Brazil, US lead men's volleyball to replay Beijing finale?
Updated: 2012-07-10 15:18:57
BEIJING - The thrilling men's volleyball final between Brazil and the United States in the Beijing Games is expected to replay, twice, in London four year later, as the two powerhouses share the same pool.
While this time, led by the legendary Gilberto Godoy Filho, better known as Giba, the world No 1 Brazil get the upper hand as the defending champion US drop in form after the Beijing Games because of injuries and reshuffle of the coach team.
Hugh McCutcheon, who led the men to gold at Beijing, shifted over to the American women's national team after the 2008 Games, and opposite hitter Clay Stanley, the most valuable player in Beijing, is just back to team after a surgery on his left knee in December.
The US men, playing under coach Alan Knipe, sank back to world No 5 after a sixth place at the 2010 World Championship and 2011 World Cup, but the team gradually found their rhythm to win the silver medal at the 2012 World League.
"I think we are good enough. There will be no better time to catch fire than at the end of July through the middle of August," middle blocker Ryan Millar said on his blog. London will be his fourth Olympic Games.
Brazil, meanwhile, has revived from the loss of gold medal in Beijing. They won the 2010 World Championship and World League of the same year, then were runners-up in the 2011 World League and placed third at the 2011 World Cup, which secured a berth in London and returned to the top of the world.
However, revenge will be sweet but not easy.
With many players who were on the team four years ago, Brazil fields to London an experienced, but aging squad as some its key players, like Giba and libero Sergio Dutra Santos, are above 35. To make the things worse is Giba might not keep his tiptop condition all through the London Games, because he has a titanium rod planted in his left leg to help heal a fracture in his tibia.
So, the answer to which of the two will laugh till the end is full of twists. It also gives a chance to potential dark horse like Russia to take advantage.
The Russians reached the semifinals four years ago in Beijing and walked away with the bronze. Since then, they are still trucking along as a world power. They took the third place in the 2009 World League, and move forward one step every year in the event to claim the championship in 2011.
The team are on fire as they have also won the 2011 World Cup and got straight into London. With eight players of its 12-strong Olympic roster above 2 meters tall, Russia poses a wall to any team who seek podium finish in London.
They're also in the same pool with Brazil, the United States, Serbia, Germany and Tunisia. The other pool includes Italy, Poland, Argentina, Bulgaria, Australia and host Britain.
Other competitive medals contenders are Poland and Italy. Poland has kept a rising momentum after a disappointing fifth finish in Beijing Games. They are runner-up of the 2011 World Cup and claimed the crown of 2012 World League.
Italy won four medals in its Olympic history, but none of those is gold. Italians placed fourth in both the 2010 World Championship and 2011 World Cup, and currently ranked sixth in the world.
The London Games marks an Olympic debut of the host nation. Any match won on the home soil this time will be a cause of big celebration in Britain.