By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Sports Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Brazil were eliminated from the FIVB Volleyball Men’s Junior World Championships on Sunday after finishing third in Pool F. The under-21 tournament began last Monday (August 1st), with the big final on Wednesday, August 10th. Matches are taking place at the Maracanãzinho in Rio, as well as the Caio Martins Sports Center in neighboring Niteroi.
The first round was played last week, with the sixteen nations drawn into four pools of four teams each. The top two teams in each pool were subsequently drawn into Pools E and F for the second round, with the other sides going into Pools G and H.
The first and second placed teams in Pools and E and F qualified for the semi-finals, leading to this evening’s final. Defending champions Brazil qualified for the second round after finishing second in their group behind the US, despite recording a narrow 3-2 victory over the Americans.
But any dreams Brazil had of snatching a third successive title, having won the last two editions in 2007 and 2009, were snuffed out on Sunday evening after suffering defeat at the hands of India. Having thrashed Serbia 3-0 in their opening second round match, Brazil then fell to great rivals Argentina 3-1 in their next contest.
The heavy defeat exerted real pressure on their youngsters to inflict the same kind of punishment on the Indian squad in a match of tantamount importance. To qualify for the semis, Brazil needed to win by a 3-0 or 3-1 margin.
However, a five-set thriller saw the hosts lose 3-2 to rule them out of contention for this year’s crown. Brazil will now remain in the fight for a place in the top eight and will face Spain.
Otavio Pinto, Captain of Brazil comments: “We did not have calm and will to close the fourth set, which would seal the match for our side. India did have nothing to lose while we needed the win to qualify.”
Brazil coach Leonardo Carvalho blamed his youngsters’ lack of coolness under pressure for the defeat. “Every match that goes to the fifth set is decided in details. We lacked calmness and the capacity to win the match. We made too many mistakes in the first and fourth sets,” he said.
Serbia, who were so soundly beaten by Brazil but still managed to secure second place in the Pool, will now face Russia, who topped Pool E. The other semi-final will see Argentina, the junior side ranked number one in the world, play against the United States.
It is Russia, however, who are in the most eye-catching form in Rio: the team has yet to lose a match after coming from behind to defeat USA on Sunday at the Maracanãzinho gymnasium. Despite suffering an early set-back, the Russians came through the encounter to win the match 3-2 and keep their 100 percent record in the tournament intact.
They are expected to make the final and play top young guns Argentina for the crown, though the Argentinians should meet a tougher challenge in the form of United States. The US have looked in good form so far in the tournament, and gave the Russians a close run for their money in the second round.
In 2010, the Brazilian men’s team, ranked 1st in the world, won the World League and the World Championships. The women’s team are also ranked 1st in the world, are the reigning Olympic champions, came 2nd in the World Grand Prix and were one of the favorites to win the 2010 World Championships.