Russia to battle Italy for first place in Pool A
Russia's Nataliya Gonchareva has been a key performer for Russia during the preliminary round|
London, Great Britain, August 4, 2012 – The preliminary round of the Olympic Games women’s volleyball tournament comes to an end with some exciting matches still on schedule at Earls Court as world champions Russia meet with Italy for the top place in Pool A on Sunday.
With Japan secured of their spot in the last eight teams phase, Dominican Republic, and hosts Great Britain have mathematical chances of advancing to the second round. The Dominican Republic play Algeria in the first match of Sunday while Great Britain meet Japan to open the afternoon session.
World No. 1 United States, already in possession of first place of Pool B, will be aiming for a perfect record as they entertain Turkey (2-2) in the evening session, before Brazil (2-2) try to sneak into the quarterfinals playing the winless Serbia in the nightcap.
Korea and China, both with 7 points and 2-2 win-loss records, will face each other for the second place in the group.
Teams placed first from each pool will play the fourth placed in the other pool (A1 v B4, B1 v A4). The other two quarterfinals will be determined by a drawing of lots to be conducted at the conclusion of the session.
Algeria v Dominican Republic
After three initial losses to a high level competition, the Dominican Republic finally put one victory on the board by defeating hosts Great Britain in straight sets on Friday. Bethania De La Cruz, who registered 26 points in the loss against Russia, once again was the top scoring leader for the Caribbean team and should continue to be that way as she is their first offensive option. One victory of Dominican Republic against winless Algeria will send them to a quarterfinal clash against United States next Tuesday. The two teams have only played once, with the result in favor of the Dominicans by 3-0 in last year’s World Cup. Dominican Brenda Castillo leads all the liberos and is also the best digger of the tournament.
China v Korea
Both sides are coming from five-set losses on Friday with China going down against Brazil in a do-or-die match for the South American squad and Korea succumbing to a Turkey team also in a must-win situation. After registering 29 and 34 points in her first two outings, Korean superstar Kim Yeon-Koung has slowed down a little by scoring “only” 21 in each of the last two. After winning their first two matches, China have lost two in a row with both coinciding with sub-par performances from Hui Ruoqi, who was limited to 20 points in the losses after totaling 35 in the victories. China lead 33-10 in their head-to-head contests, winning the last 13 and 30 of the past 32. Korea’s last victory against the Asian giant was in the FIVB 2003 World Grand Prix.
Great Britain v Japan
With Japan secured of a quarterfinal berth, the match should be one of preparation for the forces of Coach Masayoshi Manabe and at the same time another chance to add learning experience for the squad of Audrey Cooper. Japan battled Russia for almost two hours before losing on Friday as they also did last Monday against Italy, the two teams sharing the top position of Pool A. In the loss to the hands of Russia, Japan’s two Saoris –Kimura and Sakoda- each finished with 23 points. Lynne Beattie has been a consistent point-producer for Great Britain. This is the first meeting between the two teams and a good opportunity for the home girls to compete against the fast tempo of the Asian game.
Italy v Russia
This is the most important match of Sunday as the two European sides play a decisive contest for the top place of Pool A. Both teams have almost identical stats while compiling 4-0 win-loss records and conceding only two sets to the opposition in the matches against Japan and Dominican Republic. In those four victories, world champions Russia scored 346 points and allowed 253 (1.368) and Italy had a 345-255 (1.353) balance. Ekaterina Gamova and Nataliya Gonchareva carried Russia to the success against Japan with 29 and 26 points respectively. The world cup champions Italy are a different team with a more balanced offense mainly divided between Simona Gioli, Carolina Costagrande and Antonella Del Core. The last time the two teams were pitted together in an Olympic Games match, Italy won 3-1 at Beijing.
United States v Turkey
United States are coming from their most impressive outing of the tournament when they demolished Serbia in just 72 minutes of action last Friday. After conceding one set to Korea and Japan in the first two matches, the team of Hugh McCutcheon won a tough three-set clash with China before taking care of the Serbian side. The Americans have secured the top position of Pool B but they will be aiming to keep their unblemished record safe. USA’s Destinee Hooker is the second best scorer of the tournament with 85 points for an average of 21.25 per game, and is also among the top spikers and blockers. In their previous match, Turkey prevailed in a tough five-set affair with Korea when lefty Neslihan Darnel totaled 27 points and they badly need a victory to get into the quarterfinals. USA have won four out five lifetime matches against Turkey, including a 3-1 victory in this year’s FIVB Grand Prix Final Round.
Brazil v Serbia
Olympic defending champions Brazil have won two matches in the tournament, both in five-sets, and are now in the uncommon position of walking on a tight rope without a safety net. The much heralded Brazilian team of Ze Roberto Guimaraes, currently placed second in the world-rankings, are performing below their standards thus far and need to win this one against a Serbian team decimated by injuries to jump into the quarterfinals. Sheilla Castro and Thaisa Menezes were both at their best against China and Fernanda Rodrigues has been a crowd-pleaser with her offensive exploits coming off the bench. The South Americans have won the four matches contested by the two sides, with the most recent a five-set victory in the preliminary round of this year’s World Grand Prix.