Turin, Italy, September 26, 2018 - A fresh start with heavy points at stake, a clash of superstars that gave the fans in Turin a significant taste of the Final Six: Brazil and Russia opened the last FIVB World Championship round in a very intense challenge, decided at the tie break, 3-2 (20-25, 21-25, 25-22, 25-23, 15-12) for the Rio 2016 Olympic champions.
The 9,000-strong Italian crowd at Turin's Pala Alpitour responded with big participation, as Russia dominated the first half of the match and Brazil fought back.
Backup setter William Arjona was key in Brazil's comeback, sent in by coach Renan Dal Zotto after two lost sets and eager to exploit the chance: two aces and a clever strategy allowed Wallace De Souza to accumulate 22 points after a shocking start, with all three wing spikers neutralized by the Russian block (3 out of 20 in the first set).
Russia kept control of the first line for two sets (9 blocks to 1) before losing track of the Brazilian spikers; Dmitry Volkov (23 points) was the offensive leader as both Egor Kliuka and Maxim Mikhaylov lacked precision (three attacking errors each).
An ace by Lucas Saatkamp was the first breaker of the tie break (5-4) and Mikhaylov responded (5-6), before Wallace completed his personal comeback from a negative first set by dominating the central part of the fifth.
Brazil's Lucas Saatkamp gets high above the block of Russia's Ilias Kurkaev, Wednesday evening in Turin's Pala Alpitour.
Coach Shliapnikov decided to make some changes, sending in Sergey Grankin and Victor Poletaev, and found their last chance at the win thanks to a massive block by Kliuka on Wallace.
But the block that came right next was the play of the match: after a long rally and two incredible defensive plays by libero Maique Reis, Lucas hit a monster block on Mikhaylov to give Brazil a three-point advantage (13-10).
Eventually, Russia's signature play was their damnation: Douglas Souza blocked Kliuka before closing the match with an astonishing comeback.
Russia will now have an immediate chance to stay alive for a spot in the semifinals, Thursday at 17:00 local time (15:00 GMT) against USA.
Quick links - Volleyball:
FIVB Volleyball Men's World Championship Italy-Bulgaria 2018
Results and ranking