The history of the Olympic Games is full of dramatic, emotional and beautiful moments that took place in finals. Every week, relive the most incredible finals you can remember on video. This week, we look at the 2012 men’s volleyball final.
Men's volleyball final, London 2012 Olympic Games
Russia vs Brazil
Earls Court, London, 12 August 2012
Brazil has been a dominant force in the highly competitive volleyball world since the 90s. They are two-time Olympic gold medallists (1992 and 2004), three time World Champions including in 2010. As a consequence, the team led by Bruno, Lucas, Dante, Wallace or Murilo was clearly a favourite for this final. On the other hand, Russia, who used to be a powerhouse of volleyball, had not won an Olympic gold since 1980.
The two teams had already met in the first round but the game was one-sided: Brazil beat Russia 3-0 (25-21, 25-23, 25-21). The auriverde continued their winning streak by beating Argentina 3-0 in the Quarterfinals and Italy 3-0 in the semis. However, Russia impressed equally by winning 3-0 against Poland and 3-1 against Bulgaria.
The key moment
As everyone was expecting, Brazil dominated the start of the game. They won the first two sets very easily (25-19, 25-20), with Wallace and Murilo particularly impressive in attack, whilst there was an archi-dominant block with an extremely efficient Sidney and the libero Rodrigo defending everywhere. The third set was similar and Brazil got two match points which was not a surprise.
But Vladimir Alekno, the Russian coach, decided to change his game plan. And slowly, it impacted the game. He swapped his tournament’s top attacker Maxim Mikhaylov to wing spiker and Dmitriy Muserskiy, who was originally middle-hitter, to opposite. The giant Russian (2,18m) gradually took advantage of the Brazilian block, which was unbeatable so far. Altogether, he scored 31 points which was an incredible total.
After having turned the third set in a dramatic ending (29-27), the Russians gained confidence - nothing could stop Muserskiy, Mikhaylov and veteran Sergey Tetyukhin. They managed the impossible: winning in five sets after having lost the first two. It was a performance which has never happened at an Olympic Games final before.
For Russia, the miracle win was extremely special as they had been waiting for a gold medal for more than 32 years.
"The team felt that I was confident and I wasn't going to go down without a fight and that's when they started directing everything towards me. The team put their trust in me and it was the ‘last-chance saloon.’ We had no choice but just to go for it and the gamble paid off", summarised Muserskiy, the hero of the day.
The following year, they won the European championship, but since then, their results have been fluctuating up and down.
When the Russians won, the Brazilians were under shock, after having been so close to win the title just like the women’s team a few hours before – a performance no country has ever managed before.
Wallace just could not believe it: "We came here to get the gold, but we got the silver. You train a lot for that everyday, you don't believe something like that could happen”, he said.
However, the Brazilians got the crown back four years later, this time at home soil in Rio.
Hot favourites Brazil take on Russia in a true battle of the giants. This final proved to be an incredible back-and-forth clash.