Four years ago at the Beijing Olympics, Brazil got the best of Team USA for the gold medal. This time the Americans will come away as the world’s top team this year at the London Games.
Team USA wasn’t on its “A-game” back in 2008. It all started when it lost to Cuba in its second pool play matchup, barely putting up a fight. Team USA would finish as the second-best in Pool A behind a 4-1 record and entered the knockout stage as one of the favorites.
Team USA escaped a tightly-contested match against Italy and then got its revenge over Cuba with a win in straight sets. That brought them to the gold medal match to face Brazil, who had yet to be tested in Beijing. Team USA and Brazil split the first two sets, but Brazil would take the next two, leaving the Americans with the silver medal.
Now, Team USA is back with a vengeance, ready to show Brazil what it’s made of.
The Americans have cruised into and through the knockout stage at the London Games. They won their first three matches in straight sets before a matchup against Brazil. Team USA took the first two sets before Brazil would take the third. Team USA battled hard to take the fourth and final set to defeat the Brazilians.
Team USA then defeated Korea in four sets before entering the knockout stage. The Americans beat the Dominican Republic in the quarterfinals and then Korea in the semifinals—both in straight sets—to setup a rematch of the Beijing gold medal match against Brazil.
This is not the same team that was in Beijing, though, especially Destinee Hooker. Hooker had 22 spikes and a block against Brazil in pool play.
“She’s really coming into a different game. She’s not only a good hitter now, she blocks and she’s playing some defense,” said U.S. captain Lindsey Berg via NBC Olympics. “She’s really developed her game to be a volleyball player instead of just this great athlete that jumps high and hits the ball hard.”
Hooker, along with Jordan Larson will be key pieces for Team USA to get its revenge over the reigning gold medal winners.
This Brazil team is not nearly as dominant as the team that won in Beijing. The Brazilians only lost one match—that coming against Team USA—but all but three of their seven matches thus far have gone more than three sets. Brazil was nearly eliminated in the quarterfinals against Russia after going into five sets.
Team USA should go into this match as the favorite since it has already beaten Brazil once already. There are both advantages and disadvantages to defeating a team during pool play that you meet later. You know all of their players and their formations, but on the other hand, they know how you play your game too. Confidence and the will to win is what’s going to win the gold medal, and Team USA has that.
Brazil might have won the gold medal in the Beijing Games, but there’s no way that Team USA lets the gold medal get away this time around.