The Brazilian men’s volleyball team can be the new poster team for the old adage “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
The Brazilians were on the verge of elimination, needing a win over France on the final match of the preliminary round to squeak into the quarterfinals with the last spot from Pool A.
But from there, Brazil rolled, finishing the journey Sunday afternoon with a gold medal after sweeing Italy (25-22, 28-26, 26-24) in front of a packed Maracanãzinho arena.
With the home crowd at their back, the top-ranked team in the world won its final eight sets to close out the tournament as world champions.
Wallace De Souza carried Brazil in the final three matches and finished with 20 points, two blocks and an ace in the gold medal match.
This is the third gold medal for Brazil, which also won in Athens 2004 and Bracelona 1992.
Italy has never taken home the gold in men’s volleyball, finishing with bronze in 2012, 2000 and 1984. The Italians also lost in the gold medal match in 1996 to the Netherlands and to the Brazilians in 2004.
Brazil has taken silver the last two Olympics, including losing a two-set lead over Russia at the 2012 London Games.