Brazil, Cuba reach volleyball finals

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Brazil, Cuba reach volleyball finals

ROME - Brazil maintained its bid for a third straight world title, breezing into the world championships final following a 25-15, 25-22, 23-25, 25-17 victory against Italy at the PalaLottomatica in Rome on Saturday, local time.

In Sunday’s trophy game, Brazil will square off against a Cuban team that edged out Serbia in a thrilling five-set semifinal.

Brazil continued a long string of domination that has seen it win time and again for the last eight years. Since the South Americans lifted the world title in 2002 in Argentina, the only two major titles the team hasn’t won were in 2008, when the United States shocked the team in the Olympic final in Beijing and also claimed the World League.

Even so, the Brazilian squad has already lost to Cuba in the pool stages, and star player Murilo Endres knows the final will be tough.

“We played very well tonight although we did relax a bit too much in the third set,” he said. “We respect Cuba and I think they respect us too. They beat us in the first round so we know it will be difficult.”

It was easy to see why Brazil is the sport’s heavyweight, as they ran away with the match against Italy in the first set. The team won the first three points and then widened the gap bit by bit as the Italians, despite home advantage, took time to settle.

The second set was an altogether different affair, as it was the Italians who managed to get in front for the first time at 10-9 and even extended their lead to 15-13. The Brazilians were hit by the loss of first-choice setter Bruno with an ankle problem, but veteran Marlon came in and helped the reigning champions hit back and eventually take the set 25-22. Any hopes the home crowd had of the Azzurri fighting back received a boost in the third as they got off to a good start and led 20-16 at one stage.

Brazil hit back to within a point at 23-22, but Italy held its nerve to take the set 25-23 after the Brazilians got muddled on a dig. However, the final set quickly became a procession as Italy failed to maintain its momentum.

As for Cuba’s match, teenager Wilfredo Leon stole the show with 23 points in a 22-25, 25-17, 31-29, 22-25, 16-14 victory that took almost two hours.

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