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2006 edition
Netherlands, China upset unbeaten pair

Sendai, Japan, July 17, 2005 - A team with a 3-0 win-loss record against a team with a 0-3 win-loss record, the result should be a formality, right? Well, in Volleyball it isn't, especially at the World Grand Prix Final Round.

Italy (3-0) went into their match with the Netherlands (0-3) as the clear favourites, and everything was going with the form book when Italy won the first two sets 26-24, 25-18 on Sunday.

They even had a match point in the third set when leading 24-23, but Dutch captain Ingrid Visser soon put an end to Italy's hopes of a straight-sets victory.

The Dutch took the third set 26-24, and then the next two 25-21, 15-10 to finish as the deserved winners.
Pic: Manon Flier top scored for the Netherlands with 26 points
"If you fight you can beat each team," was the assessment of Alice Blom, who was in full bloom for her orange team with 15 points. "Losing the first two sets made everything more relaxed for us and there was no tension. We just did what we could, and came together as a team and played together."

Olympic champions China then came out and demolished defending Grand Prix champions Brazil 3-0 (25-18, 25-17, 25-19) in the second upset of the fourth day.

As the players left the court, one of the Brazilian technical staff commented, "Did anyone see the ball?" Praise indeed for China, who were like a red blur in front of the off-colour Brazilians.

This pair of results left Italy and Brazil still ahead of the pack but now with 3-1 records, meaning the Brazil-Italy clash on Monday will decide the destiny of the title.

Looking ahead to the match, Brazil's captain, Valeska Menezes, said, "It is very, very important, the final, Brazil and Italy.

"We have seen videos of Italy and their game is strong. I think the serve and blocking will make the difference."

In the last match of the day, Olympic bronze medalists Cuba beat Japan in a thriller 3-2 (21-25, 25-20, 20-25, 28-26, 17-15), saving one match point in the decider along the way.

The rankings after four days are Italy and Brazil (3-1), China and Cuba (2-2) and Japan and the Netherlands (1-3).

Monday's action sees the Netherlands play Cuba, Brazil take on Italy in the afternoon showpiece and the all-Asia clash between Japan and China in the evening.