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Brazil join China, Cuba and Japan in Final Round

Bangkok, Thailand, July 9, 2005 - Powerful Japan not only gained sweet revenge over the US, but also smashed their dreams of qualifying to the grand finals after they staged a scintillating come-from-behind four-set victory over the American girls in the World Grand Prix preliminaries Group I in Bangkok on Saturday.

USA, powered by devastating Nancy Metcalf, captured the closely-contested opener 28-26, but went down tamely to the fast, well-organised Japan 22-25 15-25 18-25. In the second leg Group D in Seoul, the Japanese lost to USA by the same margin 3-1. Saturday's win raised the team's spirit to challenge much stronger rivals who they have to play in the Final Round in Sendai, Japan from July 13-18.

Chinese Volleyball legend Lang Ping, head coach of the US side, said in tears after her team suffered the bitter loss to Japan that it was a disappointing match. Her players played well in the first two sets, but succumbed to unforced spiking and blocking errors in the next two sets.

"We played well in the first two sets. However, the expectation on our serves from then on could not be that high. My girls became more tired in the third and fourth sets which cost us dearly as we eventually lost to Japan,"
said Lang, who was instrumental in lifting China to Olympic Games victory in Los Angeles in 1984 and the world crown in 1982.

"As far as I'm concerned, the Japanese girls played very well on fast attacks. I admit that we already did our best, but my girls seemed very tired from playing tough matches day after day. With the loss to Japan, we
now have no more chances of qualifying to the finals in Sendai. It's hard to say, but I dare say that my players trained only three weeks in preparation for the World Grand Prix. It's very disappointing, but I dare accept the

The US badly needed all three victories including a win over Japan in the Bangkok leg to make sure that their chances of making the cut for the Final Round was possible. However, the US, who sit in seventh place with
12 points in the 12-team competition after completing their match on Saturday, already have their dreams shattered following the disappointing loss to Japan.

Meanwhile, hosts Thailand produced a gutsy display against European champions Poland before going down in a hard-fought three-set thriller 19-25 23-25 20-25.

In their successive fourth attempt at the world's premier women's Volleyball tournament, the Thai girls have yet to win a single match since the preliminaries kicked off on June 24. So far, Thailand, who finished a disappointing 10th last year, have collected eight points from eight straight losses to sit at the bottom of the table, while Poland have 12 points from their 4-4 win-loss record to sit in eighth position.

Polish head coach Andrzej Niemczyk praised the Thai girls, saying that if they were tall, Thailand could be one of the strongest teams to be reckoned with in the World Grand Prix and in future major matches.

"We played well, but a bit below par," he said. "Thailand also played well with good defence. Their weak point is that they are much shorter than my girls and they could not block our spikes.

"We take on the US next and we have to beat them to help our chances of qualifying for the Final Round in Sendai. I think my girls will do their best to achieve this goal."

On Sunday, the final day of the preliminaries, the US take on Poland in a do-or-die battle. The match will play an influential part of deciding which team will join the first four teams - China, Cuba, Brazil and hosts Japan -
to play in the finals. The host side goes up against Japan in the day's second match.