2005 FIVB WORLD GRAND PRIX

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Italy celebrates Valentina's day

Sendai, Japan, July 16, 2005 - One phrase said it all. "Today is my day," said Italy's Valentina Fiorin, who scored 23 points in her side's emphatic 3-1 (25-18, 21-25, 32-30, 25-15) victory over Cuba to improve their win-loss record to 3-0.

Later on the third day of the World Grand Prix Final Round, Olympic champions China beat the Netherlands 3-1 (21-25, 25-22, 25-20, 25-19), and defending champions Brazil downed the hosts 3-1 (25-20, 25-27, 25-20, 25-22).

This left Italy and Brazil both with a 3-0 win-loss record, followed by Cuba, China and Japan all on 1-2, and the Dutch at the bottom on 0-3.

In Sunday's action, Italy will play the Netherlands, China meet Brazil and Cuba take on Japan in the evening match.
Pic: Fiorin (front left) takes part in the Italian celebrations
If both Italy and Brazil come through unscathed on Sunday, they will face off for the title on Monday's final day.

But Saturday belonged to the 20-year-old Fiorin, who admitted: "We came here to try our best, but we never thought about winning the first three matches.

"Fortunately we have many players who can score big points, and today is my day.

"The coach told our setter (Eleonora Lo Bianco) to move around and change the spiker to confuse the Cuban blockers, and I think it worked."

In the second match of the day, Olympic champions China finally came to life after two losses and condemned the Netherlands to a third straight defeat.

In the last match of the day, Brazil beat Japan for the second time in this year's World Grand Prix, this time 3-1 after a five-set epic in Tokyo in the preliminary round.

Brazil's head coach, Jose Guimaraes, was far from satisfied after the victory, though, saying: "I did not like this match and my team did not play well.

"It is always difficult to play against Japan for us, for our style and for our characteristics, especially the relationship between blocking and defence."

Looking ahead to Brazil's Sunday date with China, the coach said: "It will be difficult, because I do not know the mood of the Chinese team at the moment.

"But all teams play well against us. I do not believe it, it's incredible."