Sander above the wall as Russia are kicked out


Turin, Italy, September 27, 2018 - USA and Brazil claimed the first two tickets to the semifinals of the 2018 FIVB Men's World Championship, after a clean sweep by USA of Russia 3-0 (25-22, 25-23, 25-23) here Thursday evening.

The result sees reigning European champions Russia head home early, winless in this 3rd Round of the competition. Russia had previously lost to Brazil on Wednesday after blowing a two-set lead.

On the back of that win, Brazil follow USA into the semifinals.

Now USA and Brazil will meet on Friday to decide first place in their pool, which will determine pairings for Saturday's semifinals.

Aaron Russel of USA spikes past the struggling block of Dmitriy Volkov, Thursday evening in Turin.

The second day of the 2018 FIVB Men's World Championship Final Six provided the greatest upset of the tournament as European champions Russia were soundly beaten 3-0 by the USA (25-22, 25-23, 25-23) and eliminated.

The USA outside hitters passed on the baton as Taylor Sander dominated the first two sets and Aaron Russell closed the match.

The most iconic battle of modern sport did not disappoint the fans in Turin: it was fast, physical, and too close to call until the last point despite the final set count.

After the big comeback suffered from Brazil in the first match, coach Sergei Shliapnikov chose to change his setter and put captain Sergey Grankin back in Russia's starting six.

USA coach John Speraw insisted on his typical formation, and gave a clear order to his men: push the serve to the limit and fear nothing.

Sander's domination over the formidable Russian block was simply vertical: rarely had an outside hitter gone so often above Ilyas Kurkaev's or Dmitriy Muserskiy's blocking attempts, providing him 15 points with impressive efficiency (+8, 57%), combined with rock solid reception (82%) and two blocks.

Victor Poletaev, sent in for Dmitry Volkov, was chosen by Grankin as the first offensive option and gave his contribution (7/16, 4 points) with Mikhaylov (7/11 attack, 9 points) moving to the wing spiker position; and in the third set coach Shliapnikov also chose to opt for Artem Volvich in order to gain experience and personality.

Muserskiy's reading of Micah Christenson's strategy grew set by set (4 kill blocks at the end) giving Russia one last chance to reopen the match and the tournament on 20-20 in the third.

But just when they seemed to have the key for a thrilling comeback like the one suffered in the hands Brazil the previous night, the American gameplan changed again: Christenson involved Russell in the counter attack, giving him the chance to score four of the last five points (17 overall) - enough to eliminate Russia and materialise the greatest upset of the tournament so far.

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