London, Great Britain, July 27, 2012 – The women’s volleyball tournament of the 2012 London Games serves off on Saturday with six matches at the iconic Earls Court venue as Brazil begin the defense of the Olympic throne and pre-tournament favourites USA their quest for a first ever gold medal in the competition.
Since volleyball was accepted as part of the Olympic program in 1964 during the Tokyo Games, only Japan (2), the former Soviet Union (4) and Cuba (3) have been able to win more than once in twelve editions.
Algeria, Dominican Republic, Great Britain, Italy Japan and Russia compete in Pool A, while Pool B consists of teams Brazil, China, Korea, Serbia, Turkey and United States.
The opening day features the matches of Algeria v Japan, China v Serbia, Great Britain v Russia, Italy v Dominican Republic, United States v Korea and Brazil v Turkey.
Algeria v Japan
It should be a warm-up day for the fifth world-ranked Japan when they face the No. 16 and African champions Algeria in the opening match of the women’s volleyball Olympic tournament.
The Asian team, with their quick offensive pace and superb field defense, are expected to be an insurmountable hurdle for an Algerian side that is going through a rebuilding process following the retirement of some key players.
Saori Kimura and Erika Araki combine to form a lethal tandem for Japan while the consistent setter Yoshie Takeshita continues to provide her leadership qualities and the virtuosity to distribute the game with top efficiency.
The two teams have met only twice with Japan dominating in both contests by 3-0 - last time at the FIVB 2011 World Cup when Saori Sakoda scored 21 points in a match that lasted just 64 minutes.
China v Serbia
The two forces are battling each other for the fifth time in official competitions with the European team prevailing in three of the four clashes.
The Oriental side, however, claimed the victory the last time in four sets when they were pitted together at the 2011 FIVB World Cup.
It was somehow a sweet revenge for China after the five-set loss they suffered at home during the Finals of the 2011 World Grand Prix in Macau when Serbia’s Jovana Brakocevic and Milena Rasic prevailed in the scoring duel with Yimei Wang and Yang Junjing.
After going through several coaching changes, China are showing signs of stability and the match promises to be an interesting confrontation of two different schools of volleyball and two teams who traditionally squeeze the best game out of the other.
Great Britain v Russia
The first task of Great Britain volleyball at the Olympics couldn’t be more complicated as the rookie local troops are to face the seasoned world champions and a team like Russia with a very long Olympic tradition in the sport.
The match will present Russian Sergey Ovchinnikov the opportunity to rotate bench players in preparation for bigger commitments and also fine tune the big cylinders of his powerful unit.
Aside of the competition, the contest will be the stage for one historical moment when legendary Evgenia Estes Artamanova steps on the court to become the first ever volleyball player to take part in six different Olympic Games.
It is going to be quite interesting to watch how the British team can handle the pressure of the David vs. Goliath battle.
Italy v Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic claimed a 3-2 victory the first time they played Italy during the 1978 FIVB World Championship only to see the squadra azurra dominating in the next eleven contests while conceding only three sets in the process.
In 2010, thirty-two years later during the World Grand Prix the Dominicans were able to hand a loss to the Italians also in five sets.
The 14-2 win-loss record of Italy in head-to-head matches with Dominican Republic, perfectly illustrate the match- up of consistency against instability.
It will be the power of Bethania De la Cruz and the rest of heavy hitters against the regularity of the first team qualified to the 2012 Olympics as champions of the World Cup.
United States v Korea
Olympic silver medalists and three-time World Grand Prix champions are considered the favourites to win their first ever gold medal at the Summer Games as they have crushed the opposition in recent years with a core of players who combine experience and skills.
In 34 contests between the two teams, USA leads 21-13 but the Americans have won the last four in a row, seven of eight, and eight of the past 10 against the Koreans.
The last three MVP players of the WGP –Foluke Akinradewo, Destinee Hooker and Megan Hodge- are included in this edition of the USA team to give an idea of how powerful this machine can be. They join the versatile Logan Tom, Linday Berg and a constellation of stars.
Watch Kim Yeon-Koung starring for Korea as arguably the best offensive player in today’s volleyball and American Danielle Scott-Arruda playing in her fifth Olympics.
Brazil v Turkey
The final match of the opening day features the clash between Olympic defending champions Brazil and the potent side of Turkey.
The South Americans enter the game with a 3-0 advantage in the historical match-ups with the most recent victory at the 2012 World Grand Prix when the winners scored an astonishing 22 blocks en route to a 3-1 outcome.
Turkey’s lefty Neslihan Darnel is the biggest offensive weapon of her team, accompanied by a capable cast of big guns.
Brazil’s consistent duo of Sheila Castro and Paula Pequeno lead the offensive forces while middle blockers Fabiana Claudino and Taiza Menezes can create a big headache for any opponent with their ability defending at the net.
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