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Brazil overwhelm Italy to underline No1 status

Brazil's Thaisa Menezes celebrates with her teammates after scoring a point against Italy

Hamamatsu, Japan, November 3, 2010 – In Wednesday's Pool B heavyweight clash, Brazil dominated Italy in a one-sided straight-set victory (25-16, 25-19, 25-7) to finish the group unbeaten and consign Italy to third place at the completion of the 2010 FIVB Women's Volleyball World Championship first round.

For one of the tournament's most-hyped matches, Brazil came out loaded with rocket fuel, while Italy looked weary from a late five-set loss to the Czech Republic on Tuesday, after another marathon against the Netherlands on Saturday. Inspired by what has become home-court advantage in Hamamatsu, home to about 20,000 Brazilian-Japanese, Brazil outplayed their European opponents in a relentless onslaught which confirmed their status as the world number one.

FIVB Women's World Championship Japan 2010 official page

In the first set, Brazil jumped on Italy early to go 3-0 and 6-1 ahead. Soft touches by Antonella Del Core and Francesca Piccinini moved Italy back to within two points at 9-7, only for Jaqueline to administer some windmill spikes that ignited the large crowd in yellow. Brazil's tattooed titan Thaisa then whacked a spike for 12-9, before great digs by Paola Cardullo kept Italy within two at 13-11.

Buoyed by the 'home' support at the Hamamatsu Arena, Sheilla and Jaqueline soared through the air to smack Brazil into three-point leads, and Jaqueline again exploded from the backcourt to make it 19-14. With Italy expecting rockets, Brazil fooled them with a soft touch that caused a head-on collision between Cardullo and Simona Gioli. A dazed Gioli sat down, and Brazil again caught Italy off guard with a delicate tip before finishing a devastating set 25-16.

The Brazilian carnival continued into the second set. José Roberto Guimarães's team went up 8-5 as Fabiana's serve handcuffed Piccinini. Thaisa body-slammed rival spiker Gioli to give her side an 11-7 advantage and, in the process, send the Italian back to the bench for another breather. With Brazil running Italy off the court at 14-8, Jaqueline served long, but Natalia kept up the pressure with a rocket from the right.

Not even captain Eleonora Lo Bianco could protect Italy from the onslaught, as Brazil surged 16-9 ahead. Gioli returned to block Sheilla, and Massimo Barbolini's side closed to 16-11. But Valentina Arrighetti inadvertently cut short the revival by stepping on the service line. Jaqueline's accurate smash down the line made it 19-14, and Thaisa's mishit caught the line on a day when everything went Brazil's way. Italy fought back with two points on Lo Bianco's serve to 20-17. However, Natalia capped a long rally for 22-18, then skipper Fabiana's block and Natalia's swat earned set point. Although Thaisa netted a serve, Natalia jammed a spike off Gioli's fingers for a 25-19 win.

In the third instalment, Gioli again hit the ground, unable to handle a ball greasing her fingers, as Brazil raced 4-1 clear. Fabiola slid toward the scorer's table for a miraculous save, throwing the ball high above mid-court where Jaqueline exploded from deep to score. The latter player launched another missile that scorched the court on impact, taking Brazil up 8-3. Fabiola's subsequent block yielded a 13-5 lead and a hug from team-mates. Gioli almost seemed dizzy, unable to play balls she normally commands, and even Lo Bianco could not save a ball as Brazil stormed 19-5 ahead. After 10 straight points by the South Americans, Del Core finally feathered one over the Brazilian wall for 20-6. Yet Jaqueline engraved her hand on a ball to send Brazil to 23-6; Thaisa added her own stamp to make it 24-6; and tears of joy accompanied the conclusion of a 25-7 shellacking of Italy.

Brazil, the Netherlands, Italy and the Czech Republic all advance to play in the second round in Nagoya on Saturday against teams emerging from group play in Matsumoto.

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