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U.S. Can't Match a 'Better' Brazil

The Greek crowd cheers on men's volleyball semifinal winner, which easily advances to play Italy for gold. U.S. will face Russia for bronze.

August 28, 2004|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

ATHENS — That famed old Greco-Brazilian alliance did in the U.S. men's volleyball team in the Olympic semifinals here Friday night at Peace and Friendship Stadium.

Peace? Well, there was certainly no peace, nor was there any quiet, from the exuberant Brazilian fans in the stands, encouraged by their new best friends, the Greeks. Greece's volleyball team had been stunned by a remarkable comeback by the United States in the quarterfinals and memories certainly aren't short around here.

There were periods of booing, and some whistles, from the 9,000-plus crowd when a U.S. player stepped up to the line to serve.

But of greater concern were Gustavo Endres, Gilberto Godoy Filho and Dante Amaral, who combined for 33 of Brazil's 45 spikes.

The three-way attack was swift and relentless as Brazil easily moved on with a 25-16, 25-17, 25-23 victory.

It didn't take long. The longest set, the third, lasted only 29 minutes as Brazil won the semifinal in 1 hour 17 minutes.

In Sunday's gold-medal game, the Brazilians will play Italy. The United States will meet Russia for third place, the Americans looking for their first medal in this event in 12 years. In 1992, they took third in Barcelona.

"I think probably the two best teams are going to be playing for the gold medal," U.S. Coach Doug Beal said. "That's the way it should be. I think we fought very hard in the tournament, and I expect we're going to do that again when we play Russia for the bronze medal.

"We're going to have to serve better than we did tonight. We need to put the team in trouble receiving. We didn't do that very much with Brazil tonight."

The U.S. players were unanimous in praise for the Brazilians. It's rare around the Olympics these days for someone to admit that a team, or another player, was simply better.

But U.S. captain and setter Lloy Ball did just that.

Asked about the difference between the semifinal match and an earlier meeting here between the U.S. and Brazil, won by the Americans in four sets, he said:

"They played a lot better. They played their starting guys [tonight]. I think they were pretty half-hearted in their first effort. They're a better team than we are."

Beal said his players might have been too emotional after the incredible comeback against Greece, saying, "I really don't think we were flat. We were very emotional and pretty amped up and it's hard to play your best when you're not aware of what the other team is doing."

The Brazilians presented all sorts of different challenges.

"They are by far the most emotional team out there," Ball said. "It becomes a little deflating over time, the fact that you're one step behind. They run a real fast offense because they pass the ball real well. We have our guys hitting their serves real hard that normally get us a bad pass or an ace.

"We just could never catch up with them."

His teammate, Thomas Hoff, got to the point quickly: "That was a pretty good beating right there."

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