August 1, 2021

By Yuka Obayashi

TOKYO (Reuters) – Defending Olympic champions Brazil edged France in a marathon five-set battle at the Ariake Arena on Sunday to finish second in Pool B in the men’s volleyball preliminary round in Tokyo.

World number one Brazil, who also needed five sets to beat Argentina, took the opening set but the second was a see-saw battle that lasted nearly an hour, the teams sharing 15 set points between them before France eventually came through.

In the deciding set Brazil saved four match points before winning 25-22 37-39 25-17 21-25 20-18 to give themselves a boost ahead of the quarter-finals.

Wallace de Souza led the way for Brazil with 23 points while Ricardo Lucarelli and Yoandy Leal added 21 and 20 points, respectively. Lucas Saatkamp added another 19 and had a game-high seven blocks.

“I feel good with the victory,” De Souza said. “I think all the team members have become more confident after today’s game.

“We will play well in the next game, though we don’t know who we will compete against.”

The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) team beat bottom side Tunisia 25-20 25-22 25-16 to finish top of Pool B. Brazil had the same 4-1 record but finished second after being taken to five sets in two of their wins.

“It was not simple because we knew that we had to win the first three sets. It was very important for us to win these sets first to take first place,” Maxim Mikhaylov, ROC’s top scorer with 15 points, said.

Earlier, Pool A leaders and world champions Poland beat Canada 25-15 25-21 25-16, with Bartosz Kurek and Wilfredo Leon combining for 33 points.

“Canada took risks from the second set, so our rhythm was disturbed. Nevertheless, we could get back into our game,” Poland’s Michal Kubiak said.

(Reporting Yuka Obayashi in Tokyo and Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)