In what was probably Wallace De Souza‘s last ever match in the Brazilian national team jersey, he led his team to an FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship 2022 bronze, their sixth consecutive medal and seventh overall in the history of the sport’s flagship competition. The 35-year-old opposite, who came back from retirement to help Brazil at this tournament, accomplished his mission by powering the squad towards a 3-1 (25-18, 25-18, 22-25, 25-18) victory over Slovenia in Sunday’s bronze medal match in Katowice.

The culmination of the World Championship comes next at the packed Spodek Arena, with Italy taking on hosts Poland in the gold medal match at 21:00 local time (19:00 GMT).

· Watch all FIVB Volleyball Men's World Championship 2022 matches live on Volleyball TV.

Wallace delivered the match high of 22 points, including two aces during the fourth set and the match winner. He produced 19 successful spikes at a 58% success rate in attack. Outside hitter Yoandy Leal contributed another 19 points to the victory, while middle blocker Lucas Saatkamp raised as many as five kill blocks and fired three aces towards a 12-point match tally. Opposite Toncek Stern was Slovenia’s most prolific scorer with 17 points to his name.

Within a five-point run for Slovenia towards a 12-8 lead in the first set, Stern aced to put them in front at 9-8 and hammered the next point from the back row, before setter Dejan Vincic finished off a super long rally surprising their opponents with a hit on two for 11-8. That Slovenian advantage did not last long, however, as Brazil reacted swiftly with an amazing seven-point series on Lucas’s turn to serve, garnished with a couple of aces (15-15 and 17-15) on the way to opening an 18-15 gap. Through the end of the set, substitute setter and captain Bruno Rezende and Leal also scored from the serving line for Brazil (21-17 and 24-18) before middle Flavio Gualberto’s monster block closed the set at 25-18 Brazil’s way.

After a two-point lag early in the second set, Slovenia caught up at 5-5 on an ace by Vincic and stayed competitive through 10-10. Brazil broke away with three in a row on substitute outside Adriano Cavalcante’s serve and never looked back. With Leal spearheading their offence, the South Americans stayed in control and widened the gap to another 25-18 at the end of the set.

Big blocks by Lucas delivered Brazil’s first three break points for 2-0, 4-1 and 6-3, while an ace by middle Alen Pajenk brought one for Slovenia (4-3). A direct serving point by Bruno extended Brazil’s lead to 11-5 and when it seemed that the South Americans were well on their way to wrapping it all up in three sets, Slovenia picked themselves up, dusted themselves off and produced an incredible comeback. A series of five points in a row crowned by another Pajenk ace and an off-the-block hit by Stern levelled the score at 15-15. With a Leal attack going out of bounds, the Europeans took the lead at 17-16 and doubled the gap to 18-16 with an overpass kill by middle Jan Kozamernik. An ace by Lucas restored the balance momentarily at 18-18, but Stern reacted with one of his own to put Slovenia at a two-point lead (22-20) again. Finally, outside Klemen Cebulj tipped elegantly to bring set point at 24-21 and captain Tine Urnaut hammered the 25-22 winner.

Slovenia stormed the fourth set with a 4-0 run, but Brazil reacted instantly to catch up at 4-4. Shortly after, Wallace put Brazil in front with an ace for 6-5. Just after a Lucas monster block for 14-11, Wallace hit another ace and followed it up with a back-row hit for 16-11. In the epilogue, it was all Wallace again. He brought in match point with a sharp-angle hit for 24-18 and converted it himself with a pipe shot for 25-18. Mission accomplished!

“It means a lot to have another medal. I think it’s the sixth in a row! For sure, we wanted more, but we are so proud, because we’ve had a lot of physical problems all this championship and all this year, but we never stopped fighting. So that’s it. It’s a bronze medal that we have to celebrate, value and be proud,” captain Bruno said after the match. “We had a really nice group here, with really good energy. I was trying to help and motivate everybody and it was really fun. We had a great time at this World Championship.”

Brazil’s first-ever World Championship bronze raised their tally to seven podiums. They also have three gold and three silver medals on their record. Slovenia’s fourth place was their best-ever result at a World Championship.