Japanese captain Ogino Masaji celebrates his team's victory
Nagano, Japan (November 22, 2005): Brazil, Italy and Japan began their World Grand Champions Cup campaigns on a winning note at Nagano Arena on Tuesday.
World and Olympic champions Brazil downed Norceca champions USA 3-1, European champions and World No. 2 Italy outclassed wild card entry China 3-0, and Asian champs Japan held off African champions Egypt 3-2 in a thriller.
Brazil, who won this title in 1997, lost the first set 27-25 to USA, but took the next three 25-22, 25-19, 26-24.
Head coach Bernardo Rezende said Brazil's serving would have to improve after an erratic performance in their opener.
"We are a small team for a top team, so we must serve better," he said. "Against China we have to play more consistently on blocking and defence."
USA's Hugh McCutcheon turned his attentions to a Wednesday evening date with Japan.
"Playing Japan in Japan is always a difficult thing to do. Under the new coach, Ueta-san, he is obviously doing a nice job with his team and they have won the Asian Championship for the first time in 10 years. We expect it to be a very tough match," said the New Zealander.
The second game of the day passed by in a blur of Azzurri blue as Italy demolished 18th-ranked China 25-15, 25-15, 25-17 in just 58 minutes.
Alessandro Fei was almost unstoppable for Italy, scoring a game-high 17 points, and Luigi Mastrangelo dominated the net with 11 points.
Italy's head coach, Gianpaolo Montali, stressed the determination of the team to win all five matches and a second WGCC title after their inaugural success in 1993.
"If we came here just to play against Brazil and USA we would lose the tournament," he said.
"We are here to play game after game, set after set, ball after ball, and only after the last match against Japan will we see the situation. The Italian team is a new team, but I know where the power of my team is, and I believe in my players."
In the evening game, 16th-ranked Japan, the recently-crowned Asian champions, beat Africa's first entry into the WGCC, Egypt, ranked 21st in the world, 15-5 in the tiebreaker after trailing 2-1 in sets.
Japan won 25-16, 23-25, 14-25, 25-23, 15-5 when all looked lost at the end of the third set.
Captain Masaji Ogino, a veteran at 35, rose to the occasion on several occasions with 24 inspirational points.