Ufa, Russia, June 8, 2018 - Wallace De Souza top scored with 22 points as the two most recent Olympic Champions faced up in Russia. No-one approaches to spike as Wallace does and his incredible ability to contort his body, that impressive leap, along with the vision to find the gaps, helped his team record an important 3-1 victory (25-21, 25-20, 25-27, 25-18). Renan Dal Zotto has now guided his team to six victories in the Volleyball Nations League and will be proud of how they dominated proceedings away in Russia. Brazil are now top the standings with six wins and 18 points, moving back above Poland.
With all stats between the two teams being quite similar, it was the ace count that stands out as being the difference - 11-4 to Brazil – with six of their players serving one throughout the match. With Bruno Rezende providing the platform, four players reached double figures in points. Along with Wallace, Mauricio Borges (17), Isac Santos (12) and Douglas Souza (12) all scored important points, while the sixth main player not already listed, Lucas Saatkamp (pictured above), also scored 9. Demonstrating a true team effort.
Russia can be pleased with the shift put in by Konstantin Bakun with him being a constant thorn in Brazils side. He will be enjoying his time as Russia’s starting opposite hitter (in the absence of Maxim Mikhailov) and top scored here with 19 points. Next in the charts was Dmitriy Muserskiy with 10 points, but in truth the competitions best attacker (he had 66.31% attack efficiency before today) will be disappointed with his performance.
No other country has won more matches against Brazil in world level major competitions than Russia but they have lost their last five matches at this level and other than the first part of third set they never really looked likely to break that run here. It is tight in the head to head (33 - 31 for Russia), and it was tight in the first set with no team establishing a lead or more than 2 points.
That was until the Brazilian powerhouse Mauricio Silva stepped up to serve at 22-20 and rolled a crafty serve across the court for an ace. He then followed that with a float serve ace to exactly the same point and with it the set was pretty much won for the reigning Olympic Champions. The only time Russia have not won the first set of a match since they faced Poland back in week 1.
With the wind in their sails, Brazil started the second strongly and built a lead 10-6. Russia fought back but the team in gold responded and went one better by the second technical (16-11). With moments of brilliance from both sides and the home crowd willing their team on, it was Lucas Saatkamp who was the top pick with a couple of “warm-up” style spikes wowing (if not pleasing) the crowd. With coach Sergei Shliapnikov using his full bench, Russia eventually ran out of options and gifted Russia the second set with a service error.
Each of Brazils matches to date have either been straight set wins or five setters thrillers, so the third set appeared crucial. Russia started strongly with high spirits of getting back into it – highlighted by Ilia Vlasov celebrating a point by doing a “dab”. Russia, and in particular Bakun, were doing the business and errors started to creep into Brazil's game. That being said, the score line somehow stayed level in the first half.
Eventually the change in momentum started to show on the scoreboard. Then at 15-10 the crowd were wowed when on service reception the ball clipped the net tape and Mauricio passed it to Bruno with his chest whilst falling to the floor, only to get up and hit a winner!
With the music pumping and the crowd wanting to see more it was down to the home team to get over the line and force a fourth set, but with Brazil siding out more consistently they came more back into it with every rotation. Things got tense at the end but it was an ace serve from their competition top scorer Dmitriy Muserskiy that secured the set 27-25.
From the first point the flow in the fourth returned to that of the 1st and 2nd set as they continued to score points from all positions. Howeve this set was all about Wallace De Souza and Isac Santos as they put on a blocking fest to score additional points in nearly all serving rotations. At 16-10 Brazil had the lead they wanted and saw it through to its conclusion, Douglas Souza with the winning point wiping off the block..
Regardless of the result today, both teams will fancy their chances in their next two matches as they seek to secure a spot in the finals in Lille next month by ending this round in the top six.