Olympic Volleyball 2012: Men's Gold-Medal Game Preview and Prediction
For the third straight Olympics, Brazil's men's volleyball team will be playing for the gold medal.
With a gold at the 2004 Athens Games and a silver at the 2008 Beijing Games, Brazil has become one of the most accomplished teams in Olympic volleyball history. The Brazilians' two gold medals put them behind only the United States and Russia—Brazil's finals opponent this year—which each have three.
Russia's most recent gold medal was back in 1980, when Russia was still competing as part of the Soviet Union. Since 2000, Russia has been successful but not dominant, as they have two bronzes and a silver in that time span.
Going into tomorrow's final, Brazil holds a 3-2 advantage over Russia in Olympic competition. This will also be the first time both countries are meeting each other in the final.
Where: Earls Court, London, England
When: Sunday, August 12 at 8 a.m. ET
TV: NBC at 4 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NBCOlympics.com
Bruno Rezende, Wallace, Sidao, Leandro Vissotto, Giba, Murilo, Sergio, Thiago Alves, Rodrigao, Lucao, Ricardinho and Dante Amaral
Nikolay Apalikov, Taras Khtey, Sergey Grankin, Sergey Tetyukhin, Aleksander Sokolov, Yury Berezhko, Alexander Butko, Dmitriy Muserskiy, Dmitriy Illinikh, Maxim Mikhaylov, Aleksandr Volkov and Alexey Obmochaev
How They Got Here
The Brazilians had been the consensus gold-medal favorites even before the tournament, and they have yet to disappoint.
In the quarterfinals, they easily swept Argentina while winning each match by five or more points. Italy was a little more difficult in the semifinals, yet Brazil still swept them 3-0.
The Russians are a bit more of an underdog, as they took down Bulgaria, Pool A's top team, 3-1, in the semifinals, before they took down Poland in the quarterfinals, 3-0.
Brazil: Murilo Endres
Although he's smaller, at 6'3", Murillo Endres still leads his team in kills. He's also led his team in scoring in both against Argentina in the quarterfinals, with 14 points, and in the semifinals, with 15 points, against Italy.
As one of the veterans from the 2008 Olympics, Endres knows the disappointment of coming so close to a gold medal only to fall flat and finish in second place.
Along with other veterans like Dante Amaral, you can be sure that Endres will try to keep his team in line and not to get two silver medals in a row.
Russia: Maxim Mikhaylov
There has been no volleyball player better in these Olympics than Maxim Mikhaylov. He was crucial to Russia's victory over Bulgaria, against which he had 25 points.
Clearly, for the underdog Russians to win this game, Mikhaylov will have to have a large role.
Alongside Mikhaylov, Russia will have the giant Dmitriy Muserskiy, who stands at 7"2'. Indeed, much of the Russian team is tall, so they may be able to use stature as an advantage in this final.
The match should be a close one, with two of the best teams in volleyball. It will also come one day after Brazil's women's team faces off against the United States for the gold medal. That makes this weekend a very important one for Brazilian volleyball, as the country attempts to prove that it is a global powerhouse in the sport.
Even with Russia's impressive height, Brazil has got the deeper team. They also have championship experience, with this being their third consecutive Olympic final.
I expect them to cash in on it and win the final in four sets.
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