Osaka, Nov. 15, 2003 - World Champions Italy’s last ditch attempt for fast track qualification into the 2004 Olympic tournament ground to a halt Saturday when they were beaten by Brazil 3-1 here at the World Cup of Women’s Volleyball.
The match settled the final Olympic berth, which went to USA. Italy needed a 3-0 win against Brazil to assure their place. Brazil and China had already qualified after Friday’s matches.
Italian coach Marco Bonitta ran out a refreshed starting six, including Manuela Leggeri and Darina Mifkova, who have made sporadic appearances in this tournament and immediately surged to 6-2, closely watched by the Americans in the stands, whose qualification fate was also in their hands.
Brazil found their rhythm, closed the gap and took the lead to have a four point advantage over Italy whose possible fast track Olympic qualification was evaporating.
And when the scoreboard showed 25-20 for Brazil, 12 American players in the stands leapt to their feet in jubilation, shedding some tears of relief that they had pulled the third Olympic qualifier out of the fire.
Erika Combria, Walewska Oliveria and Virna Dias turned up the heat and Brazil totally pulverized Italy, allowing them just 12 points in the second set. The Squadra Azzura then regained self confidence and after leveling at 17-all in the third, fought out the set to 25-20 to trail by one set.
With the qualification settled, Bonitta gave some of his younger players a run and they hung on to level at 11-11 in the fourth set before the oft spectacularly aerial South Americans recaptured their advantage. They grasped the remaining points to close out 25-19 after Virna dribbled a shot over the net.
In other action at Site B. Dominican Republic beat Argentina 3-1 in a match that only served to settle the places at the bottom of the table.