Pila, Poland, August 16, 2003 - Italy meets title defenders China on Sunday in the gold medal match of 2003 FIVB Girls' Under 18 World Championship. It will be Italy's first ever appearance in the final of this youth championship after they had a decisive win against the USA in Saturday's semifinal.
Italy charged through their match in just one hour leaving few openings for the American side. The European vice-champions overwhelmed their opponents 25-11 in the opener. The USA came close to drawing equal in the second set at 17-18 but then went on to win only one of the subsequent exchanges. Although the USA team showed courage and determination in the third set, they committed a number of unforced errors that opened the way for Italy's straight set triumph.
"That was definitely our best match in this championship. Our tactic was based on a precise service - to serve as near the net as possible - and also on a solid defense. We are all extremely happy to reach the final for the first time in history," said Luca Pieragnoli, head coach of Italy. "I just can not express how happy I am," said team captain Veronica Angeloni. "We played really well: service, blocking and spiking - everything worked just perfectly".
The Italians then had to wait to find out who would be their finals opponent while Brazil and China were engaged in a five-set combat. Brazil overcame China in the opener but the Asian champions quickly capitalized on increasing errors by the Brazilians and then kept control over the score in the following two sets. Both teams excelled in the fourth set and produced some outstanding volleyball. China served for the match twice before Brazil seized the initiative and finished off 27:25. China dominated in the tiebreaker, winning key points.
"We prevailed most of all because of our service and fast setting," said head coach of China, Mrs. Nan Lin. "We are going to meet the Italians for the second time. We beat them in the Preliminary Round but I think they will be much better prepared. The chances are equal".
In other action Croatia and Thailand were victorious in matches for places 5-8. Croatia had a straightforward win over Russia´, taking the first set 28-26 then allowing them only 11 points in the second. In the third set the Croatians briefly lost the advantage but regained the lead quite effortlessly to finish 25-21.
The European champions' next rival is sensational Thailand. The Asian team overcame Poland taking a sweet revenge for the loss in the Preliminary Round. The home team prevailed only in the second set and although had another chance in the fourth, left the court defeated 1-3. Thailand plays Croatia for fifth place on Sunday and if they are successful will equal their best rank, achieved six years ago on home soil. Poland plays Russia to decide seventh place.