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Ana on target for buoyant Brazil

Barueri, Brazil, May 17, 2018 - Ana Beatriz helped fire a brilliant Brazil comeback as Serbia were eventually ground down and defeated 3-1 (23-25, 25-22, 25-14, 25-21).

It was the perfect way for Ze Roberto’s team to end the first week of VNL action, this victory capping a strong response to that shock opening game defeat to Germany by reeling off two successive wins.

Middle blocker Beatriz was the star - scoring eight points and adding eight blocks - but what will have pleased the Brazil coaches the most was how everyone managed to contribute and diffuse a powerful Serbian side.

Amanda finished with 11 points while Tandara (six points), Ade (six points and six blocks) also made excellent and vital contributions.

Serbia, led by the irrepressible Tijana Boskovic and Brankica Mihajlovic, roared out of the blocks and deserved a one set lead but with coach Zoran Terzic shuffling his pack as the match wore on, his second string weren’t able to keep a Brazilian team at bay who will now head to Turkey next week in good spirits.

Brazil may have won the last two FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix tournaments, are two time Olympic champions and boast a record of 12 wins from the last 14 meetings with the European champions.

The statistics, however, counted for little in Tuesday’s shock defeat to Germany and even though Ze Roberto’s side bounced straight back against Japan, taking on the powerful Serbians would be the acid test.

Boskovic, the star performer in the first match against Japan, was used sparingly in the second match with the Germans in order to keep her firing for the biggest match of Pool Four so far.

Brankica Mihajlovic was also a huge threat to the Brazilians who needed libero Suelen to be on top form. Roberta, the captain, was also needed to lead from the front - and an ace from the very first point was a decent start.

Serbia’s attack however was ruthless and on point. Brazil were defending resolutely yet the scampering around the court to repel Boskovic’s brute force began to take its toll.

Ze Roberto’s team needed to fight fire with fire. Tandara was leading the charge while the packed, excitable home crowd were roaring their heroines on, even unleashing a Mexican wave to get everyone pumping.

And it seemed to help Brazil who were sticking close to the Serbians before managing to sneak ahead 14-12. It didn’t last.

Boskovic, just 21 years-old, was being attracted to the ball like a magnet, her spikes breaking the 100kph barrier leaving the startled team in yellow desperately searching for answers.

She finished with just four points but will undoubedtly return next week fresh and ready to make amends. Zoran Terzic's team were the most dangerous offensively yet Brazil were refusing to wilt.

Amanda’s introduction helped the home side but Serbia had a set point and fittingly it was Boskovic who smashed home at the first time of asking.

The Brazilians lost their first two games at the FIVB Volleyball World Grand Champions Cup last year and it already looked like an uphill struggle if a repeat was to be avoided here.

Midway through the second set, it was fiendishly tight once again. Serbia’s focus began to slip.

The European champions needed to regroup. A brilliant kill block from Ana gave Brazil an 18-16 lead and really had the 5,000 strong crowd believing.

Mihajlovic was a constant thorn in their side but an epic rally eventually won by the home team saw them move within touching distance of bringing the tie level.

One set point went begging but when Sladjana Mirkovic served long, Serbia had dropped their first set of the tournament and Brazil were alive and kicking.

Tandara’s influence on the game was growing while Ade’s defensive work was crucially important as the twice Olympic champions extended their lead to 17-10 in the third.  

Boskovic and Mihajlovic’s were taken out of the fire and it showed as their less experienced colleagues wilted under the pressure allowing Ze Roberto’s side to take the fourth set with ease.

The momentum was with Brazil and although Serbia, who travel to Macau for the next phase of the VNL, emerged from their slumber to make it interesting towards the end, the result was never in doubt.

Brazil were actually outspiked (38-40) and made far more errors (31-18). Yet they grew stronger as the game wore on and produced winners on a more consistent basis to end their home stretch on a real high.


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