World Grand Prix 2004 Press & News WEEK 1 (07-11 July)  
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2005 edition

Defending champions beaten, three leaders after week 1

Lausanne, Switzerland, July 11, 2004 – Brazil, Cuba and Italy have taken an unbeaten lead following the first three matches in the first weekend of the 2004 World Grand Prix Preliminary Round, which concluded on Sunday.

Brazil, playing in Taiwan with defending champions China, Germany and the Dominican Republic, beat the Central Americans and Europeans 3-0 and 3-1 respectively before upsetting the world number one team of China 3-1 on Sunday.
Pic: Brazilian captain Fernanda Venturini sets for Virna Dias who scored a game high 22 points against China
“It is never easy to play against China as they are the top team in the world for the time being,” Brazilian coach Jose Guimaraes said. “But our team did their best beyond my expectation today.”

China beat Brazil for the 2003 World Cup title and despite not playing without their powerful spiker Zhao Ruirui, they are still favourites to defend their World Grand Prix title of last year.

“Our players had done their best during this match,” China coach Chen Zhong-He said. “But they did not keep a high level of service or first pass, and thus could not organize effective attacks, which was the key problem in our defeat.”

In Thailand, defending and consecutive three-time Olympic champions Cuba got off to a fantastic start beating the hosts and Korea in straight sets while also beating world number two USA in an excellent 3-2 (23-25 25-17 22-25 25-22 15-13) tussle.

"Cuba was unbeatable,” USA coach Toshiaki Yoshida said. “We struggled hard in hitting and blocking and I think they played much better than my girls.”

The final group in Japan saw world champions Italy display some sparkling form to dismiss the hosts 3-1 before overcoming 2002 World Grand Prix champions Russia 3-2 (25-20, 25-17, 22-25, 16-25, 15-10) and Poland 3-0 (25-15, 25-21, 25-22).

All 12 teams now move on to three new Asian venues – the Philippines, China and Indonesia – for Week 2 of the three-week Preliminary Round. Italy plus the top five ranked teams after the Preliminary Rounds will qualify for the Final Round, which will be held in Reggio Calabria, Italy from July 28-August 1.

Women's Volleyball in the spotlight again as premier event begins Friday

Lausanne, Switzerland, July 08, 2004 - China, the world number one women's Volleyball team on the FIVB rankings, are preparing to defend their World Grand Prix title when the 2004 version of the premier women's Volleyball event begins on Friday.

The 2004 $1 Million World Grand Prix, now in its 12th year, will entertain fans around the world in an exciting format of a Preliminary Round in Asia before the Final Round in Italy. Last year the World Grand Prix was moved from its traditional base in Asia to Italy because of the health crisis caused by Severe Acute Respiratory syndrome (SARS).
Pic: Russia, China and USA the numbers 2,1 and 3 in the 2003 WGP
This year, back in its traditional home of Asia, China, the World Cup holders and one of the favourites for the title, will open their campaign with a tough encounter against Germany, ranked 11th in the world, in Miao Li before playing the Dominican Republic on Saturday and Brazil, in one of the feature matches of the weekend, on Sunday.

"There are many top quality teams," said Chinese coach Chen Zhonghe. "I have to consider Brazil, Italy, USA and Cuba as teams of very high level. But, I think my team is improving and is one with top skills and one goal: to reach the top within the coming years."

Three Asian cities - Bangkok in Thailand, Miao Li in Taiwan and Kawasaki in Japan - will host the opening weekend of matches from July 9-11, which sees 12 teams split into three groups of four across the three exciting venues.

Last year's runner's up Russia play Poland in the opening match in Kawasaki before playing world champions Italy on Saturday and Japan on Sunday.

World number two USA has a tough opening hurdle when they play last year's surprise World Grand Prix finalists Korea in Bangkok before taking on three-time Olympic champions Cuba on Saturday. Their final match is against Thailand on Sunday.

All 12 teams move to three different venues for the second weekend - Manila, Hong Kong and Jakarta - from July 16-18 before visiting the German, Chinese and Korean cities of Rostock, Hefei and Jeju City respectively in the final weekend of Preliminary Round from July 22-24.

World Grand Prix Final Round hosts Italy will be joined by the top five ranked teams after the Preliminary Rounds in the final phase.