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2006 edition
Italy and Brazil move ahead of the pack

Sendai, Japan, July 14, 2005 – World champions Italy and defending champions Brazil maintained their perfect records on the second day of the World Grand Prix Final Round in Sendai, Japan on Thursday.

The Azzurre proved too strong for Olympic champions China for the second time in five days with a straight-sets win (25-16, 25-21, 25-22), while Brazil held off Cuba 3-2 (25-16, 21-25, 22-25, 25-21, 16-14) in a fast-paced, power-packed spike fest that delighted the 6,000 fans.
Pic: Brazil's Renata Colombo spikes past the Cuban defence of Nancy Carrillo de la Paz (left) and Rosir Calderon Diaz
Italy sit ahead of Brazil on points ratio, with Cuba and Japan both holding 1-1 win-loss records and China and the Netherlands winless at 0-2.

Friday is a rest day, giving teams the chance to iron out their faults before the final three days of action from Saturday through Monday to determine the champions.

Brazil look a good bet to retain their World Grand Prix title, and coach Jose Guimaraes admitted his team's thrilling win over Cuba was an important step in the process of attempting to win their fifth World Grand Prix crown.

"This victory is very important for the rest of the tournament,” Guimaraes said. “Cuba is a very difficult team to play against as they have two setters, so it is hard to read their tactics. But we concentrated all the way, chased every ball and ran hard. Doing the basics right got us through."

Next up for Brazil, on Saturday night prime-time, will be the hosts Japan, who regained their pride after being battered by Italy on the opening night.

Japan recovered from losing the first set against the Netherlands to beat the Dutch 3-1 (22-25, 25-20, 28-26, 25-22) in a vastly-improved performance.

It will certainly have whetted the appetite of the fans ahead of Saturday's clash with Brazil.

Saturday's action starts with Italy against Cuba, a match the Cubans will feel they must win, and continues with the Netherlands and China, where one of the teams will record their first victory.