Gabi attacks for one of her 25 points against Japan

Brazil mastered an incredible return from two sets down to defeat Japan in Tuesday’s quarterfinal match at the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship 2022 in the Netherlands. The South Americans persevered through five tough sets to claim a 3-2 (18-25, 18-25, 25-22, 27-25, 15-13) victory at the Omnisport in Apeldoorn and advance to the semifinals for the sixth time in the history of volleyball’s premier competition. On Thursday, they will take on Italy for one of the spots in Saturday’s gold medal match.

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Brazilian captain and outside hitter Gabriela Guimaraes led the match scorers with 25 points, all in attack at a success rate of 50%. On the Japanese side, opposite Kotona Hayashi made 21 points, including two aces, while middle blocker Nichika Yamada raised seven of the team’s nine kill blocks towards a total tally of 19 points.

Japan started putting pressure on the opponents right from the start of the first set and quickly pulled away with a 4-1 lead. An ace by outside Mayu Ishikawa for 9-5 was followed by another powerful serve that forced an overpass, killed by middle Haruyo Shimamura for 10-5. Two back-to-back aces by opposite Tainara Santos brought Brazil back to within three at 13-10, but Japan reacted with a three-point run, crowned by an overpass kill from Yamada for 16-10. As the Asian team continued to dominate on the court, Ishikawa produced her second ace of the set for 21-16. In the final touches, Hayashi brought in set point with a block-out hit for 24-17 and converted it with a cross-court swing for 25-18.

Spiking successfully from the three different positions in the front row, Japan swiftly jumped into a 3-0 lead in the second set. Brazil managed to catch up at 5-5 on another ace by Tainara, but that was the last time in the set the score was level. The Asian side scored the next three points and never looked back. Ishikawa put in another ace to widen the gap to four points at 12-8 and set off a further Japanese surge. Playing like a fine-tuned machine and taking advantage of the many Brazilian errors, they were in complete control through the rest of the set. Hayashi delivered the set point with a swing and it was immediately converted to a 25-18 win with a monster block by Yamada.


Hayashi in action

After a competitive point-for-point start of the third set, Brazil started building up a lead at 6-4 and the gap went as wide as four points at 11-7. Hayashi aced to bring Japan back to within two at 12-10, but they could never get any closer to their opponents through the rest of the set. With sub-in opposite Lorenne Teixeira now leading the offence, the South Americans stayed well in control. She attacked successfully for a 24-21 set point. A rally later, middle blocker Caroline Gattaz closed the set at 25-22 with a powerful strike.

The lead went back and forth many times during the fourth set. Hayashi produced an ace to put Japan at an early 4-2 lead, but Brazil tied it back at 5-5 on an attack by outside Rosamaria Montibeller. With some great blocking by Arisa Inoue and Yamada, followed by a spike from Ishikawa, Japan ran off again with an 8-5 advantage. However, Gabi was having a great set. With a powerful pipe, she drew level at 9-9 and followed that up with a back-row tip to put Brazil in front. Rosamaria added another point with a block-out swing for 11-9. A fierce battle kept burning for every point on the court as the set approached its culmination. Gabi brought in the first set point at 24-23. Japan denied that and the next one. Carol Gattaz spiked successfully for the third one and then put up a kill block to finally close the set at 27-25 and prompt a tie-breaker.

The battle continued through the fifth set. Initially, Japan had a slight advantage. Then Brazil went in front, but the gap never exceeded two points until Brazilian middle Ana Carolina Da Silva’s monster block for 13-10. Lorenne spiked from zone four for a triple match point at 14-11. Japan persevered through two more rallies to stay alive in the match, but finally Ishikawa’s attack met the net and sent the Brazilians partying with a 15-13 win.

“I still can’t believe what my team did today. I’m so proud of the girls! We really didn’t leave the match for one second, although we started a bit nervous,” said Gabi after the game. “Congratulations to Japan! They are doing an amazing job! What they did in this tournament was unbelievable. But today we were so resilient. We were down 2-0 and then we came back to win 3-2, believing all the time and the girls coming from the bench and helping all the time. And to all the Brazilian people who come here and give us all this energy, thank you very much! I hope to see everyone in the semifinal here again, because it really makes a difference.”

The semifinal match between Italy and Brazil will be played in Apeldoorn on Thursday at 20:00 local time (18:00 GMT).