In one of the greatest matches in volleyball history, Brazil rallied from two sets down to outlast Japan 3-2 (22-25, 33-35, 25-22, 25-22 and 15-11) in a 2-hour, 20-minute marathon semifinal on Saturday in the 2010 FIVB Women’s World Volleyball Championship at Yoyogi National Gymnasium.
With the victory, Brazil secures a spot in Sunday’s championship match against Russia.
The threesome of Sheilla Castro, Natalia Pereira and Fabiana Claudino all finished with more than 20 points in Brazil’s thrilling victory, which was witnessed by an announced crowd of 11,000.
Sheilla and Natalia registered 25 and 23 points, respectively, while captain Fabiana added 20 to the winning effort. Thaisa and Jaqueline each charted 12 points.
The Olympic champions were particularly effective at the net where they recorded 21 blocks.
Japan’s Yukiko Ebata and Saori Kimura compiled 29 and 25 points, respectively, while Ai Yamamoto tallied 11 points.
Ebata said, “We tried to win with all the members of our team. I thought we did very well in the first two sets. Brazil came out very strong and they really showed they are the No. 1 team in the world. . . . We still have a chance for a medal tomorrow, and I believe that definitely we can win tomorrow.”
After the match, the Brazilians agreed it was a tough encounter.
“It was a very difficult match,” Brazil coach Jose Guimaraes said. “Japan played a very good match, they really raised the level of their game. They attacked our second line of defense at the back. Ebata and Kimura overwhelmed us.
“Japan prepared for Brazil very well. Our blocks and defending didn’t always go well. Our concentration wasn’t always focused throughout such a long match, but in the fifth set, we could play our volleyball. Our players came up with three very important blocks in the tiebreaker.”
Japan coach Masayoshi Manabe praised his players’ effort.
“I thought our players had incredible concentration tonight, and our defense was especially good.”
He added: “Our serves were especially good in the first two sets, and we started the first half of the match very well. When they put Thaisa (Menezes) in, we couldn’t break their serve, and that was a big reason we lost.”
In the deciding fifth set, Saori’s deflected spike equalized for Japan at 2-2, but Mai Yamaguchi and Yoshie Takeshita couldn’t dig out a loose ball off the net. Kimura made a great block but hoisted a serve long.
Moments later, Takeshita’s reflexes saved a rally, which Brazil won at the net to go up 7-5. Castro’s block sent her spinning in ecstasy, as Brazil surged to 8-5, its biggest lead of the match.
With Japan appearing to run out of steam, Natalia smacked home a spike to go 10-6. But Ebata answered for Japan, and Inoue’s block shaved the lead down to 10-8. Castro soared for a spike to 11-8, and Natalia blasted another from the left wing for 12-8.
Ebata couldn’t dig out a ball out of bounds, and Japan appeared on the edge of defeat at 13-8. Kimura kept Japan’s hope alive with a spike to 13-9. But again, Natalia simply overpowered Japan’s defense, to give Brazil match point at 14-9.
Japan saved one match point, and then Brazil seemed ready to celebrate when Kimura came out of nowhere to save a ball out of bounds and make it 15-11.
But Fabiana finally ended a marathon match with a spike, giving Brazil a 15-11 set and the match, after 2 hours and 20 minutes of top-notch competition.
Defending champion Russia scored a four-sets victory over the United States in a hard-hitting semifinal Saturday to advance to the gold medal match at the 2010 FIVB Women’s World Volleyball Championship.
Russia prevailed 25-16, 13-25, 25-19, 25-21 at Yoyogi National Gymnasium and will meet Brazil in Sunday’s final.
Towering Ekaterina Gamova led Russia with 22 points while veteran Liubov Shashkova and Tatiana Kosheleva registered 18 and 16 points respectively.
“I’m not totally pleased with the quality of our game today. Today’s game was more about mental toughness than technical skill. We didn’t really change our overall strategy, and that’s why we won,” said Russia coach Vladimir Kuzyutkin.
American Destinee Hooker finished with a match-high 23 points.
Three other U.S. players compiled double digits, with Jordan Larson, Foluke Akinradewo and Heather Bown notching 15, 12 and 10 but their efforts proved ultimately fruitless.
“They were better than us today,” said U.S. coach Hugh McCutcheon.
“From our end, I thought we tried to implement some plans and systems, but at the end of the day, the Russian team is quite physical, and they can do some things that other teams in the world cannot.”