Egypt, the pride of Africa; USA pounds Azzurri

An ecstatic Egyptian team after their victory over China

November 25, 2005: Egypt were the toast of Africa after beating China 3-2 on the third day of the men's World Grand Champions Cup at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium on Friday afternoon. It was the first victory by an African team in the FIVB's inter-continental championship, and understandably it delighted head coach Ahmed Zakaria.  "I hope our team win tomorrow and the day after tomorrow," he said.  "We always lost to the China team 3-0, in 2003 and 2004, but we changed our team in March and built a new team. Most of them are under 22, and they are young and without experience, but now our team grows up."

Egypt, ranked 21st in the world, are the first African team to compete in the WGCC.
After defeats by Japan and Italy on the first two days in Nagano, the African champions held off wild card China 25-23, 21-25, 21-25, 25-21, 15-12 in a near two-hour marathon. Zakaria said victory over China had followed good results against Tunisia in September and also against Spain in the Mediterranean Games. "It is good because in Africa the Tunisia team is better than Egypt for 20 years, but this year we have won many championships and qualified for the 2006 World Championship in Japan," he said.

Later in the day, world No. 5 USA swept No. 2 Italy 3-0 (25-23, 25-20, 25-18) to put both teams at 2-1.  Italy's head coach, Gianpaolo Montali, was gracious in defeat. "My congratulations to the America team because they played a very, very good match," he said. "For us this is a very good lesson in two areas. The first is attitude, attitude, attitude," he emphasised. "The second is that on the pitch they played as a team and we did not play as a team. It's possible that individually the USA players do not have the same level, but they have played as a team and won."
USA's Hugh McCutcheon described it as an important win for his team. "Italy has such a great heritage for the last 15 years, maybe even longer, so for us to be able to beat them today is big for us," he said.

In the evening match, Brazil held off a determined challenge by Japan to finish the third day as the only team with a 3-0 win-loss record. The reigning world and Olympic champions beat the 16th-ranked Japan 3-1 (25-21, 25-20, 23-25, 25-18), lifting their game at the crucial moments to stay in charge.

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