Pila & Wloclawek, Poland, August 11, 2003 - The Preliminary Round of the 2003 FIVB 8th Girls' Under 18 World Championship was completed on Monday, leaving 12 teams to battle it out in the second phase (play off seeding and elimination matches) and the four worst ranked teams: Kenya, Egypt, Hungary and Belarus taking early flights home.
Heading into Monday's action Brazil was the only certain pool winner, guaranteeing them a spot in the semifinals. In all other pools the battle for supremacy had to be determined.
Pool A saw a very interesting, all-Balkan confrontation between the two unbeaten sides Croatia and Serbia and Montenegro and despite their best efforts Serbia and Montenegro could not keep pace with the European Champions. Both teams gave a brilliant volleyball show, which ended up with the victory of Croatia, 3-0.
"We achieved what we wanted and we still think that Serbia and Montenegro belong in the best eight teams that take part in this championship" Croatia's head coach Nino Matjacic said. Matjacic's team is now already in the top eight. Serbia and Montenegro, as all pool runner-ups and the third ranked teams, will now play in the elimination group of the Play-off Round along with Venezuela who won their first match in the championship, prevailing in four sets over Kenya.
In Pool B Russia overcame Poland 3-1to take pole position in the group. The home team began this important match in the worst possible way, making a number of unforced errors, especially in reception. The first two sets belonged to Russia but in the third, the Poles, supported by 1,500 local fans, struck back, improving a lot in service and blocking. The Russians however took the initiative again, winning the fourth set and sealing the match. While Russia join Brazil and Croatia in the quarterfinals, Poland were joined by Thailand, who beat Egypt 3-1, in the elimination play off group.
In Pool C the most spectacular match of the day saw Italy, after leading 2-0, go down to China in five thrilling sets. The defending champions came from behind and turned the game into an electrifying volleyball show. After a long and stirring struggle the Chinese team won 3:2 and joined the group of pool winners. Italy faces possible elimination in the play-offs just like the third team in the pool, Chinese Taipei, who prevailed over Hungary in straight sets.
In Pool D, the Czech Republic missed a huge opportunity to take a set off Brazil, the pool winners. Despite the 3-0 scoreline, Brazil sneaked the first set 30-28 and although the Czechs registered only one win (against Belarus) in pool play they still entered the second round thanks to the US, who keep Belarus winless, eliminating them from the competition.
The final composition of teams is:
Playoff seeding teams: Croatia, Russia, China, Brazil
Playoff elimination teams: Serbia and Montenegro, Venezuela, Poland, Thailand, Italy, Chinese Taipei, USA and the Czech Republic.
The draw for Wednesday's matches in the elimination group sees USA play Venezuela, Serbia and Montenegro take on Thailand, Italy face the Czech Republic and Poland entertain Chinese Taipei. The winners will progress through to the quarterfinals against the teams in the seeding group, where Brazil takes on Croatia and Russia confronts China oN Wednesday in seeding matches.
The following rounds of the championship are to be played in Pila, only. From Friday the Final Round starts with the elite eight teams.