Kovar on the sides, with Salvatore Rossini libero.

Brazil chose to serve strong and was repaid with an early 8-4 lead. Bruninho chose his favorite menu, setting Lucas in zone 3: and with an 80% efficiency, Lucas was no game for the Italian blockers. With Sidao also ruthlessly efficient Brazil opened a 16-10 lead. Skipper Bruninho then personally took care of the decisive run with impressive blocking and serving to stretch Brazil’s lead to 22-13, granting Brazil the first set 25-16.

In the early part of the second set, a shock block by Matteo Piano on Lucarelli back court spike granted Italy their first lead of the match at 4-3, before a double score by Zaytsev (sliced ball from zone 2 and a big block on Wallace) widened the gap to three points (14-11) and captain Birarelli made it four with Italy’s first ace (18-14). Brazil struck back with a strong block by Murilo on Jiri Kovar (20-17), but Zaytsev pushed their arch rivals back again to claim the set 25-21. After two sets, the score of the “Italian Tsar” was overwhelming: 15 points with a 76% offensive efficiency.

But for Brazil, losing was not an option: Sidao’s full package (one block, two attacks and a strong serve) granted the Seleçao a new lead (16-12), however a crucial offensive error by Lucarelli at the end of a long rally gave Italy new confidence as they closed the gap to 17-15. Despite their low attacking percentage Brazil was able to repel the Italian charge with a Lucarelli ace making it 21-16 before the Seleçao wrapped up the set (25-19).

After a short break in his impressive performance, Zaytsev found his 23rd point of the night with a block on Murilo to give Italy a 4-3 lead at the start of the fourth set, before Wallace helped Braul retake the lead at 7-5 with big jumps and even bigger points from zone 2. For the first time in the match, though, the set was too close to call: Lucas and Sidao, unstoppable from zone 3, kept Brazil ahead by one, and the “Tsar” kept answering (17-17). Ironically, it was his offensive mistake that gave Brazil a new lead at 20-18 and suddenly the match was over: a big block by Sidao on Birarelli and a smart ace by backup setter Raphael gave Brazil the decisive lead and the set 25-19, and the chance to keep hoping for a place in the 2014 FIVB World League Final Six.

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