LONDON: Russia will play for the Olympic gold medal in men's volleyball after defeating Bulgaria 3-1 Friday.
The Russians, second in the world, will face the winner of the late semifinal match between top-ranked Brazil and No. 6 Italy. The final is Sunday.
Russia is vying for its fourth gold medal in the sport, which joined the Olympics in 1964. The Russians have won all 10 of their Olympic matches against Bulgaria.
Maxim Mikhaylov, who leads all scorers in London, had 25 points in the 25-21, 25-15, 23-25, 25-23 victory over ninth-ranked Bulgaria, which will play in the bronze medal match.
"It's our country's dream, everybody's dream, the fans' dream to win the gold medal," Mikhaylov said. "Of course it's good to be in the final but the winner will be the one who plays their best game in the final."
Bulgaria and the Soviet Union played a memorable gold-medal match at the 1980 Moscow Games. The Soviets won 3-1 on home soil, the team's last gold. Bulgaria's silver remains its best Olympic volleyball result.
With President Rosen Plevneliev cheering the team on, Bulgaria went ahead 17-14 in the first set. But Russia scored the next four points, capped by Sergey Tetyukhin's ace, to even it. Russia pulled in front 21-20 when Alexander Sokolov misplayed a spike and won the set on Alexander Volkov's kill.
Russia took the momentum into the next set, winning it on Tetyukhin's kill. The Bulgarians, known as the Lions, fought back in the third and pulled in front 17-16 on Todor Aleksiev's block.
It was tight the rest of the way, but Mikhaylov's spike went long before Nikolay Nikolov aced for the set for Bulgaria.
Mikhaylov spiked for the match for Russia.
"On important points they made aces and we couldn't, that was the difference," Bulgarian captain Vladimir Nikolov said. "We just tried to defend the ball when they served really strong but we practically lost the game in the first set. We couldn't find the power to neutralize them."
The U.S. men's team, the defending champions after winning the gold at the Beijing Games, was eliminated with a straight-set quarterfinal loss to Italy.