Montreux, Switzerland, September 8, 2018- Italy twice came from behind to win a five-set semi-final classic 2:3 (25-19, 18-25, 25-22, 17-25, 12-15) following a tie-break to condemn defending champions Brazil to the Bronze Medal match & advance to Sunday’s Gold Medal Final where either Turkey or Russia await them.
It was an impressive comeback by the Azzurre not once but twice in the match against the top South American team Brazil, momentum and the advantage in the match swaying one way then the other to keep the spectators on on the edge of their seats as the first semi-final of the Montreux Masters served up a real Volleyball treat, the type of drama that has epitomised high stakes games at this showpiece down all the years of its 33-year existence. 19-year-old rising star Paola Ogechi Egonu was the master-key once more with 32 points, helping the Italians edge a classic that at times seemed to be slipping away from their grasp.
Italy got off to a shaky start and had committed two unforced errors to let to Brazil lead from the very beginning. However, diligent defence and with the brilliant Egonu in charge of their attack, Italy caught up with the South Americans quickly, at 8-8. Brazil’s speedy attacks and solid on-point blocks then slowly put them in front at 14-10. Searching for an answer to the continuous Brazilian pressure, Italy seemed to have tried every trick in the book including a crafty ace from veteran, Lucia Bosetti. Their effort was not enough to salvage the set though, as the Brazilians ran out 25-19 winners to go 1:0 up.
The rivals began the second set in a frenzy of exchanging points. The precise blocking forced the attackers on both sides to send balls long and wide. The balance of power was disrupted by Egonu who fired a couple of brilliant spikes on both left and right wings, for Italy to edge into a 14-17 lead. The Italian superstar contributed eight points over the following plays as her team claimed the second set 18-25, parity restored.
The battle continued in set three with both teams fighting for each point. The rivals took the game to a higher level, each play more intense as the last as one fantastic rally was followed by another. Brazil managed to squeeze the game, edging ahead 14-10 but Italy weren’t to concede the set easily. They gave their all to prevent Brazil building a lead, but having stopped a brace of Gabi Guimaraes and Rosamaria Montibeller attacks, their resolve was broken as Drussyla Costa stepped up for Brazil to convert as they took the second set 25-22. A fourth set to come, Italy would have to do it the hard way.
Brazil opened set four with a confident triple block and started to pull away, 3-0. Italy tried to lift morale but the mighty Brazilian block was always prevalent as they extended the lead to 6-2. Davide Mazzanti then convened with his side on the sidelines to encourage his side to vary their attacking play, and his remonstrating with his players paid dividends as Italy battled back to level up at 9-9 and then ahead, 9-10. A mighty block by captain Cristina Chirichella forced Brazil to call a time-out at 9-11 but Italy were on a roll and extended the lead to 10-16. The shellshocked Brazilians attempted to claw back the deficit but the Italians were already coasting, and came out on top of the set, 17-25. Deadlock. One tie-break round to come to decide the semi-final.
The momentum with them, the Italian team looked psyched up as they pulled away in the fifth set, 2-5. Just as things started to look up for Brazil, Drussyla and Danielle Lins ended up in an accidental collision as both went in to attempt to dig the same ball. The collision and stoppage that followed seemed to disrupt the game and break up play, knocking Brazil off their stride, giving Italy vital time to reconvene and maintain their persistence in attack, as they led 7-9. A succession of points for the Europeans followed as Italy closed in on victory at 7-12, and with a place in the final in their sights and the scent of a shot at the Gold Medal growing ever more tantalising, Sylla killed the game, touching down for an eventual 12-15 fifth set win to clinch the tiebreak & propel the Azzurre into the final. Deposed champions Brazil will battle for Bronze, the Women in blue, for glory.