Apeldoorn, Netherlands, May 29, 2018 - Tandara Caixeta's brilliant individual display guided Brazil to a sixth successive FIVB women's Nations League victory after they edged past a battling South Korea side in four sets 3-1 (25-11, 25-14, 31-33, 25-20) in Apeldoorn.
Brazil went into the match unbeaten since their opening-day defeat to Germany on week 1 and although Tandara and Amanda Francisco excelled in attack, they suffered a third-set lapse with Jose Roberto Guimaraes' women spurning five match points as they were forced into a fourth set by a determined South Korea comeback, but the South Americans responded well to eventually come through in the Netherlands.
Tandara weighed in with a huge 33 points, while Ana Beatriz also performed brilliantly as she chipped in with 19, but after a faultless first two sets, the South American champions made heavy weather of it despite going on to cement second spot in the table - just one point behind leaders USA. Aside from that third-set wobble, Brazil were stylish and powerful and remain the side to beat in a tough-looking Pool 9 which also features the hosts, Netherlands, and Poland.
South Korea, who had won four straight matches prior to a 3-0 loss to Italy in Suwon last time out, were outgunned for long periods, but they can take heart from a wonderful comeback in the third set with some fierce defence on show - but Cha Hae-won's side eventually slumped to a third defeat in seven Nations League outings, although they remain firmly in the race for a place in the Final Round. Jeongah Park was their star with 19 points, while Sohwi Kang (13 points) and Heejin Kim (10 points) also displayed plenty of craft and substance.
The first set was one-way traffic with South Korea simply blown away by a fierce Brazilian barrage - with Tandara and Amanda too powerful from spike range. Tandara continued to notch crucial points, including a superb block which put her side 11 points clear at 18-7. Two quickfire Eunjin Park spikes gave South Korea some faint hope, but the South Americans were soon back in control and Adenizia da Silva's wonderful block wrapped up the set 25-11.
But South Korea - six places below Brazil in tenth place in the world rankings - hadn't read the script and were much more fired up in the second set. Heejin Kim put the underdogs into a 2-0 lead and Sohwi Kang maintained that two-gap at 7-5 with Brazil looking a little ruffled. The Koreans managed to eek out a 10-6 lead, but just as the set looked to be edging away from Brazil, Guimaraes' women roared back with four straight points to level the set. Jeongah Park's returning error again handed Brazil parity at 14-14, and the Koreans failed to take another point in the set as Brazil ran riot. Ana Beatriz - coupled with Roberta Silva - was blocking everything at the net, while Tandara's serving and spikes were unreturnable. 25-14 and Brazil were cruising towards a routine victory.
Brazil, who have won four of the last five editions of the now defunct FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix, including last year, waltzed into a 3-0 lead in the third set, but their concentration dropped to allow South Korea back into it. Heejin Kim's accurate serving was causing Brazil problems and two Kim serves turned a 6-5 deficit into an 8-6 Korea lead at the first technical timeout. Brazil were beginning to make errors and South Korea found themselves four points clear at 12-8 with some inventive and artistic volleyball. The Koreans led by one at the second technical timeout, but Tandara's electric spike handed Brazil a 20-19 advantage. Three successive points for Korea, including a pinpoint serve which clipped the line, saw them battle back to lead once again, with this set heading to the wire. Points continued to go back and forth and South Korea showed tremendous courage and defensive resilience to save five match points in a dramatic finale to the third set, and Brazilian errors helped the underdogs halve the deficit as they snatched the set 33-31.
Into the fourth and Brazilian errors were becoming a common occurence, with their usual attacking verve and defensive mastery deserting them. South Korea surged into a 7-4 lead with Jose Roberto Guimaraes calling a timeout for his forlorn-looking side, and it appeared to do the trick with Brazil coming back and levelling at 10-10 thanks to Drussyla Costa's astute block. The Koreans were working as a well-oiled machine, but Brazil - despite not being as cohesive a unit - had the x-factor with players like Tandara and Beatriz, who nailed a crucial spike to fashion a 16-15 lead at the second technical timeout. A brilliant Eunjin Park block to deny Tandara kept South Korea in touch but the Brazilian megastar wasn't to be denied as her 32nd point of the match put Brazil 20-17 in front. Guimaraes' side eventually sealed the set 25-20, but they were pushed much harder than they imagined against a South Korean side who could surprise a few in the pool.