Montreux, Switzerland, June 3, 2016 - The Yellow Tigers of Belgium, needing a win to qualify for the semi-finals, bowed before the pressure as they were put to the sword by already eliminated Brazil, who pressure-free played some superb volleyball to send the semi-final hopefuls crashing out at the first hurdle. The result meant defending-champions Turkey live to fight another day, clinging onto second place in Pool B to progress.
The Belgians went into the game on three points, two adrift of the Turks who occupied the final qualification spot with five. Only a three-point win would do against Brazil to overtake Turkey, but nerves were clearly jangling in the Belgian camp going into this one and Brazil, looking to restore pride after a so-far dismal campaign, capitalised ruthlessly, crushing the Europeans in an emphatic 3:0 (25-21, 25-20, 25-22) victory.
Belgium flew out of the blocks like an express train in the first set, a lethal spike from Lise Van Hecke, a consistent performer for the Belgians in Montreux, amongst the highlights as the Belgians motored comfortably into a convincing lead. The Brazilians however were determined to make life difficult for their opponents and then began growing into the game, finally seeming to find their killer instinct to win key rallies with some superb spiking from Paula Borgo, who has shone in their campaign. They chipped away at the deficit to remarkably level the set at 19-19 and the pressure of having qualification at stake seemed to rattle the Belgians with Brazil looking to take advantage. The wind in their sails, the South Americans hit full throttle and cruised past their opponents to win the first set 25-21, capping off a remarkable comeback.
The Brazilians started the second set the stronger as they aimed to consolidate their lead. It was one the Belgians could not afford to lose with a tiebreak win insufficient if they were to overhaul the Turks due to their inferior set ratio. Yet they seemed to lack inspiration as the Brazilians matched them spike for spike and attack for attack, the teams finding themselves deadlocked in a tense stalemate. The Belgians were devoid of the radiance that they demonstrated in their opening win and toiled against the newfound flair and aggression of the Brazilians. The Europeans came off on the wrong side of a two heart-pounding rallies to go 20-23 down, before a Francyne block put Brazil at set point. Lise Van Hecke’s error then gifted the set to Brazil to put the nail in the coffin of Belgium’s campaign.
With the stuffing knocked out of the Belgians, Brazil got to work on completing their demolition. It was the turn of Gabriela to shine in this set with a slick show of stylish attacks twisting the knife further into their opponents. Paula Borgo’s powerful spike shell-shocked the Yellow Tigers once more, before a heart-breaking afternoon finally ended after Rosamaria forced the ball out with a Belgian touch for the killer blow.
As Brazil prepare to make the journey home having salvaged their pride with a third place finish in the pool, the Belgians will rue their lack of killer instinct and be left to reflect on what might have been- their dreams of the Montreux title are now over. Meanwhile defending-champions Turkey can breathe a sigh of relief, Lady Luck smiling upon them as their title defence surprisingly continues.