LONDON – World Cup holders Russia saved two match points as they came from two sets down to beat world champions Brazil 3-2 in a thrilling Olympic men’s volleyball final on Sunday.
Russia looked down and out at two sets to love and 22-19 down in the third, but with the title just three points away, Brazil collapsed.
The South Americans, who also lost the 2008 final, failed to complete an Olympic double a day after their women beat the United States to retain their title.
Russian coach Vladimir Alenko could barely believe it.
He was so stunned that he had to call upon Russian literature to explain his feelings, citing a character from “Twelve Chairs.”
“It’s ‘idiot’s dream’ coming true. They say you can’t enter the same river for the second time, but I tried it,” he said, referring to Russia’s poor showing in Beijing.
Wing spiker Sergey Tetyukhin praised his team for their character.
“It’s hard for me to speak. Emotions are overwhelming me. It was a hard match,” he said.
“I think that those people that did not believe in us, they turned their back and went away after the second set, but those who trusted, they are the most valuable. I think we have shown our character.”
Brazil were three points from victory when leading 22-19 in the third and they twice had match-point at 24-23 and 25-24 but couldn’t convert.
Led by 2.18m giant spiker Dmitriy Muserskiy, Russia battled their way to a 29-27 success in the third and then pulled out a 22-15 lead in the fourth before taking that 25-22.
Brazil’s game was riddled with mistakes at this point and they kept multiplying as Dante served into the net and Wallace sent a spike long.
Luck was against them too as even Russian blocks were sailing past stricken Brazilian players and out of their reach.
It was a remarkable turnaround in a match that for the majority of the first three sets seemed to be men against boys.
Brazilian coach Bernardo immediately turned his attentions to the next Games.
“We go home with (a bitter) flavour in our mouths but I am also so proud of the team, we can just look to Rio,” he said.
“I feel sorry and frustrated. The first three sets were good. We could have won the match but the fourth set went away. We didn’t manage to follow the rhythm, it could have been different.
“We’ve lacked tranquility, now we have to think about 2016.”
Italy beat Bulgaria to claim the bronze medal.