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Italy clash with Brazil chasing first ever Olympic gold

 
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 20, 2016 - Who will triumph with the men’s volleyball gold from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games? This question will find its answer after the final match between Italy and hosts Brazil at the Maracanazinho on Sunday.


Italy and Brazil have met 62 times in major international competitions. The South American squad won 37 and the southern European side – 25 of these encounters.

This will be the tenth time these two teams play each other at Olympic Games. They faced each other twice at Montreal 1976, at Los Angeles 1984, at Seoul 1988, twice at Athens 2004, at Beijing 2008, at London 2012 and here, at Rio 2016. The Brazilians won all of these encounters, except for the last one. On August 13, at the Maracanazinho, Italy managed to strike their first ever Olympic victory over Brazil – 3-1 (23-25, 25-23, 25-22, 25-15). The upcoming clash on Sunday will be the second Olympic final between the two sides. On August 29, 2004, Brazil claimed the title from Athens after a 3-1 (25-15, 24-26, 25-20, 25-22) win against Italy in the gold medal match.

Outside the Olympics, the most recent meeting between the two volleyball giants was at the finals of the FIVB Volleyball World League earlier this year. On July 13, in Krakow, the South American side hammered out a 3-0 (25-18, 25-20, 25-19) shutout.

For Italy, the Rio 2016 medal will be the sixth in their Olympic history. After two silver and three bronze medals, the southern European squad will be chasing their first ever Olympic gold this Sunday. So far at the Games, the Italians won Pool A, losing only their last match after having secured their spot in the knockout phase. Their quarterfinal with Iran resulted in a 3-0 victory. In the semifinals, the Italians achieved a thrilling five-set win against USA.

Ivan Zaytsev is Italy’s most prolific player at the tournament so far. With 110 points, he ranks second in the overall Best Scorers chart, only behind Brazil’s Wallace de Souza, who has scored 127 times. Zaytsev’s teammate Osmany Juantorena is fifth with 102 points.

Zaytsev is also the best server of the competition with an average of 0.50 aces per set until now. The young Italian playmaker Simone Giannelli, on the other hand, tops the Best Setters ranking.

Led by the tournament’s best scorer Wallace de Souza, Brazil will go after their third Olympic title after striking gold at Barcelona 1992 and Athens 2004. They also have three Olympic silver medals to showcase, so the Rio 2016 medal will be their sixth in the men’s volleyball history of the Games.

To reach the gold medal match at the Maracanazinho, the home side finished fourth in Pool A, then claimed a 3-1 win against Argentina in the quarterfinals and dethroned Russia with a convincing shutout in the semifinals.

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