Powerful Russia Seals Inaugural Gold

Russian players celebrate the titleRussian players celebrate the title

Russia sealed the FIVB Men’s Volleyball Nations League gold medal as it surged past host France in three sets (25-22, 25-20, 25-23) in Lille, on Sunday, with one of the finest volleyball performances in recent years.

The inaugural VNL has been an exhilarating competition with Russia and France the best two sides across the past two months. But it was Russians who broke French hearts with a brilliant all-court display as they won their first world-level title since claiming FIVB Volleyball World League gold in 2013, wrote.

France had survived an epic US fightback to win the semifinal in five sets, but it looked like those exploits had caught up with them as they were outclassed by a supremely powerful Russian outfit, which looked unstoppable when in full flow.

Russia defeated Brazil in the semifinal match in arguably the best VNL performance of the campaign, but this world-class display surpassed that as a multi-talented French outfit simply had no answer to this Russian juggernaut.

Maxim Mikhaylov was breathtaking in all facets of his game, from his ace serves to his outrageous power and precision from spike range as he finished with a game-high 19 points. Egor Kliuka (10 points) was also colossal while Dmitriy Muserskiy (12 points) was a rock in the middle. Five Russian players compiled at least two block points as the French were shut out. From defense to attack, Russia was simply too good.

France did have some impressive performers with Kevin Le Roux, in particular, scoring two block points on his way to a personal haul of eight. Earvin Ngapeth may have top-scored with 16 points, but he was repeatedly snuffed out early on as France toiled. Jean Patry and Thibault Rossard produced moments of brilliance, but usual big hitter Stephen Boyer had an evening to forget.

  US, Brazil Finish Third, Fourth

In the third-place match, the US recovered from the heartbreaking semifinal defeat by France to beat Brazil in three sets 3-0 (25-21, 28-26, 28-26) and salvage the bronze medal.

It is the first podium finish at a world-level event for the US since finishing third at the Rio Olympics.

It was Aaron Russell of the US who was irrepressible out wide as he chipped in with a team-high 14 points, while Matthew Anderson (13 points) and setter Micah Christenson were also outstanding - the latter with some breathtaking digging.  

Brazil was abject at best in the dismal defeat by Russia, but at least showed some resolve as it pushed the US close in sets 2 and 3. Wallace did chip in with a game-high 15 points while Lucas Saatkamp (12 points) and setter Bruno Rezende both had their moments, but it was not quite enough as the American blockers managed to disrupt the South Americans’ rhythm.

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