Leal in attack

Brazil grabbed the last available berth in the FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship 2022 quarterfinals after sweeping Iran in straight sets in Gliwice on Tuesday evening. Their outside hitter Yoandy Leal contributed the match high of 20 points towards a hard-fought 3-0 (25-17, 25-22, 25-23) victory in the last fixture of the Round of 16.

On Thursday, Brazil will lock horns with neighbours Argentina for a spot among the last four of the tournament. Earlier on Tuesday, the Argentineans shut out Serbia to claim their ticket to the quarterfinals.

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

Despite the absence (for medical reasons) of star player Ricardo Lucarelli from the court, Brazil outspiked Iran with 41 attacking points against only 32 for their opponents, and that’s what made the biggest difference in the game.

Leal was, in fact, the only player to reach double digits in scoring. He spiked to close the first set off at 25-17. Then he delivered the second set winner with a pipe shot for 25-22. In the most competitive third set, the 34-year-old Cuban-born outside killed the overpass to put Brazil in front with a 20-19 lead. Leal’s tally in attack accounted for a total of 19 points, produced at a 63% success rate. And, after Iran had regained control momentarily on an ace by opposite Saber Kazemi for 23-22, it was Leal who brought in the 24-23 match point with his only kill block in the game.

That match point was immediately converted to victory with a perfectly placed ace by setter and captain Bruno Rezende, who had just come in as a substitution. His serve was initially called long, but Brazil challenged the decision and, as it turned out, the ball had slightly brushed the outside of the end line.


Bruno Rezende smiles after finishing the match off with an ace

Brazil hammered a total of seven aces in the match. First setter Fernando Kreling put one away with an off-the-net serve for 22-15 in the first set. Experienced middle blocker Lucas Saatkamp produced two, for 13-10 and for 22-15 in the second set. His cross-court teammate Flavio Gualberto scored an ace to narrow down Iran’s lead to 6-5 in the third, and outside hitter Rodrigo Leao hit a couple of serving points in the first two sets. The last three finished with eight points apiece, with Flavio leading the blockers with three stuffs to his name.

“I am so happy! I am so glad about what we are doing,” Fernando said after the match. “It was not easy. It was a tough match against the boys from Iran. The first set was somewhat strange for them. Maybe they were a little bit nervous, but then it was a tough game. Now we get some rest, study Argentina a lot, make some little steps at practices and that’s all.”

The Iranian players were not competitive enough in the first set, despite the great overall performance by outside hitter Javad Manavi and middle blocker Amir Hossein Toukhteh. However, the Asian squad picked up speed and gave Brazil some hard time in the next two sets. Backup opposite Amin Esmaeilnezhad and especially outside Amirhossein Esfandiar proved key to Iran putting up a solid fight. Shortly after coming in as a second set starter, Amin delivered an ace to shrink Brazil’s lead to 6-5 and later in the set added two more points in attack. Esfandiar led Iran’s surge in set three, when he hammered out eight points, including two kill blocks and an ace.

Manavi came up with the exact same tally, but across the first two sets, while outside and captain Milad Ebadipour also finished with eight points, all in offence.