Suffice it to say, the U.S. men struggle in semifinals.
Just two months ago, Team USA lost to France in the semis of the inaugural Volleyball Nations League. In the 2017 season, the Americans fell to Brazil in the World League semifinals. Of course, no one can forget the 2016 Olympics where the USA lost a heartbreaking five-set semifinal to Italy. In 2015, it was Serbia winning in five sets to send the USA to the bronze-medal match.
And today, in the semifinals of the 2018 FIVB World Championship, defending gold medalist Poland took down the USA 25-22, 20-25, 23-25, 25-20, 15-11.
The last time the U.S. men advanced with a win a semifinal match in a major international tournament was at the 2014 World League competition, where they swept Iran in the semis and beat Brazil in the final to walk away with gold.
The first set of Saturday’s second semifinal saw Poland go up by as many as nine points as the Europeans served and blocked well and the Americans made error after error. The U.S. men managed to close the gap somewhat toward the end of the set, which helped them take hold of some momentum and win the second set and then the third.
The U.S. Men fell to Poland , 3-2 on Saturday at the #FIVBMensWCH and will play Serbia for bronze on Sunday at 8a PT | https://t.co/LGIn52faWF Watch LIVE on https://t.co/1hcTykgKjZ pic.twitter.com/3QyeaBIDhd— USA Volleyball (@usavolleyball) September 29, 2018
Undeterred, Poland recovered to win the fourth and exploded out of the gates in the fifth, going up 6-1 and preventing the Americans from ever getting closer than two points away.
On the match, the USA boasted 65 kills to Poland’s 59, but the Poles out-blocked the Americans 13 to 10 and the USA made 29 errors, while Poland only made 20.
In the first semifinal of the night, Brazil left no doubt in its 25-22, 25-21, 25-22 defeat of Serbia. Showcasing a deep talent pool by switching back and forth between liberos Thales Hoss and Maique Reis Nascimento and between setters Bruno Mossa Rezende and William Arjona, Brazil out-blocked Serbia nine to five and out-attacked the Europeans 44 to 38.
The balanced Brazil offense saw top-producer Douglas Souza tally 11 points, but all five Brazilian attackers had at least eight points by the end of the night.
“We give credit to Brazil: they were the best in all skills and punished us for every little mistake we made,” Serbia head coach Nikola Grbic said. “But I cannot blame my team either: I believe they did good -- even if they could have done a little better.”
With the win, Brazil advances to its fifth-consecutive World Championship gold-medal match. The final is as a rematch of the 2014 World Championship final in which Poland defeated Brazil in four sets. Brazil won the title in 2002, 2006, and 2010.
The U.S. will face Serbia in the bronze-medal match. The USA and Serbia have played each other twice already this year, with the Americans winning both meetings. Over the last four years, the USA leads the head-to-head series 7-3.
2018 FIVB Men’s World Championship Medal Round
Bronze: Serbia vs. USA | Sunday, September 30, 10 AM CT
Gold: Brazil vs. Poland | Sunday, September 30, 2:15 PM CT