2005 FIVB WORLD GRAND PRIX

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Cuba, Brazil and Italy win on opening day

Sendai, Japan, July 13, 2005 - Cuba began slowly but finished with a flourish to beat China 3-2 in an incredible come-from-behind win, while Brazil and Italy recorded straight-set victories on the opening day of the World Grand Prix finals on Wednesday.

Brazil, the defending World Grand Prix champions, had too much experience for the Netherlands, while world champions Italy blew away a hesitant Japan team in front of a capacity crowd at Sendai City Gymnasium.
Pic: China captain Kun Feng digs
First-day honours, however, went to Cuba.

They lost the first two sets to Olympic champions China, but found their attacking groove at just the right time to condemn China to a 3-2 (10-25, 20-25, 25-19, 25-20, 15-13) defeat.

Cuba prevailed in a thriller on their first match point, 15-13, when Rosir Calderon, daughter of head coach Luis Felipe Calderon, put up a two-handed block on an attempted spike by China's Chu Jinling.

Brazil, as expected, were too good for the Netherlands winning (25-22, 25-22, 25-14), but the Dutch showed enough skill to suggest they could cause problems for lesser teams later in the week.

The atmosphere was at fever pitch for the evening showpiece, but Italy quickly tamed the home crowd and the home team.

In attack and defence, Italy outclassed Japan and won easily (25-12, 25-21, 25-14) in just 63 minutes on court, for the loss of only 47 points.

Italy took an early lead in the six-team table on points differential, followed by Brazil and Cuba.

But it was the feisty Cubans who showed the fighting spirit the other teams must match to win the US$200,000 first prize at the close of play on Monday.

Day two on Thursday starts at 03:35 GMT (12:35 local time) with China taking on Italy. Final Round - Live!