Tokyo, December 1, 2007 – World champions Brazil beat Russia on Saturday in straight sets in the long-awaited match-up between the standings leaders at the ongoing World Cup of Japan. With the victory Brazil, the titleholder, guarantees its qualification for next year’s Beijing Olympic Games and appears as the runaway favorite to add more “silverware” to its impressive trophy case. The Brazilians, the top volleyball team in the world since 2002, appear ready and able to repeat their World Cup success in 2003. The South American champions, who lost in the first game of the tournament to the USA team 3-0, subsequently posted nine consecutive victories in straight sets. The loss was the second in a row for Russia, which must now beat the USA on Sunday in order to hope for a finish in the top three spots that lead directly to Beijing. The NORCECA champions, the USA team, beat Argentina 3-0 to reach eight victories at the tournament, with only a win against Russia tomorrow need to ensure a berth for Beijing. Meanwhile, wild card team Bulgaria defeated host Japan 3-1 in front of 10.000 enthusiastic spectators and also reached eight victories, leaving only a match against Argentina on Sunday. With a win against the South American side the Bulgarians will have picked up their “ticket” for the 2008 Olympic Games.
Finally, in the African “derby”, Egypt beat Tunisia 3-1 for its second victory at the tournament. Spain meanwhile, easily downed Korea 3-0 while Asian Champions Australia beat 3-1 NORCECA runner up Puerto Rico. The World Cup has already witnessed several thrilling matches and a number of surprises, with the last day of play remaining to decide the new World Cup winner and the two automatic Olympic berths.
The United States stayed on course for Beijing with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Argentina in the first match of the day at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.
The NORCECA Champions breezed past the South American vice champions 25-16, 25-19, 25-18 to improve their World Cup win-loss record to 8-2 ahead of their Sunday showdown with Russia. Ranked fifth in the world, the Americans were too fast, strong and experienced for the ninth-ranked Argentines, who dropped to 5-5. “I think we came out with a great level of execution in all aspects of our game. Defensively we were extremely efficient. Both sides, offense and defense, were very good. It was nice to do that right before our last match, and hopefully we can continue that tomorrow” said American Captain, Thomas Hoff.
World No.1 Brazil rose to the challenge and crushed third-ranked Russia in straight sets. In a match billed as the World Cup final, the reigning Olympic and World Champions were too quick and too slick for a Russian team whose powerful service machine broke down on the big day. The World Cup holders won 25-22, 25-22, 25-18 to improve their win-loss record to 9-1, with Japan to play on Sunday. Russia, who came into the Tokyo round at 8-0, lost their second straight to drop to 8-2. They finish their schedule against USA on Sunday. Head Coach Bernardo Rezende said: “The first of our goals was to control their serve. I think we did this well because they had just one ace. Regarding the Russian serve, this is a good result for us. We played with speed and combination, this is how we play. The most important thing is we played like a team, like the best of Brazil. At the critical moment that is when this group of men show their best, when it is needed. After we lost the first game, we needed to beat Bulgaria, a very strong team, and we did it. Today we had to survive against Russia and they did very well. That is the main characteristic of this group of athletes. We cannot relax right now. We have to have respect for the other teams and the fans. We have to do our best tomorrow.”
Bulgaria stayed in the race for a place in Beijing by recovering from one set down to beat Japan 3-1 in front of 10,000 spectators. The tournament wild cards, ranked seventh in the world, came home 22-25, 25-20, 25-20, 25-20 to improve their World Cup win-loss record to 8-2, the same as USA and Russia. Japan, ranked 10th in the world, dropped to 3-7. Bulgarian player Hristo Tsvetanov stated: “It was a difficult game for us, and unfortunately we could not play how we wanted at the beginning, so we are happy to get out of a difficult situation. Now we are thinking of the match with Argentina tomorrow. It is our last and most important game.”
In Site B, Egypt won Saturday's battle of North Africa at Komazawa Gymnasium in Tokyo with a 25-21,18-25, 25-21, 25-22 World Cup victory over Tunisia. Egypt took the upper hand in the first few points thanks to a netted first serve by Noureddine Hfaiedh and two fabulous blocks by Egypt on Hichem Kaabi and Hfaiedh. Egypt Coach Zakaria Ahmed said: “Egypt and Tunisia are the best teams in Africa and they are always in the final in the African Championship. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. Today the players were nervous and tense and made too many mistakes because we were playing Tunisia. If we were playing a normal match, we would be better than today. It's the first time for our team to win two matches in an important championship. Sometimes we will win one match or no matches. If we win against Australia tomorrow our position will be better”.
Spain picked up their sixth win of the World Cup with a hard-fought 25-22, 25-17, 28-26 victory over South Korea. After only dropping one set in their last three matches, Spain were favorites to dominate South Korea, who had only managed to beat Tunisia. But the South Koreans fought hard against a talented Spanish team. South Korea Coach Yoo Jung Tak said: “I always felt that during the World Cup we didn't have a leader and that's why there were some points we couldn't win. We didn't have a leader who could attack and score the big points. We only won one game during the World Cup because we have young players. They want to win, but they weren't at their best mentally. Tomorrow, we want to win and show our best”.
Australia fought hard in a battle of attrition with Puerto Rico and bulldozed their way to a 25-21, 15-25, 25-18, 25-21 victory. The Australians had the edge early on with Benjamin Hardy finding his range, while a brilliant block by Luke Campbell on the World Cup's leading scorer Hector Soto put the Aussies 8-5 up at the first technical timeout. Australia Captain Benjamin Hardy stated: “I think we were much more stable today and we played better than we have been in the last few matches, especially yesterday with regard to our stability. With our reception we were able to control their serve quite well and that gave us more options in attack. We're now playing for ranking and pride so it's a difficult time for us, but we're glad we still had the motivation and concentration to push forward and win this match”.
COMPETITION SCHEDULE (4th ROUND)
City date Loc. Time GMT time Match
Tokyo (A) 02 Dec 14:05 05:05 Argentina-Bulgaria
Tokyo (A) 02 Dec 16:35 07:35 Russia-USA
Tokyo (A) 02 Dec 19:30 10:30 Japan-Brazil
Tokyo (B) 02 Dec 12:05 03:05 Spain-Tunisia
Tokyo (B) 02 Dec 14:35 05:35 Korea-Puerto Rico
Tokyo (B) 02 Dec 17:35 08:35 Australia-Egypt
STANDINGS AFTER 2nd DAY, 4th ROUND
Brazil 19 points; Russia, USA, Bulgaria 18; Spain 16; Puerto Rico, Argentina 15; Australia 14; Japan 13; Egypt 12; Tunisia and Korea 11. (2 points for victory, 1 for loss).
MATCH DESCRIPTIONS, PRESS CONFERENCES, FREE PICTURES
The FIVB provides complete real time coverage of the event. Match
descriptions, press conference reports and free pictures downloadable in high
resolution for Media purpose are available from the home page of the FIVB
“FOLLOW ME” BY ANDREA ZORZI
Andrea Zorzi, the former Italian national Volleyball player and two times World
Champion, is working on his special blog “Follow Me” from the FIVB website
home page. New articles have been uploaded, explaining technical topics and
big stories of the event. The last video interview published on “Follow Me” is
with the Brazilian middle blocker Endres Gustavo.