Barueri, Brazil, May 15, 2018 - Louisa Lippmann brilliantly led from the front as Germany recovered from a set down to beat Brazil for the first time in 16 years following a dramatic 3-1 win (15-25, 25-22, 25-18, 25-20).
The 23 year-old opposite spiker weighed in with 14 points and three blocks, superbly helping out a resolute German defense as the hosts were rocked in their first match of the new Volleyball Nations League competition.
Lippmann was ably assisted by the tireless Maren Fromm (19 points) and Jennifer Geerties (six points) as Germany, who have failed to qualify for the last three Olympics, defeated the South Americans who trudged off court in shock.
It was an astonishing turnaround in Pool Four considering Brazil’s dominance in the first set with libero Suelen and Ana Carolina Da Silva getting firmly on top of the opposition.
But the Germans regrouped and sensationally roared back to produce one of the biggest shocks in volleyball history.
It was no surprise that hopes were high for Brazil in Sao Paulo. Currently ranked fourth in the world, the reigning South American champions have lost just one of their last 21 major matches - albeit a crushingly disappointing quarterfinal defeat at Rio 2016.
Their last home defeat in major tournaments other than the Olympics was in 2010.
Yet Jose ‘ Ze Roberto’ Guimaraes’ team began their quest to win the inaugural VNL tournament knowing Germany have lost their last 15 matches against them with the European’s only success in that spell coming way back in 2002.
No-one saw what was coming.
Germany, ranked 13th in the world, were up against it from the very start. The locals excitedly roared the Brazilians onto the court, leaving no-one in any doubt where affections lay in Barueri.
Nerves flooded through both teams early on with cheap points traded, especially on serve. Brazil’s attack and defense, however, soon came to the fore with Ana Carolina Da Silva and Tandara Caixeta beginning to rack up the points.
Germany were starting to get blown away but Lisa Grundig’s blocking showed was what possible despite the power and precision facing them from across the net. Felix Koslowski urged his troops to keep calm and try to stay in the game.
The problem was, however, that the Brazilians had an answer for everything. Suelen , operating in a defensive libero role, threw herself everywhere producing some remarkable saves as Brazil eased towards winning the first set.
The excitable yellow hordes in the stands roared their approval. Ana Beatriz - who ended up with 10 points - was adding the attacking power to Suelen’s continually heroic rearguard.
Germany, to their credit , continued to have their moments.
Jennifer Geerties’ power was on show yet Brazil mixed it up perfectly, their blend of strength and finesse was hugely impressive yet midway through the second, the Europeans were 13-9 ahead.
Koslowski’s hopes of salvaging the match were on a knife edge.
He called a time-out at 17-17 in the hope of refocusing minds for the final stretch in the second set. And what a rollercoaster ending it was. Germany could smell the finish line at 20-18 but Brazil refused to buckle.
Ana Beatriz’s all-round game kept the hosts alive and helped them sneak into a 22-21 lead. It was a crucial juncture of the match and Germany’s chance had arrived.
A disputed call which ultimately proved correct thanks to a video replay saw them push ahead 23-22 and when the set point came, Marie Scholzel sealed the deal.
Game very much on.
If Brazil didn’t think they were in a match after that first set procession, they did now, especially as the Germans continued their good work and established an early 10-6 lead.
Worried Ze Roberto called a time-out, desperate to try and keep the German tide at bay but Brazil were struggling to regain a foothold.
A mix of solidity and Brazilian errors were proving very costly for the home team.
Koslowski’s side were beginning to believe and when Maren Fromm unleashed an 81 kph spike to make it 19-13, there seemed no way back for Ze Roberto who saw Brazil stunned when Suelen failed to keep out the irrepressible Lippmann and co.
The crowd had been silenced. They needed to wake up though and, all of a sudden at the start of the crucial fourth set, the volume was well and truly turned up.
Brazil fought hard but the momentum was with the Germans who amazingly held out for the most famous of victories, sealed with a blistering 100 kph spike.