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All eyes on Tokyo as semifinals loom

Russia's scoring machine, Ekaterina Gamova (pictured), will go up against USA star Destinee Hooker as their two countries meet in the first semifinal before world No.1 Brazil take on hosts Japan
Tokyo, Japan, November 11, 2010 – The FIVB Women's World Championship Japan 2010 has come down to the key semifinal stage with defending champions Russia taking on 2010 FIVB World Grand Prix winners USA and world No.1 Brazil playing hosts Japan in the key matches for positions 1-4 on Saturday in Tokyo, while another eight teams contest the semifinals for positions 5-8 and 9-12.

With Thursday and Friday as rest days, the pressure will be turned on from 12.30 (local time) on Saturday as the first semifinals matches will take place across two venues, the Yoyogi Gymnasium and the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium in the Japanese capital.

Positions 1-4
Russia (7) v USA (2) at 15.00 in Yoyogi
Holders and six-time winners Russia are the team to beat in this tournament with an undefeated record over nine matches with just six sets conceded, a record only matched by Brazil. Having only lost six World Championship games since 1994 Russia, who have only finished twice outside the top three (6th in 1986 and 1982) in 14 editions dating back to 1952, are strong favourites. They topped their second-round group ahead of a USA side who arrive in the top-four semifinals by the skin of their teeth following Cuba's astonishing win against Italy in the last match of Pool F. USA lost two matches in the second round â€“ to world No.1 Brazil and Italy – to finish second in their pool but the World Grand Prix winners have history against them with Russia having won 17 of the 28 matches between the two nations including five of the last six. One of the interesting match-ups sees USA star Destinee Hooker (fifth-best scorer in the tournament) come up against Russian spiking machine Ekaterina Gamova (sixth-best scorer) in what could prove a monumental clash. The contest is a repeat of the 2002 FIVB Women's World Championship semifinal when USA beat Russia 3-2 in Berlin.

Brazil (1) v Japan (5) at 18.00 in Yoyogi
Three-time champions Japan have had a great run in the tournament in front of their home fans, only suffering losses to China and Russia to finish second in Pool E and reach the top four for the first time since 1982, but now they come up against an unbeaten Brazil side who topped Pool F and look the only side who can seriously challenge Russia for the title. Recent history is on Japan's side given they overcame Brazil at the 2010 World Grand Prix in August but prior to that, the South Americans, who have yet to win the World Championship crown but have collected two silver medals in 1994 and 2006, had won the sides' past 20 encounters. Overall, the Olympic champions have won 42 of 53 meeting with Japan. Despite a 3-0 loss to Russia on Wednesday the hosts have shown that their home support can give them an edge and they have a potent attacking threat in Saori Kimura, who sits second in the best scorers' table. With both Japanese and Brazilian fans making themselves heard, expect this to be a passionate exchange.

Positions 5-8
Germany (15) v Turkey (22) at 15.30 in Tokyo Met
By qualifying for the 5-8 semifinals with a fourth-place finish in Pool E, Turkey have already recorded their best-ever position at a World Championship, surpassing the 10th-place finish they recorded at the 2006 edition. However, despite this they will be looking to go even further having topped Poland, China and Korea in Pool E, all of whom are higher in the world rankings. Germany have had a superb tournament so far having guaranteed themselves their best finish since 1994 when they claimed fifth and a top 10 position for the first time in four editions. They achieved a good victory over the Netherlands on Wednesday to seal third spot in Pool F and give themselves momentum going into this match. The two teams have met five times with Germany winning three and Turkey two; Germany prevailed in the last encounter at the European Championship but Turkey won four years ago in the playoffs for 9-12 places at the 2006 tournament.

Serbia (9) v Italy (4) at 18.00 in Tokyo Met
Italy, who finished fourth in Pool F, looked stunned after Cuba narrowly beat them to end their hopes of a 1-4 semifinal place on Wednesday and it was clear that captain Eleonora Lo Bianco was utterly heart-broken for her team in the press conference following the match. However, the 2002 world champions now need to pick themselves up as they face the third team in Pool E, Serbia, whom they have beaten in the last four matches. Serbia (as Serbia and Montenegro) recorded two wins over Italy at the 2006 Women's World Championship on their way to a bronze medal. Italy finished fourth then but the 2009 FIVB World Grand Champions Cup winners look to be a different proposition this time.

Positions 9-12
Poland (8) v Netherlands (10) at 12.30 in Yoyogi
The Netherlands, the tallest and most experienced side in the competition, have been in topsy-turvy form in Japan, best summed up by their 3-1 defeat by Germany on the final day of the second round on Wednesday that left them in sixth spot in Pool F when they knew a win could have seen them move up to third in the group and battling for a better position. The Netherlands, who finished eighth in 2006, have had a best finish of seventh whilst finishing ninth three times in 11 editions and now face Pool E's fifth-placed side, Poland, against whom they have a 10-win 10-loss record. The Netherlands have won the last four encounters, though, and 10 in the last 13 games. Poland, who finished 15th in 2006, will already be celebrating the fact that they have the chance to finish in the top 10 for the first time since 1974.

Cuba (6) v China (3) at 13.00 in Tokyo Met
A fascinating clash beckons with three-time champions Cuba, who finished fifth in Pool F, boasting the highest spiking average in the competition and two-time champions China, who finished sixth in Pool E, having the highest block. Cuba, who are guaranteed to record their lowest-ever finish at the Women's World Championship in 10 editions – their previous worst was eighth in 1970 â€“ will have recovered some confidence with their last-gasp win over Italy in their final second-round match on Wednesday. China, who will record their worst showing since 1974 when they finished 14th, will be looking to make some amends after a tournament they will want to forget following an inconsistent first and second round. The Asian silver medallists, who finished fifth in 2006, have only finished outside the top 10 at the Women's World Championship in 11 editions. This will be the 50th time the two sides meet in an FIVB competition with Cuba having the edge with 30 victories, though China won the last two key matches between the two sides – the bronze medal playoff at the 2008 Olympic Games and the 2006 World Championship semifinal for 5-8 positions.

* World rankings are in brackets ()

The top two teams in the two second-round groups – Pool E and Pool F - qualified for the semifinals for positions 1-4. Teams in third and fourth participate in the 5-8 semifinals and fifth and sixth in the 9-12 semifinals. The sides finishing seventh and eighth in both pools exited the tournament.

Tournament Standings
13) Korea and Thailand
15) Czech Republic and Peru
17) Costa Rica, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico
21) Algeria, Canada, Kazakhstan, Kenya

Highest Scorer By Day
Day 1 (1st Rd): 28 points by Destinee Hooker (USA) in USA’s 3-1 win over Thailand in Matsumoto
Day 2 (1st Rd): 35 points by Manon Flier (NED) in Italy’s 3-2 win over the Netherlands in Hamamatsu
Day 3 (1st Rd): 27 points by Neslihan Darnel (TUR) in Turkey’s 3-2 win over the Dominican Republic in Osaka
Day 4 (1st Rd): 34 points by Aneta Havlickova (CZE) in Czech Republic’s 3-2 win over Italy in Hamamatsu
Day 5 (1st Rd): 29 points by Neslihan Darnel (TUR) in Korea’s 3-2 win over Turkey in Osaka
Day 6 (2nd Rd): 28 points by Malgorzata Glinka-Mogentale (POL) in Poland’s 3-2 win over Korea in Tokyo
Day 7 (2nd Rd): 24 points by Destinee Hooker (USA) in Italy’s 3-1 win over USA in Nagoya and by Yukiko Ebata (JPN) in Japan’s 3-1 win over Turkey in Tokyo
Day 8 (2nd Rd): 22 points by Kenia Carcaces (CUB) in Cuba’s 3-1 win over the Czech Republic in Nagoya
Day 9 (2nd Rd): 34 points by Kenia Carcaces (CUB) in Cuba’s 3-2 win over Italy in Nagoya

Highest Set Score
34-32 (CRO v CUB in Pool C) played on October 29 (Day 1) in Matsumoto and (PER v CRC in Pool A) played on November 3 in Tokyo. * Women’s World Championship records

Highest Scoring Matches
235 (CZE v ITA in 1st Round) 3-2 (25-27, 27-29, 25-23, 25-22, 17-15) played on November 2 in Hamamatsu
231 (ITA v CUB in 2nd Round) 2-3 (25-16, 24-26, 25-21, 23-25, 22-24) played on November 10 in Nagoya
220 (POL v JPN in 1st Round) 2-3 (28-26, 25-21, 20-25, 23-25, 12-15) played on October 29 in Tokyo
218 (NED v ITA in 1st Round) 2-3 (25-18, 21-25, 23-25, 28-26, 12-15) played on October 30 in Hamamatsu
212 (TUR v DOM in 1st Round) 3-2 (25-20, 25-14, 23-25, 23-25, 17-15) played on October 31 in Osaka

Tournament Top Scorers
208 Neslihan Darnel (TUR)
187 Saori Kimura (JPN)
180 Kenia Carcaces (CUB)
176 Yeon-Koung Kim (KOR)
168 Destinee Hooker (USA)

Birthdays on November 12
Nancy Metcalf (USA) turns 32

FIVB Tournaments Coming Soon
FIVB Club World Championships (December 14-21, 2010) in Doha, Qatar
FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships (June 14-26, 2011) in Rome, Italy

All match reports, quotes and photos on available for free of charge for editorial use only
Press Contact - FIVB Press Director Richard Baker,
Email:     Mobile. + +81 80 2219 2528

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