All eyes on Cuba's
opening match against Thailand
Philippines, July 1, 2005 – Sharp and deadly, two-time
World Grand Prix champions and Athens Olympic bronze
medalists Cuba continue where they left off in Italy
when they take on Thailand in the opening match of the
Manila Leg of the second round of the 2005 World Grand
Prix Preliminary Round at the Philsports Arena in Pasig
City on Friday.
The Cubans, who scored a three-game sweep in the Reggio
Calabria leg in Italy, are heavily-favoured to roll past
the Thais, who are currently at the bottom of the
12-strong World Grand Prix table. The Thais however,
will definitely receive a warm welcome since they are
practically the same team which will see action in the
Southeast Asian Games in November.
Meanwhile, Italy tests the mettle of the vastly-improved
Netherlands squad, which upset the United States in the
Ningbo, China during the first week. The Dutch, who also
beat the Thais, left China with a 2-1 card and five
But the Italians, despite a young line-up, remain a
slight favourite owing to their impressive showing on
their home soil in Reggio Calabria. They beat two strong
teams in Germany and the Dominican Republic, and lost to
the Cubans en route to a 2-1 result and five ranking
The Italians and the Cubans clash in the final day of
the three-day tournament organized by the Philippine
Amateur Volleyball Association on July 3.
The Cubans are coming into this tournament with six
ranking points, the same points amassed by China and
defending champion Brazil, although the Chinese are
slightly ahead in the points ratio.
Veterans Yumika Ruiz, Zoila Barros Fernandez, Ana Ibis
Fernadez Valle and Marta Sanchez Salfran lead the
powerful Cuban team, with youngsters Rosil Calrderon
Diaz, Nancy Carillo dela Paz, Yaima Ortiz Harro and
Daimi Ramirez Echevarria providing some great
inspiration and combative spirit.
"Every year, we undergo a lot of changes, especially on
the part of the players so we have many young players.
But we always try our best to win," said Cuba coach
Felipe Calderon Blet.
The Thais, the smallest team in the field with two
six-footers in the line-up, will be at a disadvantage
against the taller and more experienced Cubans, who also
have their share of followers in the country when they
won their second Grand Prix crown back in 2002.
"We don't expect to beat any team here, but we feel
blessed enough because we get to play the best teams in
the world," said Thailand coach Sutchai Chanbunchee.