Lausanne, July 3, 2008 - The third and final Preliminary Round of the 2008 FIVB World Grand Prix is hosted in Thailand, Chinese Taipei and Macau this weekend, with the currently undefeated China hoping to preserve their record against Brazil in Group I, while USA and Italy come together in Group H as the top four teams try to hold onto their places and book a spot in the Final Round.
Turkey, currently in the fifth and final qualifying spot, are also in Group H in Taipei along with Poland, Dominican Republic and Japan fill out Group I in Macau, while Thailand, Kazakhstan, Cuba and Germany compete in Group G in Bangkok. USA, Brazil and Italy all have 5-1 win-loss records, while Turkey is at 4-2. Cuba and Dominican Republic are the other two teams who haven't got a negative win-loss record and stand at 3-3.
The Final Round in Yokohama will be contested between Japan as organizing country and the best five teams from the Preliminary Rounds in a round-robin format through July 9-13.
In Group G at Huamark Stadium, Thai head coach Nataphon Srisamutnak is upbeat that his girls will make the most of the home crowd advantage at The Mall Bangkapi's MCC Hall. "Among the three matches against visitors, I expect my girls to win at least two matches on home soil. Cuba might be too strong for us and I think even a one- or two-set win over the Cubans can be regarded as a great success," said Srisamutnak. "Germany is also a strong team. However, we met them before in Ningbo and I'm confident we can beat them here."
Said Cuba Head Coach Antonio Perdomo Estrella: "Despite the fact that we really had tough matches in Hong Kong since we had to play Italy, China and Japan and lost to the first two teams, I'm still confident that we can make it to the final. We are now in the sixth position of the overall standing. To accomplish that goal, we have to beat every team here."
Said Kazakhstan Head Coach Viktor Zhuravlev: "After the first two weekends in Kobe, Japan and in Vinh Phuc, Vietnam, we have had tough matches. We have yet to win a single set which has resulted in the bottom place in the overall standings. I hope that my girls can improve their fortune here."
Said Germany Head Coach Giovanni Guidetti: "It's very difficult to make it to the final in Japan. Every team is strong and came up with great form. Like Cuba, if we want to make sure we will claim a place in the Final Round, we have to beat every team here. It's a tough mission."
In Group H in Hsinchuang Gym, four very strong teams come together, although the Polish have been having a tough time of it, losing all six of their matches so far. They face Italy again after losing to them in Group C in Alassio, while Italy play USA in a big match on Sunday, July 6. Turkey could well spring a surprise after winning Group A in Kobe, Japan, ahead of USA, Kazakhstan and Japan. That time, they shocked USA 3-1 in the opening match.
In Group I at Tap Seac Multisport Pavilion, the Macau event has been attracting local attention and extensive media coverage in Macau. The Head Coaches came together in a press conference ahead of the event:
"We are happy to come again to Macau for the event," said China Head Coach Chen Zhonghe. "In the last two weeks, we have had exciting and tense competition and it is the only event before the Olympic Games. Through this event, we are able to train and raise the team level and the competitors, like Brazil and Japan are very strong, hence, we can take this opportunity to get prepared for the Olympic Games. The team is going well, and we are well prepared. Every match is important and we will take them seriously."
China beat Brazil 3-2 on home soil in Ningbo in Group A earlier in the competition.
Said Brazil Head Coach Jose Roberto Guimaraes: "The Macau leg is important for us, we hope that the team can play good Volleyball in Macau and we will do our best."
Said Dominican Republic Head Coach Marcos Kwiek: "We are happy to be in Macau and we are excited for the competition. We are here with a young team, and we are here to learn. We will learn to play better as we are having matches against three of the top teams in the world."
Said Japan Head Coach Shoichi Yanagimoto: "We are glad to come and we will do our best in the competition."