Brazil go for third crown as Russia attempt to return to the top after 32 years
The final act of the volleyball tournament will be preceded by the bronze medal match that is scheduled for 9:30 am and whereby Italy and Bulgaria are seeking redemption for the losses they suffered in their respective semi-finals on Friday.
Russia vs. Brazil
Russia and Brazil did already cross their ways in the Olympic tournament right in the prelims where the triple world champions cruised to a speedy 3-0 win whereby Russia suffered their only defeat so far in London. In what was seen as the “iron group”, Brazil and Russia were eventually ranked second and third respectively but re-started their quest for Olympic glory with a terrific show of strength in the 1/4 finals where they downed Argentina and Poland in straight sets. They eventually kept that momentum also for the semis where they cruised past Italy and Bulgaria displaying some world-class volleyball, thereby laying down the right pre-conditions for a classy final match. Brazil will be going for their third Olympic title after standing on top of the podium in 1992 and 2004, so trying to emulate USA and the Soviet Union as the sole nations with three Olympic crowns so far since volleyball was added to the program of the Olympiad in 1964. As for Russia, anchored by their superstar Maxim Mikhaylov, they got the chance to fight for Olympic gold for the first time since the 2000 Olympics where they lost to Yugoslavia in the final match. Russia, the main heir of the Soviet school, will try to seize an Olympic gold that the local volleyball family has been missing since 1980; the status of the head-to-heads on the Olympic arena stands at 4 wins each after the win claimed by Brazil in the prelims, so the outcome of this final act will eventually break this tie.
Bulgaria vs. Italy
After a pretty complicated lead-up to the Olympics, Bulgaria have turned into the major surprise of the event right from the prelims, finishing first in Pool A and then making it to the semis by easily disposing of Germany in the 1/4 finals. The last time Bulgaria medalled at the Olympics dates back to 1980 in Moscow as the group comprising some real volleyball legends like Dimitar Zlatanov finished runner-up there losing the final match to the Soviet Union. By that time, Vyacheslav Zaytsev was the setter of the Soviet side and his son Ivan will be also part of this classification match, but wearing the jersey of the Italian national team. Italy have been a major force on the international arena since the late ‘80s but never won Olympic gold. They missed out on the opportunity to fight for that much wanted crown as they were literally routed by Brazil in the semis but still the group captained by Cristian Savani – whose jump serve has been the fastest among all at Earls Court – will try to claim this consolation final whereby they may expand a collection that already includes one silver and two bronze medals. Similarly to the sides starring in the final match, Bulgaria and Italy also crossed their ways in the prelims at Earls Court with Tsvetan Sokolov – the second best scorer here in London – that paced his side to a rather surprising 3-0 win.
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