SUPHAN BURI, Thailand, September 10, 2003 - All European teams excluding Turkey cruised their way into the quarterfinals of the Women's Under-20 World Championship, with fist-pumping Ukraine pulling off a stunning 3-1 victory over South Korea in an action-packed elimination play-off.
On a day which decided the four unlucky teams which would bow out of the championship after their respective clashes in the elimination play-offs, hosts Thailand were sent packing by European champions Poland in a hard-fought five-set thriller 25-18, 24-26, 25-18, 25-27, 15-7 while China annihilated Turkey in straight sets 25-17, 25-17, 25-19.
The other two matches in the knock-out round saw Belarus prove their superiority over Venezuela, powering past their off-form opponents in straight sets 25-19, 25-18, 25-16 and Ukraine produce a scintillating come-from-behind 3-1 (24-26, 25-18, 25-23, 25-18) victory over South Korea.
In the mighty clash of the top four teams in the seeding play-offs, defending three-time world champions Brazil struggled hard to beat Russia in a grueling 135-minute five set 25-19, 22-25, 31-33, 27-25, 17-15 match, while indomitable the Netherlands continued their promising run in the Championship by capturing a dramatic 3-2 (25-23, 22-25, 25-18, 20-25, 15-12) victory over Germany.
Brazil's match against Russia provided one of the finest displays in this Championship in a match which could have gone either way in the deciding fifth set. Both teams amazed a large crowd of spectators with their combination of physical and coordination skills, tactical strategies, team spirit and self-control.
After the Brazilians took the convincing 25-19 win in the first set, the Russians came to life in the second where they fought every inch of the way. Their more aggressive tactics paid dividends as they snatched the second set 25-22.
The game gained in tempo in the third set when the lead changed hands several times. However, Russia survived some nervous moments to clinch the enthralling third set 33-31, again closely contested to the end. It was the same fashion in the fourth set as both sides were involved in a see-saw battle. This time, Brazil upped their tempo, with talented Joyce Silva hitting devastating cross-court spikes to lift the team to a 27-25 victory in the set. The Brazilians still marched on their lustrous form in the decider where they won the tough set 17-15 and the match.
At the end of the play-offs on Wednesday, hosts Thailand, Venezuela, South
Korea and Turkey were all eliminated to finish in joint ninth place.
Thursday is a rest day before the quarterfinals resume on Friday.