World Grand Prix Week 2: Serbia and Brazil to meet again
Serbia and Brazil meet again on Friday in Sendai, Japan
“We didn't play a good game. It is important to forget the result but think about our mistakes and what we did wrong,” said Brazil’s captain Natalia Pereira.
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Qualification for the World Grand Prix Finals in Nanjing (August 2-6) is by no means a given for the Brazilians who, with eleven titles to their name, are the most successful team of all time in the World Grand Prix. The young side are currently languishing in fifth place with five points. Brazil also play Thailand and pool hosts Japan this weekend. Japan are currently seventh in the table and also started the 25th edition of this iconic tournament with two wins from three matches.
Serbia, on the other hand, are ideally placed to qualify, courtesy of a maximum nine points from three matches. Serbia’s coach Zoran Terzic, however, has no intention of allowing his team to rest on its laurels. “We won all three games 3-0. So now we need to prepare for the next tournament in Japan,” he said, shortly after his team's successful weekend.
Six-time FIVB World Grand Prix winners USA are also undefeated after the opening weekend, and currently lie second in the Group 1 table behind Serbia. Macau will host part two of the duel between reigning world champions USA and Olympic gold medallists China.
The USA won the first match on the opening weekend 3-0 thanks in part to a strong performance from star Kelly Murphy. China, however, are looking forward to the rematch. China coach An Jiajie said: “We have many young players and they are all very talented. I believe that they will learn and improve from match to match.”
Two teams who also find themselves high up the table go head to head in Kaliningrad, Russia this weekend: third-placed Netherlands (7 points) and the newly-promoted Dominican Republic (6 points).
Dutch coach Jamie Morrison said: “We had a day off and the pool in Russia awaits. We are waiting for our next challenges.”
The Russians, who are still looking for their first win, will be hungry to make amends for their disappointing start.
Russia coach Vladimir Kuziutkin said: “Everyone is trying to win and I think we will play better. We have many young players in the roster and I believe we will have a bright future.”
In World Grand Prix Group 2, neighbours Poland and the Czech Republic, who started their campaigns with perfect records, will continue their battle for supremacy without actually locking horns. Poland have home advantage in Ostrowiec Swietokrzyski.
Coach Jacek Nawrocki: “We play in Poland and have new rivals. There will be difficult matches ahead. We have to prepare well for those games.” Peru and Korea both have two wins to their name and are also hotly fancied to progress to the Final Four in Ostrava on July 29 and 30.
The Czech Republic, as hosts of the final round, are assured their place in the Final Four. However, they will be keen to continue to build momentum ahead of the grand finale at the Preliminary Round tournament in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Bulgaria and Canada meanwhile will hope to add to their two victories in the opening weekend and play their way into contention for a place in the Final Four.
That is also the destination of choice for Germany, who were relegated from Group 1 last year. The Germans are in a bit of a tight spot ahead of the tournament in Almaty, where they will take on hosts Kazakhstan, Colombia and Croatia. Germany coach Felix Koslowski said: “Our last win against the great team of Bulgaria will hopefully give us great confidence for the next matches.”
In Group 3, the second Preliminary Round weekend will determine who joins hosts Australia at the Final Four tournament in Canberra on July 22 and 23. Grand Prix newcomers Hungary and France each won three times on the opening weekend. The French play in Port of Spain against hosts Trinidad and Tobago, Australia and Cameroon. Hungary travel to Caracas, Venezuela, where they will face the hosts and Mexico – both teams have two wins to their name and still hope to secure a ticket to the final round. The pool is completed by Algeria.
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