Brazil wins 3rd straight men's volleyball world title
Brazil's experience carried it to a third consecutive men's volleyball world title Sunday with a 3-0 shutout of Cuba in Rome, the youngest team in the tournament.
The 25-22, 25-14, 25-22 victory solidified Brazil's status as the top-ranked team in the sport, following its victories in 2002 and 2006. The South Americans also won the Olympic tournament in 2004, then took silver behind the United States in Beijing two years ago.
"We were united as a team and united like a family," said Brazil captain Gilberto Godoy Filho, who confirmed this would be his last worlds. "Now we've got to focus on the World Cup next season and then the Olympics, which is the high point of this sport."
Brazil becomes the second team to win three straight world titles after Italy won in 1990, 1994 and 1998. The Soviet Union won a record six titles but never more than two in a row.
Earlier, Serbia beat host Italy 3-1 for third place, while the U.S. finished fifth.
Brazil standout Leandro Vissotto Neves closed out the final with a spike on the South Americans' fourth match point, then dropped to the floor -- all 6-foot-11 of him -- and was mobbed by celebrating teammates.
Brazil's youngest player, 24-year-old Bruno Mossa Rezende, climbed the umpire's ladder and gestured to the crowd to share in his celebration.
Vissotto led Brazil with 19 points and 6-foot-7 Dante Guimaraes Amaral, Brazil's wall proved too tough to breach. Murilo Endres also helped to break apart the Cuban defence.
"We were able to control our pressure and exploit their mistakes and simply played better," said Brazil coach Bernardo Rezende. "I was happy with the way several of our guys dealt with physical problems. Vissotto had a great game."
Wilfredo Leon Venero, at 17 the youngest player in the tournament, showed his nerves with a series of early errors, including missed serves, and failed to carry Cuba like he had been.
Still, Cuba should be pleased with its performance. With an average age of 22.5, it was a sharp improvement from its 15th-place finish at the last worlds in 2006.
Also, Cuba beat Brazil 3-2 in the preliminary rounds.
"It was tough for us against such a physical squad, having so little experience in finals," said Cuba coach Orlando Samuels Blackwood, who led the team to the 1990 final.
"The Cuban league only lasts three weeks, so we've got to work on the physical aspect more and hopefully get our season to last longer. It's very tough to improve tactics in such a short period."
The final was played before a mixed crowd of 11,605 at the Palalottomatica, including several Brazilian soccer stars who play in Italy's Serie A -- Lucio, Juan, Alexander Doni and Rodrigo Taddei.