Leal and Wallace celebrate

Leal and Wallace celebrate

Brazil booked the first spot in the FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship 2022 Round of 16 as they shut out Japan in Ljubljana on Sunday to register their second Pool B victory and secure a top-two finish in the final pool standings. After a strong start for the Asian team in the first set, outside hitter Yoandy Leal led the South Americans to a convincing 3-0 (25-21, 25-18, 25-16) sweep.

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It was, however, Japan’s 22-year-old opposite Yuji Nishida who made a brilliant opening, acing for the first point of the match. Seconds later, he blasted another direct serving point to give his team an early 3-0 lead. But later in the match, the Brazilians did not allow the talented opposite to show much more of his scoring abilities. Nishida scored one more ace in set three to bring his match total to just nine points before he was subbed out of the game.

Back to the first set, Leal managed to quickly reset the balance with two aces in a row for 5-5, but Japan broke away again opening a gap as wide as four points at 16-12. With the Cuban-born outside spearheading the offence, Brazil caught up at 18-18 and never looked back, dominating the rest of the match. Leal put away the set winner with an off-the-block hit, one of his nine points in the set. At the end of the game, he had piled up the match high of 17 points, including two kill blocks.

Star opposite Wallace De Souza was the only other Brazilian player to reach the double digits in scoring. The 35-year-old spiker contributed 11 attack points at a 55% success rate and added two stuffs towards a 13-point match total.

Brazil’s second opposite, 20-year-old Darlan Souza, who came in only for serving, scored two aces out of five attempts, while another veteran player, 36-year-old middle blocker Lucas Saatkamp impressed with an 80% success rate in attack. He delivered the match winner after a brilliant one-handed overhead set from playmaker Fernando Kreling and finished with six points, including two blocks.

“I think the first set was the most important one of the match, because we had to come back from behind,” Brazilian outside Ricardo Lucarelli said after the game. “In the middle of the set, we started serving well and did the counterattacks, and this was the main key to coming back into the game. Then in the second and the third sets, we played really well, with good serving, good defence... And I think this is the type of volleyball we want to play.”


Ishikawa on the serve

On Japan’s side, captain Yuki Ishikawa was the only player to score in double digits. The 26-year-old outside was not among the match starters, but as soon as his team lost the edge they had in the first set, he was brought in to help. Ishikawa finished with 10 kills in offence.

Earlier on Sunday, Cuba produced a 3-1 (25-21, 25-21, 22-25, 25-19) win over Qatar in the other Pool B match, with opposite Jesus Herrera leading the way with 22 points. These results set the stage for a direct duel between Japan and Cuba for a spot in the next phase of the tournament. With both teams at a 1-1 win-loss record, on Tuesday they will meet head to head in a crucial battle for advancement.