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Brazil and US in final showdown
22 Aug 2008 19:02 BST

The Brazilian men's volleyball team will aim to defend their Olympic title against the US in Sunday's final.

Brazil, strong favourites to win gold again, had to recover from a slow start to beat the Italians 3-1 (19-25, 25-18, 25-21, 25-22) in their semi-final.

In the earlier semi-final, the US narrowly defeated Russia 3-2 (25-22, 25-21, 25-27, 22-25, 15-13) to stay unbeaten in the competition.

Sunday's final starts at 0500 BST, following the bronze medal match.

Top-ranked Brazil are tipped to triumph again. They won gold in Athens and the World Cup last year, defending its 2003 title. They also repeated as gold-medal winners in the 2002 and 2006 world championships.

With Italy starting the game strongly, taking an early 9-2 lead and then taking the first set, Brazil's coach Bernardo Rezende admitted his team began nervously.

"I think they were thinking too hard about what would happen if they lost in the beginning," he said.

Italy had to contend with an injury to Luigi Mastrangelo in the third set, and although they pushed the Brazilians close in the fourth, it was not to be their day.

"It is very hard to keep the adrenaline down in a match like this," Brazil's Giba said.

Italy, which lost 3-1 to Brazil in Athens four years ago, has never won a gold medal in the sport.