Brazil backed up its No. 1 world ranking with a gold-medal finish Sunday to a near-perfect Olympics, beating rival Italy in the volleyball final.
Gilberto Godoy Filho had 20 points to lead the Brazilians to a 25-16, 24-26, 25-20, 25-22 victory. Brazil has been a major international power for the
past decade, but this was its first Olympic medal since a gold in 1992.
"We are winners," said Godoy Filho, who was named the tournament's most valuable player. "We were here for first place. Every player had this and only
this in his mind. I am so happy."
The Italians have been just about as good, but they've only managed a silver, bronze and silver at the last three Summer Games. Russia won this year's
bronze by beating the United States in straight sets earlier Sunday.
"We thought that we could change things in the fourth set, and maybe if we were lucky we could fight for the gold medal in the fifth set, but this is
Brazil," said Italian middle blocker Luigi Mastrangelo, who pulled his blue jersey over his face and buried his head in his hands on the bench after
Godoy Filho spiked the ball off libero Damiano Pippi on match point.
Mastrangelo's block cut the fourth-set lead to 23-22, but the Italians couldn't get closer.
"In the fourth set, we believed that we could do something more, but we lost our concentration," said Italy's captain and five-time Olympian Andrea
Giani. "But generally speaking, our performance was quite decent."
Godoy Filho, the goateed, long-haired, high-flying outside hitter who goes by the nickname "Giba," finished with 126 points - third-most in the
tournament. Giba was the catalyst of Brazil's fast, efficient attack that left so many teams shaking their heads afterward.
The Brazilians' only defeat was in the preliminary round to the Americans, who believed their opponent tanked the match to create an easier path to
the final. The way Brazil has played in the medal round, it really didn't matter who was on the other side.
"We felt much pressure during the match, but we finally made it," said captain Nalbert Bitencourt, whose status for the Summer Games was in doubt
following shoulder surgery. "We did it. We are the gold medalists."
At the medal ceremony, Bitencourt kissed his gold medal and stared at it in disbelief.
Godoy Filho wrapped the green-and-yellow flag around his shoulders like a cape, and players held up the No. 5 jersey of middle blocker Henrique Randow
- the final cut from the Olympic team.
After a group lap around the court to acknowledge their cheering fans, everyone gathered and dove across the floor on their stomachs as if they were
doing a digging drill during practice.