FIVB Women's World Championship Japan 2006
Blue shines at Rainbow Hall
November 12, 2006: There was only one colour shining at the Rainbow
Hall on Sunday night -- and it was the sparkling Azzurre blue of Italy.
Italy's Eleonora Lo Bianco sets up Sara Anzanello for a winning spike
defending world champions booked their place in the semi-finals of the
2006 FIVB World Championships with a straight-sets victory over Japan
in the last match of Pool E.
"Le Azzurre" showed all their quality
and experience to hold off Japan 25-17, 28-26, 25-23 and qualify for
the last four with Serbia and Montenegro from Pool E and with Brazil
and Russia from Pool F.
Italy improved their second-round win-loss
record to 6-1 and dropped Japan to 4-3, leaving the host nation to play
in the classification matches in Osaka. Italy did not lose a set in
their four second-round matches.
World No. 4 Italy jumped out to a
three-point lead at the first TTO, thanks to some good work out wide by
captain Simona Rinieri and Elisa Togut and at the net from Sara
Anzanello and Paola Paggi.
But Japan, ranked
seventh in the world by the FIVB, struck with some well-worked moves
and crisp spikes, too, notably from Miyuki Takahashi, Sachiko Sugiyama
at the net and Shuka Oyama.
The early stages promised a contest
full of high-quality volleyball, both from a technical and tactical
aspect, as the teams traded lusty blows and kept mistakes to a minimum.
Takahashi is well known to the Italian players due to her career with
Vicenza, Oyama -- better known by her Chinese name Wang Jiao -- is
still something of an unknown quantity at this level, and her raw,
unpredictable talent reaped early rewards as she jumped and attacked
with all her might.
Captain Rinieri was in inspirational form, though, and she powered the Azzurre towards the second technical break 16-11.
At 18-13, Japan needed a second TO as the Italians began to hit their stride, and the home team responded through
Erika Araki and Takahashi.
two Togut missiles from the back court and a Paggi block on Takahashi
underlined Italy's quality, and with more blocks on Oyama they won the
first set comfortably 25-17.
Italy maintained this pressure in the
second set. Kimura ducked under a floating Paggi serve and saw the ball
bounce in, a Rinieri spike drifted between two defenders, and a
crunching Anzanello block on Takahashi had Japan taking cover at 6-3
Italy's winners were coming thick and fast. Rinieri pushed
one over, Piccinini sent the ball fizzing through the defence and
crashing into the boards from the left, and Togut repeated the
treatment from the other side shortly after.
Leading 14-12, Italy had to replace the injured Paggi with Martina Guiggi, and reached the second TTO ahead 16-13.
was working hard to keep Japan in touch, and became involved in a net
duel with Rinieri on Italy's left flank. Japan called a TO when falling
behind 19-14, and Araki took up the attack on the right followed by
Kimura on the left.
gap closed to three points at 21-18, forcing an Italy TO, but the
Azzurre mistakes continued and Japan pulled level 22-22 with a Kimura
smash on the left. When another Kimura attack was blocked out, Japan
led 23-22 and Italy needed another TO.
Takahashi returned for Japan
to bring up set point at 24-23, but Japan could not convert this one or
a second at 26-25, and Italy took the set 28-26 with a block on Oyama
on their second attempt.
In the third set, Italy led 8-5 at the
first TTO, but Oyama brought Japan back and thought their luck must
have changed when her jump serve thudded into the net cord and bobbled
over on to the Italian side to reduce the deficit to one, 8-7.
every time Japan threatened, Italy responded like world champions, be
it through Togut, Piccinini, Rinieri or Guiggi capitalising on the
setting of Eleonora Lo Bianco.
Japan would not give up one ball, though, and some
spectacular defence made sure Italy would have to work for every point
down the stretch. Araki blocked Piccinini to move Japan to within one
at 17-16 and Kimura pulled them level with a typically effortless leap
and spike, forcing an Italy TO.
Rinieri was unstoppable on the
night, and for all Japan's flying defence, they could not prevent Italy
taking the third set 25-23 and the match 3-0.