Brazil (BRA) vs. Italy (ITA) men - Pool 2 - Preliminary Phase #16090452

Alessandro Michieletto showed a great game on all counts as Italy produced a five-set victory over Brazil in a Volleyball Nations League 2024 match in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday. This way the Italians stayed unbeaten during week one of the competition and topped the current VNL standings on a 4-0 win-loss record and 11 points. Brazil are in eighth place on 2-2 and 6.

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The final score of 3-2 (17-25, 25-15, 22-25, 25-17, 15-13) moved 3.59 FIVB World Ranking points from Brazil’s to Italy’s basket to keep the European side well on their way to the Olympic Games in Paris this summer. Michieletto raised four kill blocks, hammered two aces and spiked at a 53% success rate to lead Italy on a match-high 22 points, including the match winner. A day before turning 20, young Italian opposite Alessandro Bovolenta added another 10 points towards the victory over Brazil. Four players reached the double digits on the Brazilian side – Yoandy Leal with 17 points, Darlan Souza with 16, Ricardo Lucarelli with 15 and Lucas Saatkamp with 10.

In the first four sets, Brazil and Italy alternated in dominating on the court. While the home side prevailed in blocking and spiking, Italy’s serving produced as many as nine aces (against only one for Brazil) to keep the European team in the game. After Brazil won sets one and three by emphatic 25-17 and 25-22, Italy reacted with even more emphatic 25-15 and 25-17 in sets two and four.

A tight battle unfolded throughout the tie-breaker, when the gap never exceeded two points. While Italy scored away with their attacks, they also gifted many points to the opponents on own errors. With Michieletto proving as a true leader, he spearheaded the southern Europeans towards a double match point at 14-12. The South Americans denied it once and then almost had the score levelled with a tough-to-handle serve, when a premature referee whistle was successfully challenged by the Italians and they received another chance, which Michieletto converted to a 15-13 close with a powerful pipe swing.

“The end of the set was crazy, because we had the point and then having to come back and replay it was a little bit complicated,” Ricardo Lucarelli told Volleyball World after the end of the fifth set. “But it was a really good match. It’s always tough against Italy. They are playing at an amazing level. To play against Italy at this level and to put them in difficulty is good for us, because we are starting to create our team rhythm, and we are happy for this.”

“This is a fantastic moment at the Maracanazinho that I’ve been waiting for and I am very happy – for my teammates and for all Italy. This is a good win for us,” said Alessandro Bovolenta. “We put our hearts into it and this was the key to this win.”

For the second competition week, Brazil will travel to Fukuoka, Japan, where they will start their Pool 3 campaign against Germany on June 4 at 12:00 local time (03:00 UTC). Italy are off to Ottawa, Canada, where they will first face Olympic champions France on June 5 at 20:00 local time (00:00 UTC).

Slovenia and Cuba push ahead towards Paris

Saturday’s programme in Rio de Janeiro was closed with Cuba’s 3-1 (25-20, 14-25, 25-21, 25-21) win over Iran. The Caribbean squad added 4.4 points to their World Ranking score and kept their place as the lowest ranked team within the qualifying zone for Paris 2024, now almost 12 points above the next closest contender Serbia. The Cubans improved to 3-1 and 10 and occupy third place in the current VNL standings. Star middle blocker Robertlandy Simon tallied three aces and three kill blocks to share Cuba’s best scorer honours with outside hitter Marlon Yant on 14 points apiece, while Iranian outside Meisam Salehi topped the chart with 15 points. Iran are yet to achieve their first victory in VNL 2024 and place 15th in the standings on 0-3 and 0 points, just above bottom-placed USA on set ratio.

The last day of the first competition week started in Antalya with a Pool 1 match between Slovenia and Poland. Slovenia hammered out a 3-0 (25-20, 25-21, 25-18) upset of the defending champions and the world’s number one team to hand them the first defeat of the season and themselves stay undefeated on 4-0 and 10 points, a record that places them second in the VNL table. Even more importantly, the Slovenians picked up 15.79 points towards the World Ranking and climbed a spot up to number six, solidifying their bid for a historic first Olympic participation. Poland dropped to 3-1 and 9 and take fifth place in the current VNL table. Slovenian opposite Toncek Stern was once again the man of the match, leading the way with a 20-point match high, including four aces.

The day continues with the match between Türkiye and USA that has already started in Antalya. Also there, at 20:00 local time (17:00 UTC), Bulgaria will take on the Netherlands. At the same time, Serbia and Germany will hit the court in Rio, followed by Iran and Argentina at 17:30 local time (20:30 UTC).

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