By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On Sunday, September 17th, Brazil’s men’s national volleyball team cruised past host team Japan 3-0 (25-17, 25-15, 25-22) to seal its fourth consecutive championship at the International Volleyball Federation’s (FIVB) 2017 Volleyball World Grand Champions Cup.
The FIVB Volleyball World Grand Champions Cup is a quadrennial international men’s volleyball tournament featuring six of the top national volleyball teams from five different continents all vying for the championship crown.
The round-robin tournament was held in Nagoya and Osaka, Japan, and started on September 12th.
Team Brazil entered yesterday’s final as the odds-on favorite having won the last three editions of the tournament and the gold medal in this past Rio 2016 Olympics. But, the team was coming off a challenging five-set win over Team USA the day before the final, on Saturday, September 16th.
In front of a hostile crowd in Osaka, Team Brazil started Sunday’s match strong defensively. Standouts Lucas Saatkamp and Mauricio Borges, at 6’8″ and 6’6″ respectively, completely clogged the net causing serious problems for Japan’s attackers. The duo would combine for seven of Brazil’s 12 total blocks, four from Lucas and three from Mauricio.
In addition to frustrating Japan’s offense, Lucas and Mauricio would prove that defense was not their only specialty. The tall twosome would assert their dominance on the offensive end as well, finishing with 16 and 13 points each.
After handily winning the first two sets (25-17, 25-15), Brazil would face a determined Japanese team in the third set. With the thousands of fans in attendance urging them on, Japan would mount a final comeback in the third set.
But, it would be too little too late as Brazil’s talent and height were just too much for the home team to overcome, losing the third and final set 25-22.
“We were playing the home team, so it was a difficult game,” said Brazil coach Renan Dal Zotto after the match, “but we were doing our best, the third set was very competitive but we were able to prevail.”
He added, “I want to congratulate the hard work of the Brazilian team throughout this competition.”
Brazil have now won the past four editions of the quadrennial Volleyball World Grand Champions Cup dating back to 2005.
Rounding out this year’s medal podium were Italy winning silver and Iran the bronze medal.