Brazilians edge out gritty India in semis

Volleyball: World U-21 meet

Latino Heat: Brazil players exult after defeating India in the semis of the World U-21 volleyball meet on Saturday.

India lost the plot in the deciding set as they went down fighting against defending champions Brazil 2-3 in a thrilling semifinal of the FIVB Men’s U-21 World Volleyball Championship tournament here on Saturday.

The home team brilliantly came back twice from a set deficit to level 2-2 but finally lost the match 19-25, 25-17, 19-25, 25-23, 9-15 at the Balewadi Sports Complex here.

The Indians, who made their first semifinal appearance in the history of the tournament, though held their heads high as they competed with their fancied South American rivals in every department of the match.

After conceding the first set 19-25, the Indians made a fine comeback in the second with some clinical display which also forced their opponents to commit errors.

The Brazilians had to dig deep into their experience at the highest level to take the lead by winning the third set. But, egged on by a capacity crowd the Indians did not give up and won a close fourth set to take the match to the decider.

From 5-8 down at the change of ends, the gap widened further and the deciding set ended at 9-15.  Brazil, who have been unbeaten so far in the tournament, will take on Cuba in the summit clash on Sunday after they beat Argentina 25-19, 25-18, 24-26, 25-20 in the other semifinal.

Citing inexperience as the reason for the close defeat, Indian coach MH Kumara said that the knowledge of handling such situations helped Brazil in their march to the final. “After the match moved to the decider, the Brazilians looked sharper, compact and possessed better temperament. They completely changed their service from slice to floaters. Our boys were caught unawares and by the time we realised and countered them they switched tactics.

“But, credit must be given to our young boys especially Gurinder Singh -- who played despite fever -- and Somnath Girigoud. While Gurinder was good all over the court, Girigoud was brilliant as a blocker,” said Kumara.

However, India will be eyeing a revenge against Argentina who they will meet in the third-fourth playoff on Sunday. India had lost their pre-tournament warm-up match as well as the Group F preliminary encounter to the same opponents.

“It is going to be a very tough match. The loss against Brazil has completely shattered us. It was once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. No one knows when such a chance of playing in the final of World championships will come our way.

“But, a medal is a medal. The match against Argentina might be the last-ever U-21 match for most players in the squad. This indeed will be the biggest motivation. I will spur them to the fullest and hope to defeat them,” added Kumara.

Meanwhile, Brazil coach Percy Oncken praised the Indians who had a dream run in the tournament. “We were expecting a tough game. I praise the Indian team for playing an outstanding game of volleyball. We managed to play well at the most precious moments and that made the difference.”

Results (all semifinals): Brazil bt India 3-2 (25-19, 17-25, 25-19, 23-25, 15-9); Cuba bt Argentina 3-1 (25-19, 25-18, 24-26, 25-20).

Classification, 9-12: France bt China 3-0 (25-16, 25-21, 25-22); Poland bt Canada 3-0 (25-18, 25-18, 25-21).

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