2005 FIVB WORLD GRAND PRIX

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Brazil go into World Grand Prix short-handed

Tokyo, Japan, June 23, 2005 - Brazil will begin the defence of their FIVB World Grand Prix title in Tokyo on Friday with only 11 players on the team sheet.

The Brazilians were hoping to replace the injured Fabiana Claudino with Katia Rodrigues, but the latter will not be able to join the team until the second week of action in Macau due to visa regulations.

The name of Rodrigues was scratched from the official roster at the general technical meeting on Thursday evening, leaving the four-time World Grand Prix champions short-handed.
Pic: Brazil are already missing stars like Virna Dias (receiving)
"Unfortunately Fabiana is out with an injury, so that means we are one player down, but everyone will play their best in all three games," said Brazil's head coach, Jose Guimaraes.

"She hurt her foot three days ago in training when she was running to put up a block, and she will go back to Brazil on Tuesday. She will probably be out for one month."

Brazil will open proceedings against Korea at Yoyogi National Stadium on Friday afternoon, followed by Japan against Poland in the evening.

On Saturday it's Brazil against Poland, before Japan and Korea renew their keen rivalry in a Saturday night showdown which is sure to draw a bumper crowd to the gymnasium and a big TV rating across Japan.

The three days of action winds up Sunday with Korea against Poland, followed by Japan versus Brazil.

Japan's head coach, Shoichi Yanagimoto, is treating the World Grand Prix as the first step on the road to the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008.

This is why his squad includes several new faces, such as 21-year-old wing spiker Chie Yoshizawa, while experienced setter Yoshie Takeshita takes over as captain.

"The new players have really good skills; the team is in good condition and has a nice balance," Yanagimoto told a news conference on Thursday evening.

"I am focusing on the next Olympics, so this will be good experience for the players."

South Korea's head coach, Kim Hyung-sil, also has new talent at his disposal, but says the combinations are not perfect at the moment because they have been training together only since May 25.

"I think the other teams are in the same situation," he said.

"They have changed, too, so I don't know much about them. But, as ever, in our match against Japan, a strong mentality will be the most important factor."

Centre Jung Dae-young is said to be in particularly good form for the Koreans, who beat Japan at the Athens Olympics last summer.

Poland's head coach, Andrzej Niemczyk, says Brazil are the favourites to win this Group A of the 12-team World Grand Prix, but expects all four teams to be competitive and to produce close matches.