Cuba silence the Maracanãzinho and upset Brazil

May 21, 2024.- Cuba took a major step towards the Paris Olympics with the victory in their VNL debut at a packed Maracanãzinho stadium for the return of legendary head coach ‘Bernardinho’ Rezende who didn’t intimidate Cuba as the Caribbean stunned Brazil in front of nearly 10,000 fans to start the Volleyball Nations League 2024 on the right foot.

Benefiting from an excellent collective performance, the Cubans secured a big 3-1 (25-23, 27-29, 25-21, 25-21) victory over the South Americans in Pool 2 and significantly improved their chances of qualifying for the Paris Olympics.

The first national team sitting below the cut-off line, Cuba earned 12.7 points in the Ranking with the victory, going up from 11th to tenth place and getting to 249.66 to now rank just 3.56 points behind Serbia, the last team inside the qualification zone – they can move above the cut-off line on Wednesday if the Serbians lose to Iran in Rio. Despite the upset, Brazil continues in fifth place.

FIVB World Rankings 

A well-diversified offense was one of the keys to the Cuban victory as five players reached double digits in scoring in the match – outside hitters Marlon Yant (18) and Miguel Ángel López (15), opposite Michael Sánchez (14) and middle blockers Javier Concepcion (13) and Robertlandy Simón (12).

“To win here at the Maracanãzinho, with this atmosphere, it’s crazy,” Simón commented. “We knew we needed good results this week to help us qualify for the Olympics and today was a good start. We need to keep taking it one step at a time. We’ll give everything to make it to Paris.”

Playing aggressively, the Cubans also outscored the Brazilians in blocks (ten to four) and aces (seven to four), paving the way for their victory.

Cuban-born Brazilian outside hitter Yoandy Leal led all scorers with 19 points (17 kills, two aces), with fellow outside hitter Ricardo Lucarelli adding another 11, with nine kills, one block and one ace.

Volleyball Nations League 2024: schedule and results

Cuba will be on the court again at the Maracanãzinho on Thursday, playing Germany at 14:00 local time (17:00 GMT).