Duran dazzles in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s bronze medal win

Mirzet Duran had an outstanding performance at the net with 17 attacks and five blocks to lead Bosnia and Herzegovina in their 3-1 (23-25, 25-19, 25-18, 25-11) win over Brazil in the men’s bronze medal match of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games at Makuhari Messe Hall.

Bosnia and Herzegovina opened the penultimate day of the sitting volleyball competition with a comeback win to claim their first ever Paralympic bronze medal.

The Bosnians added the bronze to their medal collection after the two gold medals and three silver medals in the last five Paralympic cycles, while Brazil lost the bronze medal match for the second time since Rio 2016.

“I am happy to win another Paralympic medal. I want to say good job to the team because even though the team always made it to the final, the players still did their best to win the bronze,” Bosnia and Herzegovina coach Mirza Hrustemovic said.

“I used some of the old players in the first set and maybe that was the only mistake, but that also helped in the next sets because Brazil was not expecting that from us. We made some changes and we managed to play better. The Paralympic Games in Paris is three years away, maybe we would make some changes and put our younger players on the court more, then the other old players would help out and give instructions.”

Mirzet Duran’s 22 points, were complemented by the great performance of Ermin Jusufovic, who added eight attacks, eight blocks and two aces. Stevan Crnobrnja also contributed in double digits with 12 markers, and Adnan Manko and Safet Alibasic had 10 points each to overwhelm their rivals in scoring.

Brazil’s top scorers were Gilberto Lourenco da Silva and Anderson Rodrigues dos Santos, who made 15 and 14 points, respectively.

The Europeans outscored the South Americans in attacks 50-43 and dominated the net as they amassed 22 blocks.

The first set started as expected as both teams utilised their power game to score. Bosnia and Herzegovina showed better form while Brazil lacked some spark that allowed the former to keep the set tight. Bosnia and Herzegovina grabbed the upper hand 16-11, then Brazil rushed to a strong comeback to demolish the lead for an 18-all deadlock and later a 22-20 lead.

Jusufovic’s spike and Manko’s stuff block levelled the score again. After an exchange of points, a clever tip from Brazil helped reached set point at 24-23 before an attack fault by the Bosnians gave away the point to Brazil to close the first set 25-23.

The Bosnians did not let the setback distract them and started the second set with a 7-3 lead, then extended it to 12-4 as they continued to play smart against their rivals. Brazil struggled further as Daniel Jorge da Silva had to be taken out of the court because of injury, giving away 10 points that increased the deficit to 19-9.

The Brazilians managed to stage a comeback as the Bosnians got stuck at the 23 points, failing to retaliate against their rivals. The Europeans only managed to stop the run after 23-19, when Jusufovic and Crnobrnja converted points off their attack attempts to close the second set 25-23.

Bosnia had better rhythm in the third set and led 8-3 at the first technical timeout off a block by Crnobrnja. Brazil continued to challenge them and tied the score at 13-all and trailed closely at 18-16. Then Duran became the go-to hitter for Bosnia and gave his team a more comfortable cushion at 21-16. Bosnia took a 2-1 set advantage after closing the set at 25-18.

Bosnia and Herzegovina took the game to another level, showing their experience and dominance on defence as they put pressure on the Brazilian attackers with their block. The Bosnians led all the way and, at 19-9, they continued to block the attacks of the Brazilians until they were able to close set and match at 25-11.

“They won because they were consistent. In the first set we played really well, but it was really hard to maintain that level Bosnia because they are one of the best teams. They’ve always been in the finals of the Paralympic Games and we know it was going to be a tough game, but they were consistent,” Brazil’s Fabricio