champ guaranteed as Cuba gets beaten in semis
Greece, August 26, 2004 – Sydney 2000 silver medalists
Russia will have the chance to go one better against
world number three China in the final of the 2004
Olympic Games women’s Volleyball competition after both
teams won breathtaking semifinal matches on Thursday.
In the first semifinal, Russia made an incredible come
back from two sets down to beat favourites Brazil 3-2
(18-25, 21-25, 25-22, 28-26, 16-14). The World Grand
Prix champions from South America, who knocked out world
number one USA in the quarterfinals, looked as though
they had a final berth signed and sealed at the end of
the fourth set when they held a 24-20 lead. But, Russia
pulled off an amazing comeback to send the game into the
tiebreaker before fighting back from 13-10 down in the
fifth set to claim an incredible victory.
“We are very happy and more than satisfied,” said
32-year-old Russian substitute Olga Nikolaeva. “We were
really tense during the sets, but we had the courage to
turn things around and qualify for the final.”
“It will be very hard to sleep at night, it will not be
easy,” Brazilian coach Jose Guimaraes said.
“Nevertheless, it is no use crying over spilt milk. We
will go for the bronze and defend Brazilian Volleyball,
which is actually going very well.”
In the second semifinal, World Cup titleholders China
reversed an earlier 3-2 loss in the Preliminary Round by
claiming a spirited five set victory (25-22, 25-20,
17-25, 23-25, 15-10) over Cuba, who were aiming for
their fourth successive Olympic title despite sporting a
young and inexperienced team.
It was a tremendous effort from the Cubans after it
looked as though the semifinal would be over in three
sets. But they showed great determination to win sets
three and four before finally conceding defeat.
“We played against a very strong Chinese side,” said
Cuban coach Luis Felipe Calderon. “They played a well
organised game and that’s what made them win. Our team
was rebuilt after the Sydney Olympics, so all our
players are young and they need to play more in order to
mature. Nevertheless they knew how to react when
necessary and they showed that they have it. We will try
the best we can against Brazil in the match for bronze.”
The final on Saturday will see Russia play China at
20:00 straight after the bronze medal match between
Brazil and Cuba at 18:00.
Brazil kick off semifinals
25 August – Sydney 2000 silver medalists Russia go
head-to-head with world number two Brazil when the
semifinals of the Women's Olympic Volleyball tournament
get underway at the Peace and Friendship Stadium on
Thursday at 19:30.
The opening match promises to be a thrilling contest
with World Grand Prix champions Brazil led by scoring
machines Erika COIMBRA and Virna DIAS, while Russia are
guided by Ekaterina GAMOVA and Lioubov SHASKOVA, who are
the two best scorers of the tournament.
Brazil's playing style is based on quick attacks and
efficient spiking while Russia depends on an impressive
Cuba, who are champions from the last three successive
Olympics, take on China at 21:30 in the other semifinal,
their second match up in the tournament. China lost to
Cuba in a thrilling tiebreaker in the preliminary round
3-2 (25-19, 22-25, 15-25, 25-21, 15-13).
Cuba has been the best-serving team of the tournament
thanks to Zoila BARROS FERNANDEZ. They also have a
China has also produced some great serving. It is led
offensively by Hao YANG, while So Yun CHANG adds
strength in blocking.
The semifinal winners will advance to the final on
Saturday at 20:00. The losers face off for the bronze
medal at 18:00.