Host City: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Venue(s): MaracanÃ£zinho, MaracanÃ£, Rio de Janeiro
Date Started: August 7, 2016
Date Finished: August 21, 2016
Format: Round-robin pools advanced teams to classification matches.
Twelve countries took part in a total of 38 matches. Brazil qualified automatically as hosts, and were joined by the top two teams in the 2015 FIVB World Cup in Japan, USA and Italy. Also qualified were the winners of five Continental Olympic Qualification Tournaments in Africa (Egypt), Asia (Iran), Europe (Russia), NORCECA - North, Central America & Caribbean - (Cuba) and South America (Argentina). The compliment of 12 teams was made up with four teams (Poland, France, Canada and Mexico) coming through two Olympic Qualification Tournaments held in Japan and Mexico.
The menâs tournament was one of the best seen at the Olympic Games for many years with any one of the eight quarter-finalists capable of winning the gold medal. The top six seeds all made it through to the last eight, and they included the reigning World Champions Cup winners Brazil, the 2014 World Champions Poland, and the 2015 World Cup winners, USA. However, another of the fancied teams, France, the 2015 European Champions and World League winners failed to qualify out of their pool following defeats by the strong trio of Italy, USA and Brazil. Canada were the surprise team in Pool A, finishing second with Brazil just qualifying in fourth place. The United States finished third but looked like heading for an early exit after losing their first two matches to Canada and Italy.
Argentina, Poland and Russia all qualified from pool B after four wins each, and they were joined by Iran who had an impressive dÃ©but tournament, making it to the quarters where they lost 3-0 to Italy. The US progressed to the semi-finals after also winning 3-0 in the last eight against Poland, and Russiaâs 3-0 win over Canada also assured them a place in the last four, which was completed when Brazil won the all-South American clash with Argentina 3-1.
Having already engaged in a two-hour match in pool A, Italy and the United States met again in the semi-final. Italy won the pool game 3-1 but now the two teams fought out a five-setter lasting 2hr 28m, the longest match of the entire tournament. The first two sets went to 30-28, 26-28 before the US won the third 25-9 and Italy leveled it in the fourth and in the tie-break set the Europeans won it 15-9. The other semi-final was a more one-sided affair with hosts Brazil beating the 2012 champions Russia 25-21, 25-20, 25-17, and at the same time avenging defeat by the Russians in the London final. Playing for Russia was [Sergey Tetyukhin], a member of the 2012 gold-medal winning team who was playing in his sixth Olympics, going back to 1996. The United States had taken the young team that won the 2015 World Cup to Rio and eight of their squad had no previous Olympic experience but that did not show as they staged a remarkable comeback in the bronze medal match when they came from two sets down to beat Russia 15-13 in the tie-break set with an ace from [Matt Anderson], the World Cup MVP and one of the stars of Rio.
The home fans eagerly anticipated the final between Brazil and Italy and they were hoping their team would end the drought of a menâs Olympic gold medal going back to 2004. Brazil and Italy met in pool A and despite winning the first set on that occasion, Brazil lost 3-1. Now in a country where volleyball is second only in popularity to football, the fervent fans were hoping for a reversal of fortune and with the legendary coach [Bernardhino] in charge of the team, they must have fancied their chances, particularly as he had guided his country to three World titles, two Olympic titles and nine World League titles. Despite the 3-0 scoreline in Brazilâs favour at the MaracanÃ£zinho, they had to fight hard for their 25-22, 28-26, 26-24 win, and they had to stave off a set point held by the Italians in the second set. [Escadinha], the tournamentâs MVP won his fourth Olympic medal and was the only survivor from Brazilâs last gold-medal winning team in 2004.