Lausanne, 16th August 2007 – The third weekend of the FIVB World Grand Prix is starting on Friday. Three pools will play in Osaka (Japan), Taipei (Chinese Taipei) and Macau (China) until Sunday, when the best five of the three weekends and China will qualify for the Final Round in Ningbo (China). This third weekend (17th - 19th August) is scheduled in Osaka (Pool G: Japan, Kazakhstan, Poland, Russia), in Chinese Taipei (Pool H: Brazil, Chinese Taipei, Dominican Republic, Italy) and in Macau (Pool I: China, Cuba, Netherlands, U.S.A.).
It’s a key weekend for the title. At the end of the last match on Sunday, the standings of these three rounds will generate the new overall standings. However, the rush for the best five is wide open.
Osaka hosts the Pool G: that’s the Russia’s return to the Osaka Municipal Central Gymnasium, where Caprara’s team won the World Championship title last November. "It’s really beautiful," said Elena Godina, in an interview after Thursday's training session. "We remember everything. Even when we came back to the changing room we said ‘here we were very happy’. We were celebrating here. We also feel like this is a continuation of last year, of the past, so we are very glad to come back here." Russia will debut in Osaka against Poland, which is trying to climb the general standings after a bad start. “Our first week did not go well” said Polish Head Coach Marco Bonitta “but in the second week we played better and better. Now we want to do well in the third week and get to the final round in Ningbo. We began the competition in Poland without any friendly games and in front of our own fans, and we improved in the second pool and we played better.” Japan, with the same 9 overall points as Poland, will measure its chances in the first match with Kazakhstan.
In Chinese Taipei, Brazil will try to improve its record of 6-0 from the start of the pools, as the only unbeaten squad of the 2007 World Grand Prix. It’s a serious challenge for Italy, too: they’re in a good position before the start of the last qualification matches but they have many opponents on their back. The match Italy-Brazil will be anticipated at 15.00 on Sunday by Dominican Republic-Chinese Taipei.
During the first press conference, Chen Zhonghe, head coach of the Chinese team, stressed his pleasure to return to Macau for the event of the FIVB World Grand Prix. As the team is composed by many young players, they cannot always seize the opportunity, hence, they did not play well in the last 2 legs. Bu to qualify, China has to face three of the worst opponents. As Antonio Perdomo (head coach of the Cuban team) said, all teams in Macau could enter the Final Round. The U.S.A. have got 10 overall points like Cuba, while the Netherlands are close behind them (9 points).
The Final Round will be played next week in Ningbo (China), from August 22nd to 26th by China (host country) and the best five ranked teams after the Preliminary Rounds.