USA and Brazil extend rivalry in Olympic final, Korea and Japan look for first medal in decades
Brazil vs. United States
Brazil and USA will be crossing their ways for the ninth time on the Olympic arena with the 3-1 win claimed in pool play by the US Americans having moved the count of the head-to-heads to 4 victories apiece. These sides recently stood out also in the final stage of the 2012 FIVB World Grand Prix held in late June in Ningbo, China, with USA eventually going for gold and the players around coach Ze Roberto settling for silver. While Team USA have impressed everyone in London with a display of great technical skills and self-confidence, conceding only two sets so far in the tournament to their opponents, Brazil gradually got momentum after the 2008 Olympic champions started out a little conservative in the prelims. The real turnaround came in the 1/4 final with Russia where Brazil stormed back twice from one set down and even saved six match balls in a breath-taking tie-break to eventually make it to the semis and rout Japan in straight sets there. Two different ways of playing and conceiving volleyball will highlight the women’s final of the 2012 Olympics, with diagonal players Sheilla Castro and Destinee Hooker likely to contribute a duel whose outcome may well determine the final fate of the match. Team USA have never won gold at the Olympics, with the best result being the silver medals claimed in 1984 and 2008, while Brazil have got a record of one gold and two bronze medals so far.
Japan vs. Korea
The Asian derby for the bronze medal may be seen as the real surprise of the tournament especially since these teams had been missing the top of the standings for quite a long time. Japan got to the top four after a memorable win over China in the 1/4 finals while Korea shut out Italy, one of the pre-favourites of the competition, from the race for the medals anchored by their outstanding opposite Kim Yeon-Koung, the undisputed top scorer of the Olympic tournament with 185 points. Japan literally collapsed in the semi-final with Brazil having not fully recovered – more mentally than physically – from the demanding match with China but Saori Kimura and Yukiko Ebata, helped by pocket-setter Yoshie Takeshita (159 cm), shall be back at their best to help Japan medal for the first time since the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Japan have claimed 6 out of 8 matches played at the Olympics with their neighbours but lost to Korea at the Olympic qualifying event held in Tokyo this past May and hence only as long as they can find the recipe for a perfect performance they will be able to cruise past Kim and get a medal for Japan, waiting for Tokyo to possibly play host to the 2020 Olympics that will be assigned next year by the IOC.