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Proud Portugal aim for second-place finish

Tokyo, Japan, July 1, 2005 - They have been on the road since June 15, but Portugal will give it one last push in the 2005 World League Pool A this weekend.

With a 6-4 win-loss record in 10 outings, Portugal can wrap up a creditable second place behind Brazil with a couple of wins against Japan (0-10) at Yoyogi National Stadium on Saturday and Sunday.

"The players are a little tired physically, but they are ready to play," Portugal's team doctor, Armando Brandao, said after the team's practice session on Friday afternoon.

"They have played in Brazil and then Venezuela on consecutive weekends, but in spite of the tiredness they want to finish well. The target is to finish in second place, and they are concentrated on the game and ready to win."
Pic: One last push - Portugal's Nuno Pinheiro (3) and captain Joao Jose (12) contest possession with Japan's Rio Matsunaga during the opening round of the World League
Brazil (9-1) have already clinched first place in Pool A to guarantee a spot in the four-team World League finals in Belgrade from July 8-10.

Portugal (6-4) are second, but could still be overtaken by Venezuela (5-5), although it would be a major surprise if Venezuela won a match in Brazil on the last weekend of Intercontinental action.

Portugal's head coach, Orlando Samuels of Cuba, would be satisfied to finish as group runners-up behind the reigning World League champions.

"I feel that the team is in good condition, physically and technically," he told an official news conference on Friday evening.

"The biggest improvement I have noticed in the players this year is that the individual level has risen, so that all the players are equal and the team is stronger."

As for Japan, they have won only three sets in 10 matches, and will be without their first-choice setter, Daisuke Usami, again due to injury.

Head coach Tatsuya Ueta admitted that his team needed to train harder to bridge the gap at the top of world Volleyball.

"We have some players who are very good in the domestic league, but do not produce the same level in international games," said Ueta.

"I know they can play better, so we must practice harder, starting in July for the Grand Champions Cup (in November)."
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