Men’s Olympic Volleyball Final – Running Diary

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Having ‘borrowed’ a few other literary devices from Bill Simmons, I figured that I might have a go at the ‘Running Diary’ of the Olympic final.  Just for fun.

The craziness of this tournament has been confirmed yet again by a fairly awful match for bronze medal.  Italy played every rally with maximum risk, leading to a lot of errors, a lot of unnecessarily block points and, decisively, seven aces for Savani.  So Italy gets the bronze that they more or less deserve (the fourth Olympic medal for Papi), and Bulgaria miss the medal that they weren’t expecting to play for.  I’m getting ready for a great final.  Brazil and Russia are clearly the best and most consistent teams here, but after two weeks I’m ready for anything.

No surprises in the starting lineups.  Wallace starts in place of the injured Vissotto for Brazil.  Giba on the bench has customary finals ‘1975 Ian Chappell moustache‘.

2-0 And we’re off.  First two break points for Brazil – both of them block/defence + pipe to Murilo.

3-0 Mikhaylov 0 for 3.  Mmm…

5-1 Brazil straight into a rhythm playing fast and aggressively at every chance.  Russia a little tentative and change setters already.  Mmm…

5-3 Setter tip in transition Butko.  That is one way to settle the ship.  Or avoid having to set.

It’s great to see the experienced Hungarian referee Hobor.  I’m pretty sure this is his last match before mandatory retirement.  Maybe Giba’s moustache is actually modelled after him and not Ian Chappell.

8-5 First technical TO.  Three points for Murilo.  The Brazilians seem sharper so far.

9-5 Great pressure with the serve by Brazil.  The Russians are having some problems controlling the first ball.

11-6 See 9-5

And the next change for Russia, Ilinykh for Khtey.

14-8 See 11-6. Timeout for Russia.

14-9 Once again Russia can’t score on the first sideout ball but Hobor saves them with an overrule.

16-11 2nd technical TO.  One team looks ready to win a gold medal.  That team has 16 points.  The other team is Russia.

18-13 Another ace for Brazil followed by another tip from Russia, this time at least for a point.  As the Americans say, ‘volleyball is serve and receive’.

20-14 Mikhaylov, still without a point, gets blocked but Tetyukhin shows his experience by hitting off the block instead.

Nice watch, Alekno

23-15 Six points for Murilo. As the German commentator just pointed out, he is trying to match his wife Jacqueline who was top scorer in yesterday’s women’s final.

23-17 Tetyukhin figures he has to do it by himself and serves an ace.  He needs another five…

25-19 A great block by Muserskiy against Saatkamp just puts off the inevitable for one rally before Wallace hits off the block for his 5th point and the set.

Brazil 1-0, 8 points for Murilo.  The only positive for Russia is in yesterday’s women’s final the team that got pumped in the first set won the gold medal.

Set 2 Ilinykh stays on in Khtey’s place and Brazil are unchanged.

0-1 First lead of the match for Russia.  Tetyukhin really wants that gold.  He has every other colour.  Grankin is back in to set for Russia.  I think that is the right move.

2-2 Outrageous defence from Brazil against Mikhaylov then Volkov, then a block.  Brazil are still in control.

2-3 The first tempo set direct over the net, you don’t see that so often.  Lucky point for Russia! They have to get the ball to those middles much better.

5-3 And it turns around fast again.  Service error, hitting error, ace…

7-4 The next reception error from Russia.  Brazil aren’t serving so strong, but are hitting their targets.

8-4 See 7-4, but change ‘Brazil aren’t serving so strong, but…’ with ‘Brazil are serving really strong AND…’

10-5 Mikhaylov can’t score = Russia in a lot of trouble.

13-8 Mikhaylov hits out again. He seems completely without rhythm in his approach and is subsequently having huge problems.

14-9 Tetyikhin is really playing by himself now.  Sideout then forces an overpass which Grankin sets to air.  Missed chance number… lost count

16-12 Second technical TO.  I really like the short jump float by Grankin.  It has caused everyone problems.  Except for Brazil.  Murilo nails the pass and Saatkamp scores on the quick.

It is difficult to see right now how Russia will get back in the game.  They need more service pressure and more scoreboard pressure by taking the chances they get.

16-13 Muserskiy! Maybe that will help.

16-14 Berezhko changes tempo with a float serve and Wallace makes his first error.  Berezhko is the 3rd receiver they have used in that position already.

16-15 Mmm… jump float works again.  And btw, you can’t tip over Muserskiy, even if you’re Dante.

19-15 Block on Muserskiy from good reception after block on Tetyukhin on the high ball.  Timeout for Russia as Apalikov comes in for Muserskiy.

20-16 Another defence from Tetyukhin followed by a bad set followed by point to Brazil. Mama mia…

21-17 Great sideout after a long rally for Brazil. Double sub for Russia, followed by …

22-17 Khtey getting blocked instead of Mikhaylov.  I guess that’s progress.

24-19 Set point Brazil.  First tempo Sidao. Too easy.

25-20 Brazil 2, Tetyukhin 0

After two sets Wallace has 11 points and Murilo 9 (8 in the first set).  For Russia Tetyukhin has 8, twice as many Mikhaylov.  After five Olympics, it looks like he will finish his career with 2 silver and 2 bronze.  He deserves to go out better than this.

Set 3 – Brazil unchanged and Russia make a (massive) change.  Coach Alekno moves Mikhaylov to receiver, Muserskiy to opposite.  I am pretty sure that is the first time Russia has played with that combination.  In coaching courses they call that the ‘desperate act of a dying man’.

2-1 Mikhaylov has to receive the first two balls.  Apparently Brazil noticed the changes.

3-1 Next reception Mikhaylov, next setting/hitting error Grankin/Volkov.

3-3 Muserskiy with all three points.  Mmm…

3-4 …all four points.

4-4 According to the German commentator ‘Muserskiy is the Christian Dünnes of the Russian team’.

7-7 Mikhaylov gets another reception, but the forced high ball to the middle blocker somehow works.

7-8 This time the short serve works and Muserskiy scores in transition.  The Russians are visibly more relaxed.  First TTO.

11-10 Grankin can’t hit the first tempo, Mikhaylov can’t recieve, but at least Apalikov can block in transition.

13-10 Timeout Russia.  I don’t know what Alekno is saying, but he is remarkably calm given what he is having to endure.  Although I have to say, if you leave Mikhaylov to pass the float serve you can’t blame the player.

13-11 Block in transition for sideout.  You can’t win a gold medal like that.

14-13 Great block cover and defence from Brazil, but Muserskiy is unstoppable.

15-13 Tetyukihn goes off  for a receiving specialist, Sokolov, while Mikhaylov is the other reciever?

16-15 Second TTO.  Murilo gets stuffed once but then scores to maintain the lead.  Wallace is doing a nice job keeping the score ticking over.  I’m not sure they lost out when Vissotto got injured.

17-15 Ace Saatkamp.  Between Mikhaylov and Sokolov.  Almost impossible to have forseen.

18-15 Muserskiy steps on the 3m line in attack.  That is a tough break.  And dare I say, the deciding point.  Timeout Russia.

18-16 Tetyukhin is back and Mikhaylov socres his first point for over 30 minutes.

19-17 Wallace too easy against no block.  Mikhaylov gets his second in a row.

20-17 Russia get ANOTHER free ball that they can’t score, Brazil gets ANOTHER sideout in transiton.  I could have written that line in the second set.  The last chance?

22-19 First transition chance doesn’t score, the second goes out after two Russians run away from the free ball.  This must be the death throes.

22-21 Finally a break point by Russia.  Muserskiy has 12 points for the set.

22-22 Ace to Tetyukhin!! After a timeout no less.  I can’t believe the scores are level.

23-22 And that is the difference.  Another tough serve, but Bruno still gets a 1 on 1 and Wallace scores.  Giba on for the coronation.

23-23 You wouldn’t believe it, but Muserskiy scored a(nother) point.

24-23 Saatkamp scores.  Gold medal point for Brazil.

24-24 First one saved by Mikhaylov.

25-24 Wallace is good. 2nd match point.

25-25 Mikhaylov finally starting to play, scores and goes back to serve…

25-26 … and forces a block/defence which … Muserskiy scores…  First set point Russia.

26-26 Great serve, but Bruno finds his middle from 3m.  Great play.

26-27 Muserskiy’s 16th point for the set.  Second set point.

27-27 Service error Apalikov

27-28 17th point for Muserskiy, but he is visibly tired and Khtey comes in for him to serve.  Third set point.

27-29 Jump float serve, first tempo Sidao, block Volkov.  Alekno is off life support, but still in a critical condition.

2-1 Brazil.  History will remember that set as one of the greatest individual sets of all time by Muserskiy.  He was helped by Mikhaylov waking up and a clutch ace by Tetyukhin who hasn’t given up hope yet.  For Brazil Wallace is getting stronger but Murilo has 11 points, but only 3 after the first set.

Set 3, Giba for Dante, Russia unchanged.

2-2 Easy sideouts so far.  Wallace is quick and Grankin finds his middle blocker.  Maybe Berrutto found him under his team.

3-4 Giba has missed a pipe and now got stuffed.  He would have been great in this ad though.

6-4 Sidao gets two more aces. He’s playing a great all round game.

6-6 The second miscommunication on a pipe for Brazil.  That is more than the whole 2004 tournament.

6-7 …and Volkov gets another block.  Is that the tide turning?

7-8 First TTO Brazil are tightening up just a little.

9-9 Grankin is moving that float serve around and getting some openings, but Wallace’s arm is like lightning.

10-10 Great serve from Mikhaylov gets the transition chance, but Tetyukhin doesn’thave enough heat to finish it off.

10-12 Apalikov makes a great serve after getting the block for 11, and Wallace hits out.  First little break of the set.

12-12 Murilo forces the overpass, and kills the pipe.  Break back.  Three points already this set for Murilo.  Got to go to the money.

12-15 Mikhaylov and Muserskiy in transition after Giba doesn’t score twcie.  The second little break.  Timeout Brazil.

12-16 Muserskiy ace on Giba.  Second TTO.  Was the Giba substitution Bernardinho’s last throw?

13-16 Linesman says out.  Video says in.  I can’t wait for 2016.

13-18 Bruno forces a ball to Wallace because he can’t set Giba then the high ball has to go to Giba anyway, who gets stuffed.  Giba off for Thiago.  Is Dante actually injured?

14-20 Thiago hits out.  Brazil have Ricardo matched with Rodrigao (as the opposite) in a double sub.  Rodrigao is not Muserskiy.

14-21 Ricardo has to force the quick because Rodrigao is in 4, then Thiago gets stuffed.  13 blocks for Russia.

15-22 Mikhaylov nails Sergio cross court!!  The tide was apparently a tsunami.  Giba back on for Thiago

17-22 TO Russia.  Muserskiy is drinking a lot! He must have been working out.

19-22 Two hitting errors in a row for Russia as the Brazilians desperately stack sandbags.

19-23 Under the circumstances, that was a great set from Grankin and kill by Muserskiy.

20-23 Rodrigao scores his first point from position 2 in his 259th (rough guess) international.  Reverse double sub Brazil, Berezhko for Mikhaylov in reception.

21-23 Muserskiy hits out.  That might have been nerves.  ‘Might’ may be an understatement.

21-24 Block in transition to save the sideout. The roles have reversed now.  First set point for Russia.

22-24 Murilo hits off the block from position 2.  Good sideout, but now he has to serve.

22-25 Serve out.  Set Russia, 2-2.  Alekno’s condition has stablised and is back on solid foods.

That was certainly not what I was expecting.  Brazil tightened up and seemed a little tired.  Only Wallace and the two middles (plus a couple of nervous plays from Russia) kept the set as close as it was.  Muserskiy wasn’t as good as the 3rd (that would have been impossible) but Mikhaylov picked up the slack.  Four years of work comes down to one set.

Set 5.  Russians start the same.  Brazil bring back Dante.  Brazil with serve, Russia with advantage.

0-2 Grankin moves the serve around again and Apalikov gets the block on Saatkamp.

1-2 Another short one causes problems and leads to another possible 2016 video challenge but it’s 2012 and Brazil sideout.

2-3 Russia with the chance for 4-1, but Tetyukhin gets blocked by Wallace after a poor set from Grankin.

3-5 Wallace gets his 3rd point for the set to save a bad pass but Dante serves into the net.

3-6 Great rally from both teams but Wallace can’t sneak it over the net.  Timeout Brazil.  The stakes are getting high.  Nerves abound.

4-7 Tight play from both teams, but Tetyukhin runs 10m to dig a ball so that Muserskiy is the only available spiker.  Grankin chooses correctly.

4-8 Brazil can’t get through.  This time Murilo gets touched, Mikhaylov scores his 15th point.

4-9 Grankin scores on an overpass in transition.  TO Brazil.  Those are some blank, empty expressions not paying attention to Bernardinho.

5-9 36 year old Tetyukhin in his fifth Olympics, at the end of the fifth set of the final somehow finds the energy to serve at 117km/h but Wallace scores.

5-10 Muserskiy – 29

6-10 Murilo – 17. He is thinking about having to compare medals with his wife.

6-11 Mikhaylov. 16

6-12 Libero point!!! Dante nearly creams Obmaechov in the head but it goes over the net lands on the line!

6-13 Mikhaylov at the 4th attempt. Two more.

7-13 Wallace 27. He has been really good, his time will come.

7-14 Muserskiy gets his 30th. Khtey for Tetyukhin to block.

8-14 Murilo pipe.  Tetyukhin back on,  Berezhko for Mikhaylov to receive. 1st match point.

9-14 Muserskiy scores!!!  No, he steps over the line after landing. Apparently Hobor wants one more point in his career. TO Russia.  Good call I think. 2nd match point.

9-15 Gold for Russia!!!  This time Muserskiy does score his 31st point, this time in transition.  Tetyukhin fittingly had the first chance and nearly got it.  Like Niki Lauda before him, Alekno jumps up from his hospital bed and starts doing pushups.

I’m drained and kind of lost for words.  Two amazing performances stand out.  The first was from Russian coach Alekno, who with everything on the line, did what roughly 0.1% of top level coaches would have done.  Mikhaylov played quite a bit as a receiver when he was younger and I have seen Muserskiy playing opposite a little, but to make that change at that moment was huge.  The second was from Muserskiy.  He has always been a huge talent but perhaps now his ceiling has been raised even higher.  Frankly he was incredible.  There have been big guys before, but none with his combination of power and athleticism and at 23 he will only get better.

So that was that and for the next four years, Russia will be the Olympic gold medallists.

That was fun.


  1. Nice work. You said all along that the team with the best opposite will win, just that he was playing middle at the time.


  2. Great comments Mark.
    As I was watching I was thinking your theory about the better opposite is correct, it’s just that on this day it was not Mikhaylov. In the first two sets it was Wallace, and then it became Muserskiy. Wallace was still Brazil’s best performer all the way through.



  3. Great commentary! What is completely baffling about Muserskiy, even if you ignore how good his spike is considering the situation and the fact it’s not his position, is how well the guy defends and receives! He is 2m18 tal and he picks up ball from the floor like nobody’s business. Just incredible, best match ever. How often can we get games like this?


    1. I think if you focus on Muserksiy’s height you miss the point of his talent. As a friend of mine who works in Russia and sees him often told me… Muserskiy has ‘infinite’ talent.
      I think we get games like this about once every 10 years 🙂


  4. It seemed to me that teams were not using the backrow pipe attack over the top of the quick middle attack as much as in previous tournaments. Especially Brazil, as years ago it was their speciality. There are fantastic videos of Giba, Dante or Murilo coming through the middle with a very quick backrow attack. At most they would face a poorly formed block and they had a high success rate.

    However at this tournament this tactic appeared to be much less fruitful. Teams seemed to anticipate this play more and managed to put up some strong triple blocks against it.

    Any thoughts on this? I realise it is just my impression from watching a limited number of games, and I have no stats to back it up either.


    1. I think you may be right about the reduced number of pipes. Without studying it myself my initial explanation is that it was a function of the service reception. The quality of the serving has jumped another level and the lower quality reception obviously had an impact on the number of pipes that can be played. I also think the block has improved a lot. A lot!


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