Russia beat Brazil in another five set thriller
World No. 2 Russia have now beaten world No. 1 Brazil twice in succession following last year’s Olympic Games final result which was also by a 3-2 scoreline. The previous 3-2 contest between the two heavyweights also went Russia’s way in the 2011 World League final while the Europeans have won four of their last six games against Brazil.
Of course, considering the history, there was much anticipation about this match, the first since they contested the brilliant London Olympic Games final. Some of the player lists may have changed but the Olympic champions still had 2.18m Dmitriy Muserskiy in their ranks while Olympic Games top scorer and blocker Maxim Mikhaylov also made his first appearance of the 2013 World League.
Olympic silver medallists Brazil were aiming to make amends for their worst ever World League result of last year when they finished sixth and their serious intention to start the World League Finals on the right foot was obvious considering only three players backed up from their last Intercontinental Round match against USA.
The Intercontinental Round third best scorer Nikolay Pavlov continued in the same vein by top scoring in the match with 27 points with Muserskiy the next best with 14. Wallace, Lucas and Lucarelli top scored for Brazil with 13.
Pavlov set the tone for the rest of the match by scoring the first point. The 2011 World League champions were in great form right from the start as the 31-year-old, who had scored 201 points in the qualifying rounds, proceeded to record five in the first set to lead all top scorers as Russia took a 1-0 lead courtesy of a 25-17 first set win.
The momentum was all with Russia but the world champions Brazil have too much class and pedigree to lie down easily. The record nine-time World League winners kept their noses in front throughout the set. All eyes were on referee Frans Loderus at 21-19 as a toss ball was changed to a Brazilian point. This forced Russia coach Andrey Voronkov to call on Mikhaylov for the first time in the World League. Although Muserskiy recorded an incredible ace to make it 24-22 to Brazil, a Lucas block soon sealed the deal 25-23 and tied up the match at 1-1.
Another Russian star in Sergey Grankin was called upon in the third set but again Brazil were dominant at 16-12. A monster block from Pavlov helped Russie pull within one at 18-17 before Ilia Zhilin also contributed with his own block to tie the scores as 21-21. However, the 28-year-old footfaulted at the next serve before Verbov’s bad reception and Grankin’s serve long gave Brazil the third set 25-22.
Voronkov rallied his troops in the fourth set as Russia streaked to a 11-6 lead. There was no need to move Muserskiy to wing spiker as the middle blocker was superb in defence and attack as Russia moved to 15-8 and 17-9 ahead. The passionate Alexey Spiridonov was red carded at 19-11 but another Pavlov spike off a Lucas block sealed the fourth set 25-19 to take it to a decider.
It was even until Pavlov opened a two point lead at 11-9. Two spikes from Spiridonov gave Russia match point at 14-11 and they needed only one with Pavlov serving up the winner over a Fonteles block.