Brazil quickly dashes golden hopes of U.S.

Americans to face Russia after sudden loss in semis

Men's Volleyball

Athens 2004 Olympics

August 28, 2004|By Lisa Dillman | Lisa Dillman,LOS ANGELES TIMES

ATHENS - That fabled old Greco-Brazilian alliance did in the U.S. men's volleyball team in the Olympic semifinals last night at Peace and Friendship Stadium.

Peace? Well, there was certainly no peace, nor was there any quiet from the exuberant Brazilian fans in the stands, encouraged by their new best friends, the Greeks. Greece's volleyball team had been stunned by a remarkable comeback by the United States in the quarterfinals, and memories certainly aren't short around here.

There were periods of booing and some whistles from the 9,000-plus crowd when a U.S. player stepped up to serve. But of greater concern were Gustavo Endres, Gilberto Goody Filho and Dante Amaral, who combined for 33 of Brazil's 45 spikes.

The three-way attack was swift and relentless, as top-ranked Brazil easily moved on with a 25-16, 25-17, 25-23 victory.

It didn't take long. The longest set, the third, fell short of a half-hour, and Brazil won the semifinal in 1 hour, 17 minutes.

In tomorrow's gold-medal match, the Brazilians will play Italy. The United States will meet Russia for third place, with the American men looking for their first medal in 12 years. In 1992, they took third in Barcelona.

"I think probably the two best teams are going to be playing for the gold medal," U.S. coach Doug Beal said. "That's the way it should be. I think we fought very hard in the tournament, and I expect we're going to do that again when we play Russia for the bronze medal.

"We're going to have to serve better. ... We need to put the team in trouble receiving. We didn't do that very much with Brazil tonight."

The U.S. players were unanimous in praise of the Brazilians. It's rare around the Olympics these days for someone to acknowledge a team, or another player, was simply better.

But U.S. captain and setter Lloy Ball did just that.

Asked about the difference between the semifinal match and an earlier meeting here between the United States and Brazil, won by the Americans in four sets, he said: "They played a lot better. They played their starting guys [tonight]. They're a better team than we are."

Beal said his players might have been too emotional after the comeback against Greece, saying: "I really don't think we were flat. We were very emotional and pretty amped up, and it's hard to play your best when you're not aware of what the other team is doing."

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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