Cuba silence the Maracanãzinho and upset Brazil

Cuba silence the Maracanãzinho and upset Brazil
Fecha de publicación: 
22 May 2024
Imagen principal: 

A packed Maracanãzinho stadium for the return of legendary head coach 'Bernardinho' Rezende didn’t intimidate Cuba as the Caribbean stunned Brazil in front of nearly 10,000 fans to start the Volleyball Nations League 2024 on the right foot. Last year’s bronze medalists Japan also began their campaign well, downing Argentina in Rio de Janeiro.

  • Watch Volleyball Nations League 2024 live on VBTV

Benefiting from an excellent collective performance, the Cubans secured a big 3-1 (25-23, 27-29, 25-21, 25-21) victory over the South Americans in Pool 2 and significantly improved their chances of qualifying for the Paris Olympics.

The first national team sitting below the cut-off line, Cuba earned 12.7 points in the FIVB World Rankings with the victory, going up from 11th to tenth place and getting to 249.66 to now rank just 3.56 points behind Serbia, the last team inside the qualification zone – they can move above the cut-off line on Wednesday if the Serbians lose to Iran in Rio. Despite the upset, Brazil continue in fifth place.

A well-diversified offense was one of the keys to the Cuban victory as five players reached double digits in scoring in the match – outside hitters Marlon Yant (18) and Miguel Ángel López (15), opposite Michael Sánchez (14) and middle blockers Javier Concepcion (13) and Robertlandy Simón (12).

“To win here at the Maracanãzinho, with this atmosphere, it’s crazy,” Simón commented. “We knew we needed good results this week to help us qualify for the Olympics and today was a good start. We need to keep taking it one step at a time. We’ll give everything to make it to Paris.”

Playing aggressively, the Cubans also outscored the Brazilians in blocks (ten to four) and aces (seven to four), paving the way for their victory.

Cuban-born Brazilian outside hitter Yoandy Leal led all scorers with 19 points (17 kills, two aces), with fellow outside hitter Ricardo Lucarelli adding another 11, with nine kills, one block and one ace.

“Our serving and our blocking didn’t work the way we expected today,” Lucarelli reflected. “We knew Cuba would give everything because this match was so important for them and unfortunately we didn’t play well. We hate to start the VNL losing, even more in front of our fans, but I’m sure we’ll improve.”

Volleyball Nations League 2024: schedule and results

Cubans and Brazilians will be on the court again at the Maracanãzinho on Thursday, with the Caribbean playing Germany at 14:00 local time (17:00 GMT) and the South Americans meeting their continental rivals Argentina at 21:00 local time (00:00 GMT, Friday).

Japan come back to beat Argentina

In the other match of the day in Rio, last year’s VNL bronze medalists Japan showed strength, beating Tokyo Olympic bronze medalists Argentina 3-1 (24-26, 25-22, 25-23, 25-19) without star outside hitters Yuki Ishikawa and Ran Takahashi.

Star opposite Yuji Nishida stepped up for the Asians, accounting for nearly an entire set with his 24-point performance (23 kills, one ace). 20-year-old outside hitter Kai Masato was also in excellent form, producing 17 points, with 16 kills and one block.

“It was a great result for us without two of our main players,” Nishida reacted. “Being able to defeat a strong team like Argentina without them means a lot to us. We had a great result on the VNL last year but it’s a new season now and we need to focus on winning each match.”

On the Argentinean side, opposite Bruno Lima and outside hitter Luciano Palonsky were the most productive players with 16 points apiece.

The victory rewarded Japan with 6.06 World Ranking points and made them beat Italy for third place, now with 346.36. Argentina, who are still looking to qualify for the Paris Olympics, dropped a spot, going from sixth to seventh, but continue ranked second among the national teams yet to book their tickets to the French capital.

The VNL 2024 continues on Wednesday in Rio, with Germany and Italy meeting at 17:30 local time (20:30 GMT) and Olympic hopefuls Iran and Serbia facing each other at 21:00 local time (00:00 GMT, Thursday).

Add new comment

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.