July 26, 2003 - Korea shook up Brazil on Saturday night with a 3-0 slamming that sent the Koreans dancing with joy and brought the Brazilians down to earth with a thud, while Russia beat China 3-1 to keep the qualification for the next round open until after the final matches of this FIVB $1 million World Grand Prix, the elite women's annual volleyball tournament.
Korea's 3-0 (25-20, 25-21, 25-18) win took them straight to the top of the Pool B table, with Russia and China behind them, but Brazil's defeat was the end of the road for them at this World Grand Prix.
Marco Motta, Brazil's head coach came to the tournament confident that his lineup could take the title. On Saturday they exited.
"We knew that this round was more difficult, but we lost this match and the qualification for the following round just because of our mistakes," Motta said at the close of the match.
Brazil finished with a 3-2 win-loss but it was not enough to carry the team further, an indication of how close the top teams really are.
Meanwhile, defending champions Russia tamed China 3-1 for their fourth straight victory
Russia and Korea both finished the preliminaries with four wins against one loss while the Europeans ranked first of pool B with better sets win-loss ratio.
"The final round will be difficult, but I think we can win the championship," a confident Nikolai Karpol, the Russian coach said at the press conference.
China pulled within 23-22 with a 4-0 run before star spiker Evguenia Artamonova smashed two straight balls to win the set for Russia.
China improved their blocking in the second set and the two sides traded leads before the Asians went ahead 23-21. Artamonova tried to save Russia but Yang´Hao, Zhao Ruirui and Feng Kun teamed up to stop her attack twice in a row for the last two points.
Surrendering the third set more tamely, China rallied in the fourth for a 25-24 lead. However, the Chinese girls, runners-up to Russia in last year' Grand Prix, dropped four of the last points.
"Our defense and blocking were OK, but we could not hold on at the crucial point," China head coach Chen Zhonghe said, adding that serving mistakes had cost them dearly. "We still need to improve on basic skills," he added.
Artamonova and towering spiker Ekaterina Gamova each scored 20 points to lead
Russia and Elizaveta Tichchenko added 16.
Earlier in the day Japan defeated Cuba and Thailand beat Canada in their final two matches with all four teams fighting for the honor of going out in a blaze of glory.