Russia’s golden generation makes statement after clinching U23 volleyball world title in Dubai

Victory over Turkey at Al Nasr gives them genuine shot at 2018 senior world championship, Ahmed Rizvi reports.

Russia’s Sergei Nikitin in action against Turkey during the U23 World Championship final at Al Nasr in Dubai on Monday. Courtesy FIVB
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DUBAI // Russia will have their sights set on their first world title three years from now after winning the FIVB men’s Under 23 World Championship in emphatic style on Monday night, with a 3-1 win over Turkey at Al Nasr Club.

Winners of the past two U-21 World Championships, in 2011 and 2013, Russia have yet to win a world title at the senior level, though they dominated the men’s sport as a part of the former Soviet Union, winning six Men’s World Championships.

As Russia, their best chance came in 2002, when they reached the final in Argentina, but they were edged out 3-2 by Brazil. The performance of this current generation suggests that Russia’s wait for a senior men’s world title could be over soon.

The top-ranked team in Europe, Russia reached the semi-finals with an unbeaten record, beating heavyweights such as Brazil (3-1), Argentina (3-2) and Turkey in the group stages before defeating Italy 3-0 in the semis.

In the final, they managed to defeat Turkey again, winning 26-24, 16-25, 25-18, 26-24 in an exciting encounter.

In the earlier matches, Italy beat Cuba 3-1 (25-22, 18-25, 25-23, 25-21) to take third place, while defending champions Brazil defeated South American rivals Argentina 3-1 (25-19, 25-18, 30-32, 25-22) in the race for fifth spot. Iran, the Asian champions, beat South Korea 3-1 (25-23, 25-20, 17-25, 25-15) to finish seventh.

Coming here after winning the Pan-American title in the United States two weeks ago, Brazil had high hopes of defending their title here, but they made some errors that proved costly, coach Roberley Leonaldo said.

“We are, of course, disappointed with our results here,” Leonaldo said. “Two weeks ago, we played really well. The Pan-American Cup was a preparation for this tournament, but one of the problems we faced here was the quality of the competition.

“In a tournament like this, where you are playing five matches in six days, you do not have time to recover. So there is a lot of pressure.

“We had our opportunities, but we made crucial mistakes at crucial times. You cannot afford to make such mistakes at this top level of the sport.”

arizvi@thenational.ae

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