Lausanne, Switzerland, December 28, 2015 - Russia claimed the title at the FIVB Volleyball Men's U23 World Championship in Dubai, providing a breath of fresh air with a roster of younger talent in a rather dismal season for their senior counterparts.
Coach Mikhail Nikolaev up in the air, as Russia celebrate winning the U23 World Championship in Dubai.
Admittedly, pool play proved harder then the final phase for Russia, who twice needed tie-breaks to score wins that kept them undefeated throughout the tournament. After downingTunisia 3-1 (25-15, 22-25, 25-18, 25-22) and then defending champions Brazil 3-1 (26-24, 17-25,25-16, 25-21), Russia had to go all the way against Argentina and Turkey to top their pool.
Russia finished pool play with a procedural win 3-0 (25-22, 25-12, 25-17) over Mexico, but there was a bit of drama for second place (and a berth in the semifinals). Turkey, Brazil and Argentina all ended up tied on 3-2 records. Argentina were out on points (8, compared to 10 each for Turkey and Brazil) and Turkey prevailed over Brazil in sets (12-7 to 12-8)!
Douglas Souza, Leandro Santos and Alan Souza block Turkey's Gokhan Gokgoz as Brazil score a 3-1 victory - though in hindsight it was not enough to see the defending champions continue to the semifinals.
Like Russia, Cuba too had come through theirpreliminary pool undefeated, but when they came up against Turkey in the semifinals they fell in straight sets - their first loss in the competition.
Meanwhile, Russia were taking care of Italy in the other semifinal.
Italy did go on to claim the bronze medal with a 3-1 (25-22, 18-25, 25-23, 25-21) win over Cuba, before Russia clashed with Turkey for the second time in the tournament - only this time for gold.
Russia's Egor Kliuka was named MVP of the tournament in addition to Best Outside Hitter, to lead a Dream Team of stars that we're sure to hear more of in the future.
Dream Team of the 2015 FIVB Volleyball Men's U23 World Championship, left to right:Best Opposite, Metin Toy (Turkey); Best Setter, Murat Yenipazar (Turkey); Best Middle Blocker, Samett Gunes (Turkey); Best Outside Hitter, Gokhan Gokgoz (Turkey); MVP & Best Outside Hitter, Egor Kliuka (Russia); Best Middle Blocker, Ivan Demakov (Russia). Not pictured: Best Libero, Roman Garcia (Cuba).
Final ranking of the 2015 FIVB Volleyball Men's U23 World Championship - Dubai 2015: