A month after opening, Brazil still bask in Rio 2016 gold glory


Players and fans at the Maracanazinho celebrate together Brazil's first Olympic gold since Athens 2004.

Lausanne, Switzerland, September 7, 2016 - A month ago to the day, Brazil's men set off on unsure footing on what turned out to be a dream-come-true adventure, as they embarked on the Rio 2016 Olympic campaign by dropping their first set in the competition to Mexico.

The home side, supported by a partisan crowd sellout (like for every single Brazil session) crowd at the iconic Maracanazinho, did eventually get their defending sorted and upped the pressure with their service to turn the game around and take the win.

Highlights of the Rio 2016 Olympic final between Brazil and Italy.

But after losing consecutive games to USA and Italy, both in four, Brazil were on the brink of a major disaster. Up against reigning European champions France in their last match of pool play, they were facing elimination and a disastrous ninth place finish (which would have been their worst in half a century, after another ninth at Mexico City 1968) staright in their face.

A win and only a win would see Brazil through to the quarterfinals. Eventually Brazil put up a brilliant performance to outplay the French in four sets, leaving France out in the cold.

Wallace de Souza atttacks past the block of Kevin Le Roux and Antonin Rouzier as Brazil mark a turning point in their Olympic campaign with a win over France.

Once what had been dubbed 'the pool of death' (or what was more politely described by France coach Laurent Tillie as 'a very complicated pool') had been sorted, everything else fell into place more or less as could be predicted.

Italy, Canda and USA joined Brazil in the quarterfinals from Pool A; Argentina, Poland, Russia and Iran advanced from Pool B.

Compared to pool play, the quarterfinals were almost an anticlimax - three of them decided in straight sets and only the age-old rivalry between Argentina and Brazil pushing the last one to four before more than 10,000 fans.

Things heated up in the semis, as London 2012 bronze medallists Italy took five sets to knock out Beijing 2008 Olympic champions USA, with Ivan Zaytsev finishing off sets from the service line.

Ivan Zaytsev's performance in the semis was instrumental in getting Italy through to the Rio 2016 final.

However, the highly anticipated rematch of the dramatic London 2012 final was a non-event. With Brazil now on a roll, the home side thrashed Russia in straight sets and put an end to any aspirations of the defending champions for a repeat of their performance of four years ago.

It was a similar scenario on the closing day of competition, just a few hours before the Closing Ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympics themselves, right next door at the historic Maracana Stadium.

With Russia having seemingly already secured the bronze after a two-set lead over USA, the Americans turned it around and snatched the medal out of their hands, at the same time denying captain Sergey Tetyukhin an unprecedented fifth Olympic medal.

USA staged an astonishing comeback to snatch the bronze medal out of the hands of Russia.

When Brazil stepped up to take on Italy for gold, it turned again into a straight set sweep in just over an hour and a half and the first straight-set Olympic final since Yugoslavia beat Russia in Sydney 2000.

It was Brazil's third gold medal in Olympic Games history, matching the record of USA and now just one short of Russia (including the Soviet Union) four.

And after such agony in the opening round, what a more fitting way for Brazil as a nation to finish their home Olympics than by winning gold in the country's most popular sport.


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