Clash of the 13s: Russia's Dmitriy Muserskiy about to spike agaist the Brazilian block of Mauricio Souza in the semifinals of the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Nations League in Lille.
Lille, France, July 7, 2018 - Dmitriy Muserskiy inspired a clinical Russia to a hugely impressive 3-0 victory (25-17, 25-18, 25-14) over Brazil in the FIVB men's Nations League as they booked a mouthwatering final with France.
Russia were absolutely immense throughout this semi-final in a meeting between men's volleyball's two most successful countries, with Brazil simply having no answer to Russia's immaculate serving, net power and attacking threat. Brazil - with 22 world-level titles to their name - lead Russia by 3 in the trophy cabinet, but they were ruthlessly outclassed by the reigning European champions who finished off a surprisingly one-sided contest inside 3 sets to put them on the brink of a first world-level crown since the 2013 World League.
Muserskiy was Russia's outstanding player as he weighed in with 10 points, including 3 towering blocks. Muserskiy consistently combined in Russia's fabled 3-man block defence with Dmitry Kovalev, Artem Volvich and top-scorer Maxim Mikhaylov (12 points) also blocking a frustrated Brazilian side at least twice each. Dmitry Volkov also notched 11 points for Sergey Shlyapnikov's men as he provided the threat from out wide. Russia, though, are an extremely well-oiled team unit, seldom relying on individuals, and on this evidence they'll pose France a considerable threat in Sunday's final.
Brazil, the reigning Olympic champions and the only side to have won all 5 world-level majors, were way off their best and could not shake off the lethargy that characterised their play in the opening set. Renan Dal Zotto's men comfortably dispatched the Russians 3-1 in the preliminary rounds, but they were woeful in every department with their big hitters simply not turning up as they lost just their 2nd world level semi-final in 24 attempts. Not a single Brazilian reached double figures with Wallace De Souza's 8-point haul barely making a dent.
With Russia leading Brazil 33-32 in the head to head, these matches are normally close, and it looked to be that way to begin with as Brazil edged into a 4-2 lead, but that was the only time they led in the match as Russia soon found their power game. Mikhaylov, Volvich and Muserskiy were all getting their blocks in as Russia led 16-11 at the second technical timeout. A wonderful Volkov ace stretched the gap to 7 (20-13) and Volvich - who landed 5 points and 2 blocks in the first set alone - fittingly got the point that gave Russia the set (25-17).
Brazil had won their last 6 matches against Russia, but that run wasn't about to be extended in Lille as the European champions continued to dominate. A brilliant Muserskiy point put Russia 7-4 in front before Egor Kliuka got in on the act to bridge the gap out to 4 (11-7). Brazilian heads continued to drop and they simply couldn't cope with Muserskiy's aerial threat. The South Americans were making error after error and a poor Isac Santos serve handed Russia the set, 25-18.
Things got worse and worse for the 2017 Grand Champions Cup winners in set 3 as they were quickly put out of their misery. Wallace tried to rally his team with a thunderous early spike, but all that did was spark Russia into a scoring frenzy as they soon put the match to bed. Volkov's exceptional spike made it 15-9 before a stunning piece of improvisation from Kovalev put Shlyapnikov's men 10 points clear (22-12). Kliuka's brilliant ace secured the crushing victory on their first match point (25-14) as they moved into Sunday's final in style. France beware, Russia are on a role! Brazil can still salvage their VNL campaign with victory over the USA in Sunday's bronze-medal match.