November 28, 2003, Tokyo, Japan - World champions Brazil have taken pole position in the race for the Men's World Cup title and virtually guaranteed themselves an Olympic ticket after beating 2000 Olympic champions Serbia and Montenegro in a thrilling top of the table clash on the opening day of Round Four in Yoyogi Stadium, Tokyo on Friday.
In a repeat of this year's spectacular World League final, which Brazil won in five marathon sets, the South Americans fought back from one set down to win 23-25, 25-21, 25-21, 25-21 in a fascinating encounter where Brazil's flair and skill overcame the power and passion of Serbia and Montenegro, to leave Bernardo Rezende's team the only undefeated side in the tournament with nine victories with two games remaining, needing only to beat USA on Saturday to secure a top three finish and Olympic qualification.
"It was a very tough match," coach Rezende said. "Serbia and Montenegro was very powerful and were tense in the beginning. I think we controlled the game and I'm happy to gain a victory over such a great team like Serbia and Montenegro."
Serbia and Montenegro now have eight victories from nine games and are equal on points with Italy, who kept themselves in title and Olympic contention after overcoming a tough assignment in USA in straight sets 25-12, 29-27, 25-22 in a match between two sides who had registered only one defeat,
"It was an important match for both USA and Italy," MIP Andrea Sartoretti said. "I am happy to win by 3-0 but now we face two important matches against Japan and Serbia and Montenegro so we will do our best to gain point by point."
In the last game of the day in Yoyogi Stadium, France handed Japan their sixth successive defeat to keep alive their dream of claiming a World Cup medal and an Olympic qualifying spot with their sixth win, 25-23, 25-18, 25-21.
At the Tokyo Metropolitan Gym, Egypt won their first match of the World Cup when they upset Asian champions Korea 3-2 (25-20, 21-25, 18-25, 25-23, 15-11) while Venezuela survived a stern test and had to fight back from a set down to defeat China 3-1 (23-25, 25-22, 28-26, 25-20) to secure their third victory. Canada, led by the impressive attacking skills of Sebastien Ruette, collected their third win when they downed Tunisia in straight-sets 25-23, 25-20, 25-20.
The second day of Round Four on Saturday sees Brazil play USA followed by France against Serbia and Montenegro and Italy v Japan in Yoyogi Stadium, while in the Tokyo Metropolitan Gym, Canada plays Venezuela before Egypt takes on Tunisia and China plays Korea.
Current standings: Brazil 9 wins 0 losses, Italy 8-1, Serbia and Montenegro 8-1, USA 7-2, France 6-3, Korea 4-5, Japan 3-6, Canada 3-6, Venezuela 3-6, China 1-8, Tunisia 1-8, Egypt 1-8.