INDIANAPOLIS, AUG. 22 -- The United States men's volleyball team came here having won the amateur triple crown: the Olympics, the World Cup and the world championships. The Americans already are the No. 1 team in their sport and want to maintain that status by winning the Pan American gold medal.

They will be favored, though not by much, when they play Cuba at 2 p.m. Sunday before a sellout crowd of 15,000 at Hinkle Fieldhouse.

But the U.S. and Cuban teams nearly were sidetracked Friday night in exhilarating five-game matches in the 90-degree mugginess of Hinkle.

The U.S. team needed a 15-8 victory in the fifth and last game to beat Argentina, in a match that ended about 2 a.m. (EDT). Argentina won the first two games, 15-12 and 15-13, before the United States came back with 15-9, 15-6 and 15-8 scores to win, three games to two.

That assured the United States its first Pan Am men's volleyball medal since it finished second to Cuba in the 1971 games in Cali, Colombia. The United States won the last of its three gold medals in 1967 games in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The Cubans were extended by a Brazilian team that was put together only recently. After 2 hours 42 minutes, the Cubans finally won, 14-16, 15-2, 15-6, 14-16, 15-6.

The Cubans seemed shocked by the Brazilians' tenacity and would not talk to reporters about the match. Later, Cuban player Ricardo Goicoechea issued a statement which said, in part: "We expected a tough match, but this was tougher than we thought it would be. We aren't frustrated by our loss to the U.S. on Wednesday because that was only in round-robin play, not for the gold medal."

The Brazilians were just too erratic to win, although they played brilliantly for stretches of each game. "This is a team which has just been put together," Gernard Razjman, Brazil's big spiker, was quoted as saying. "You can't put together a group so quickly and beat powers like the U.S. and Cuba."

"It's going to be very difficult to beat the same team again in the same tournament," said U.S. captain Karch Kiraly. "We have our work cut out for us. Both teams struggled to win {Friday} and we hope to play better and hope that Cuba doesn't play like Argentina."

Three NFL linemen-sized Argentine strikers -- Hugo Conte, Raul Quiroga and Jon Emil Uriarte -- controlled the match at times.

But the United States, since losing its first game game of this tournament to Brazil, has benefited dramatically from Kiraly's return to near full strength.

When the tournament began, Kiraly -- recovering from a broken hand -- could only set and play in the back. The Americans, without him, didn't appear to have enough punch up front. But he had several key kills Friday night, including the match point in the fifth game.

"Once we got that third game, we thought it {victory} was just a matter of time, and it {the crowd} sure made it easier," said Kiraly, who had 25 kills to go along with 40 by Steve Timmons.

"We finally started to play good volleyball," said Kiraly. "The gold medal is our big game of the year. We don't have any world-level competition this year and winning the gold here has been our target all season."