Russia beat Brazil in straight sets to claim third World League title
The result was a repeat of the Olympic Games final when Russia beat Brazil, that time in five sets although only four members - Nikolay Apalikov, Sergey Grankin, Dmitry Muserskiy and Maxim Mikaylov - of that Olympic team were featuring in Mar del Plata, and they have now beaten Brazil three times in succession for only the second time ever.
Russia, who previously won the World League title in 2002 and 2011 beating Brazil on both occasions 3-1 and 3-2 respectively, becomes the second country to win the World League title immediately after becoming Olympic champions after Brazil did it 1993 and 2005. It’s Russia’s 14th World League medal – three gold, five silver, six bronze – while Brazil remain the most successful country having nine titles, four silver and four bronze to their name.
It was the first time world champions Brazil, who last the World League title in 2010, had lost in straight sets since suffering to a similar scoreline during last year’s Finals against Cuba.
After a week of sublime action and twists and turns all eyes turned on the top teams in the world to compete for World League honours. It was Russia who made an auspicious start. Evgeny Sivozhelez tipped into the antenna off the first point, super scorer Nikolay Pavlov spiked long on the second, libero Alexey Verbov was called for a held ball off the third. It wasn’t until Sivozhelez finally got a spike out off the block that Russia were on the board at 5-1. But just as Brazil, who had Vissotto on the bench and Dante starting, had gained the early advatange, Russia had soon tied the game up at 7-7 after Wallace spiked out before Pavlov blocked Dante for Russia to take the lead in the match for the first time at 10-9. Apalikov blocked Lucarelli to make it 11-9 before an outstanding rally featuring eight plays was finished with an Isac spike. At 15-11 ahead, Russia certainly looked the part before an Isac ace made it 15-13 and a spike down centre court tied the game up at 19-19. Bernardinho received a yellow card for his persistent protests at 23-22 before Sivozhelez spiked off a Waalace block and 2.18m Muserskiy finished it off with a block on Lucarelli.
Russia continued on in the same fashion with Alexey Spiridonov blocking Wallace to claim the first substantial lead at 4-2 before Lucarelli spiked long and Spiridonov spiked home to give Russia a 6-2 lead. Brazil fought back to 11-9 but Russia kept their noses in front. Muserskiy fired up his troops with a sublime block on Lucas to make it 13-10 before Pavlov spiked beautifully to make it 15-10. Vissotto made his first appearance at this stage but it was to no avail. Russia were charging. Dante failed to cope with Spiridonov’s serve and when Apalikov blocked Vissotto at 19-12 the set was effectively over. It was only left for Pavlov to claim his 13th point of the match to finish off the set.
All eyes were looking to see if Brazil could avoid their first ever 3-0 defeat in a World League final. Their previous three they went down by 3-1, 3-1 and 3-2 to Russia in 2011. With Brazil at their mercy, Russia stepped up a gear. Spiridonov inparticular was outstanding. Two aces gave the 2011 champions a 5-2 lead before Muserskiy blocked Lucarelli to make it 6-2 and Pavlov finished a superb rally at 7-2. Russia were out to 8-2 before another Spiridonov ace put them ahead 11-4. As hard as Bruno and Co tired, they couldn’t contain the Russian onslaught. Pavlov collected his 20th point with a devastating spike splitting the block of Dante and Lucas at 17-13 before spiking off Vissotto at 21-15. Spiridonov got in on the action with two further unstoppable attacks before tournament Most Valuable Player Pavlov sealed Russia’s third World League title.