Osaka, Japan, Nov 14, 2003 - Japan ran off national heroes at the Namihaya Dome at the World Cup of Women's Volleyball on Friday after coming back from one set down to defeat Cuba in a thrilling tiebreaker that had 10,000 screaming spectators on their feet.
Often technically outclassed by the Caribbean Volley machine the Japanese, a magic mix of youth and experience, won the match on pure grit, determination and heart.
The win in the tiebreaker kept Japan's slim chances of taking the final Olympic qualifying slot alive but they face the yet undefeated China in their final match here on Saturday.
In earlier action China knocked over Italy in straight sets for their tenth consecutive win in the 11-match series at the tournament that is the first Olympic qualifier, while Brazil steamrollered their way to virtual Olympic qualification with a compact win over USA.
Going into the final day the third ticket is still open with Italy, USA and Cuba and now Japan all having mathematical chances in this round robin event.
China more than illustrated why they have been so-far defeated forcing Italy to concede to superior height, muscle and skill.
Italy's performance was commendable against the Asian champions and although their core players held on to their coat-tails and even took an occasional lead, it was difficult to counter the likes of Zhau Ruirui, 196cm and a wingspan like an eagle and the graceful, artful and speedy setter Feng Kun.
Earlier, the Brazilians danced in delight after their overwhelming win against the USA and their coach Jose Guimaraes was ecstatic "I am very pleased to have a ticket to Athens. Our dream came true and my duty accomplished. Today the Brazilian team played very well and consistently. The whole team got together and we performed well in serve-reception so that we can attack with variety," he said.
Brazil inflicted the USA's most punishing defeat in the first set, allowing them only 15 points.
In other action at Site B here in Osaka that did not challenge the top places, Turkey dismissed Argentina 3-0 to improve their win-loss average to 4-6, Poland beat Korea also 3-0 and Dominican Republic downed Egypt, also 3-0