Tokyo, December 2, 2007 Ė Brazil on Sunday remained on its throne as the worldís top volleyball powerhouse. The Brazilians, which have more-or-less dominated the sport since 2001, won their second straight World Cup by easily overcoming host Japan 3-1 before an enthusiastic crowd of 10,000, a match punctuated by the Braziliansí samba celebrations and high-flying game. Tokyo has apparently turned into a "home venue" for the Brazilians as they also won the previous world cup (2003) again in the Japanese metropolis, the same city where they were crowned World Champions in 2006 and where they won the Grand Champions Cup (2005). The reigning Olympic and World Champions Brazil are the second team to win back-to-back World Cups after the former Soviet Union, which won the trophy in 1977 and 1981, along with 1965 and 1991. Russia and Bulgaria picked up the two other berths for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Russia recovered from its previous losses to Bulgaria and Brazil by beating the USA team 3-2 in the top match of the 11th day. Wild card entry Bulgaria easily defeated South American runner up Argentina 3-0. Meanwhile, Spain notched its seventh victory by defeating, in 3-1 sets, Tunisia (1-10), while the World Cup closed with two surprises: Wild card entry Korea (2-9) beat NORCECA runner up Puerto Rico (5-6) in 3-2 sets, and African Champion Egypt (3-8) overcame Asian Champion Australia (4-7) in four sets.
Bulgaria booked a place in the 2008 Olympic Games by sweeping Argentina 3-0 in the first match of the day at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium. The tournament wild cards, ranked seventh in the world, beat the South American vice champions 25-17, 25-22, 25-23 to finish the 12-team round-robin with a 9-2 record, good enough to secure a podium finish and a place in Beijing. Argentina, ranked ninth in the world, ended with a losing 5-6 record. Head Coach Martin Stoev said: "For sure this was not our best game, but the most important thing was to gain the victory. The main goal was to gain the ticket for the Olympics. This was the key point, and we came up in this short period". Meanwhile Bulgarian Captain Plamen Konstantinov stated: "I am very happy about this victory and about this tournament because finally we reached the Olympics. This was the most important tournament for us of this year and maybe of the last four years because we were preparing all those years to reach the Olympics. So this is a big day for Bulgarian volleyball. I hope we will make a great Olympic Games."
Russia joined Brazil and Bulgaria in the Beijing Olympics by beating USA 3-2 in a World Cup decider at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium. The Russians won 25-23, 20-25, 22-25, 25-17, 15-8 to improve to 9-2 and leave USA stranded on 8-3 and out of the top three. It was a wonderful match for the fans, full of crashing blocks and occasionally heating over due to the fierce rivalry between the teams and the massive prize at stake. Russian player Semen Poltavskiy said: "I do not have anything in particular to say about the game, other than that it was very important to win because it meant we could go to the Olympics. We achieved that and that is the only thing that matters. We are always amazed at the excellent organization in Japan."
After an early struggle, World No. 1 Brazil put Japan in their place 3-1 in the last match of the World Cup at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium on Sunday night. The reigning Olympic and world champions recovered from losing the first set to emerge victorious 23-25, 25-21, 25-19, 25-18 and defend their World Cup title with a 10-1 record. Japan, playing before a crowd of 10,000, dropped to 3-8 but emerged from their last match with a lot of credit and pride in tact. They were also leading the fourth set 7-2, but the seven points were wiped out due to a technicality on the line-up rotation. Head Coach Bernardo Rezende said: "It was a tough match after a tough match yesterday against Russia, which was like a final. We suffered from the beginning and lacked a bit of energy and focus. Japan played loose and calm with no responsibility, but we managed to fight to the end and win under this pressure. At the start of the fourth set Japan lost seven points due to the refereeís mistake. We have two World Championships, two World Cups and our aim is to end this cycle with two Olympic gold medals. Now we are at the end of the seventh year with this team, and one more year to go. This is a great conclusion to the seventh year. We have to party for one night and from tomorrow think about Beijing and improve what we are lacking."
European Champions Spain downed African Vice Champions Tunisia in four sets on Sunday to end the menís World Cup with a 7-4 record. Man of the match Guillermo Falasca inspired the Spanish to a 25-16, 25-22, 21-25, 25-18 win at Komazawa Gymnasium in Tokyo, handing the Tunisians their 10th defeat of the tournament. The Spanish were comfortably in control from the start against Tunisia, with Jose Luis Moltoís spike putting the Europeans five ahead at the first technical timeout. Spanish captain Rafael Pascual said: "Today was the last day and we are satisfied with this result. Maybe we will finish fifth in the rankings and this helps us in the qualifying for the Olympics and helps us with our effort in getting a good result. Iíd like to thank the FIVB for the good decision of choosing Japan for hosting the event".
Asian Wild Cards Korea showed real heart to beat NORCECA Vice Champions Puerto Rico in a rollercoaster five-set match. The Koreans won 21-25, 25-18, 26-24, 20-25, 15-8 for only their second win out of 11, while the Puerto Ricans dropped to 5-6. Man of the match Moon Sung-Min inspired Korea with some brilliant play throughout the game and was a popular choice among the pro-Korean crowd. Korean captain Shin Young-Soo said: "We hadnít had good results until now so we have been frustrated but we could do our best today. I want to thank all the players for their effort. The members of the team by next May (the time of the next Olympic qualifying tournament) will be different but the most important thing now is to improve our defensive skills. In our team there are a lot of young players so it is necessary for us to improve our skills in dealing with moments of crisis".
African Champions Egypt downed Asian Champions Australia in four sets. Man of the match Abdalla Ahmed recovered from a head injury in the early stages to inspire Egypt to a 25-14, 23-25, 25-21, 25-22 victory at Komazawa Gymnasium in Tokyo. It was Egyptís third victory of the tournament, while Australia dropped to 4-7. Egyptian head coach Ahmed Zakaria Ahmed said: "Today was the best result in the Egyptís history for volleyball. If we could have played like this from the beginning our end position would have been better. Iím very happy today and we thank the organization and the Japanese and we will come back for the World League and play Japan."
6. Puerto Rico
MVP: (GIBA) Gilberto Godoy Filho (Brazil)
Best Scorer: Hector Soto (Puerto Rico)
Best Server: Semen Poltavskiy (Russia)
Best Spiker: Dante Amaral Guimaraes (Brazil)
Best Blocker: Luis Jose Molto (Spain)
Best Setter: Angel Miguel Falasca (Spain)
Best Libero: Sergio Dutra Santos (Brazil)
"FOLLOW ME" BY ANDREA ZORZI
Andrea Zorzi, the former Italian national Volleyball player and two times World Champion, is working on his special blog "Follow Me" from the FIVB website home page. New articles have been uploaded, explaining technical topics and big stories of the event. The last video interview published on "Follow Me" is with Spanish team captain Rafael Pascual and tomorrow a very special interview with FIVB President Dr. Rubťn Acosta H. and Mrs. Malý Acosta.