Men's Volleyball: Preview, Prediction for USA vs. Brazil's Gold-Medal Rematch
Both Brazil and the United States are slotted in Group B, but neither have lost a set yet and looked very sharp so far.
Brazil is coming off of a win against a tough very Russian team, which was ranked No.2 in the world heading into the tournament. Many thought Brazil would be tested by the size of the Russians and the attacking prowess of 2011 FIVB World Cup MVP Maxim Mikhaylov, perhaps the best player in the world.
Instead, Brazil held Mikhaylov to 10 spikes on just 18% hitting efficiency, forcing six errors and blocking him multiple times in the most crucial moments of the match.
Brazil out-blocked the Russians nine to five, and passed the ball with a 61.7 percent reception success rate (any pass that can the setter can set his full complement of hitters), while Russia passed for just 55.6 percent.
The Americans had a similarly impressive performance against the Germans, minus this play. Even though the Germans are ranked just No.10 in the FIVB rankings, spiking your way to 41 points on 43.8 percent efficiency and relying on just 17 opponent errors for points is impressive.
So what can we expect from the matchup of the superpowers? Well, to say this is a totally different game than 2008 wouldn't be as accurate as one would think.
USA returns many of their most important pieces from the Beijing gold medalists, including middle David Lee, veterans outside Reid Priddy and libero Richard Lambourne, and the powerful opposite hitter, Clay Stanley.
Brazil's side still have two of the best outsides in the world in Giba and Dante Amaral, although Giba is 35 years of age and losing playing time to Murilho Endres, who may be Brazil's best attacker. Their backcourt is still anchored by long-time libero, Sergio.
Even though Brazil just held down Mikhaylov, no other outside hitter on Russia was able to take advantage of the attention their star drew and post more than six spikes.
This will not be the case with USA; they have the best outside attacking tandem in the tournament with Matt Anderson on the left, and Clay Stanley on the right. In their two matches, Anderson and Stanley have accounted for 64 percent of USA's successful attacks.
It will be interesting to see how head coach Bernardo Rezende deals with Anderson and Stanley. Brazil has blocked well in transition; when they force teams into bad passes and give their blockers a chance to set up, their triple block is virtually unbeatable.
However, if Lambourne and Reid Priddy can provide some good passes for new setter Donald Suxho, the new Brazilian middles may have trouble making the right choices on blocks. They've gotten solid production out of Lucas Saatkamp, for sure.
However, the other starting middle, Juniors Dos Santos (no, not the MMA fighter) looked lost at times, making seven block errors against Russia.
Anderson and Stanley boast spike touches of 360 and 358 cm, respectively. They hit high off the block and will score even when the defense is in perfect position.
Although Brazil has played a bit of a two-man rotation at the right side, I believe we will see much more of Leandro Vissotto, who is 6'11'' and not much of an attacker, but came up with three huge blocks in the third set against Russia.
While the attention will be on the big men, the game will be won at the back line. Whoever serves tougher and receives the serve better will provide their team with more versatility on the attack, and ultimately win the game.
Prediction: USA def. Brazil 3-1. It will be an exciting game and Brazil's middles will have a tough time with USA's patterns on offense.
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