After wins in the semifinal round by both the Brazilian and Russian Men’s volleyball teams, the two powerhouses will face off on Sunday, August 12, in the gold-medal game.
The match will feature an aggressive Russian team with tremendous length against a savvy, battle-tested Brazilian squad that earned a silver at the Beijing Olympics four years ago.
Both teams met at Earls Court on July 31, a match Brazil won in the minimum three games (25-21, 25-23, 25-21). Though Russia got a strong performance from 7’2" middle blocker Dmitriy Muserskiy and 12 points from Maxim Mikhaylov, Mikhaylov recorded six faults in the match, all of which did not help the Russian cause.
Look for a similar result when the two teams meet on Sunday.
Mikhaylov, who has been the tournament’s best player statistically, leads the No. 2-ranked Russian team. He has recorded a staggering 108 kills throughout the Olympic games, and against a surprising Bulgarian team, Mikhaylov put up 25 points, with 21 of them coming on kills. The tournament’s hottest player, however, will be on the other side of the court.
Wallace de Souza, thought to be the best player on the No. 1-ranked Brazilian team, though he registered only one point when Brazil faced Russia at the end of July, is coming off a game against Italy in the semifinal round where he for the most part looked unstoppable.
The 6’6" Wallace de Souza pairs with outside hitter Murilo Endres, a smaller player at 6’3", but nonetheless the leader in kills for the Brazilian team. Endres is a crafty player who had 12 kills to beat out de Souza’s 11 in their match against Italy.
Endres, 31, comes from a volleyball family, as his brother Gustavo and his wife Jacqueline Carvalho are former Brazilian volleyball players.
Coupled with fellow 31-year-old opposite hitter Dante Amaral, the Brazilian team has a veteran quality about it that makes them difficult to beat. Both players, along with Endres' older brother, were members of the 2008 Brazilian squad that lost to the United States in the final.
Endres and Amaral are hungry for gold in 2012. Amaral plays with a hefty amount of tape on his left hand, as the veteran will not let a jammed finger or two slow him down.
This marks the third gold-medal game Brazil has appeared in since the 2000 Athens Olympics, and there is a sense from head coach Bernarndo Rezende that his team should be in the position it is in.
Though they will likely be without injured captain and 6’11" outside hitter Leandro Vissotto Neves for the second straight game, Brazil should be able to handle his absence. Wallace de Souza has stepped into the lead outside-hitter role without the captain present, with his tremendous athleticism making up for the difference in height he has from the Brazilian captain.
Should Vissotto Neves return to the lineup, Brazil will only match up better with the size of Russia, and Wallace de Souza will retain the role that he has been dominant at over the past few matches.
Matching up with Mikhaylov and Muserskiy should be the biggest difficulty for the Brazilians, as both Russians have the size, strength and athleticism to become a handful once the match starts. The two Russian players have impressive statistics, but stats in volleyball similar to theirs are often the result of teams dropping games in matches, and therefore, getting extra opportunities for kills and blocks.
Brazil has dropped only five games in this Olympics, with two coming to Serbia and three in a loss to the United States. Russia has dropped six, with three coming at the hands of Brazil, two in a win over the U.S. and one against Bulgaria.
With only one extra game played, the stat differential mainly seen in Mikhaylov’s 108 kills to the highest Brazilian’s, Endres with 69, is a point of concern for the Brazilian squad. They will counter with the talented Wallace de Souza, who is not afraid of anything, seeing as his favorite hobby is watching scary movies.
Other players to look out for in this match will be the lengthy Brazilian middle player Lucas Saatkamp and the versatile 6’9" Russian Taras Khtey. Each of these players should play a key role setting up the other stars on their respective teams for success.
Ultimately, Brazil will come out playing the same smart, team-oriented volleyball they play at every Summer Olympics. With the Brazilian women also in the final against the United States on Saturday, August 11, Brazil will do its best to cement itself as a known volleyball juggernaut to the rest of the world.
Prediction: Brazil, 3-1 (25-21, 22-25, 25-19, 25-23)