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Volleyball - 01. July 2008.

China stay perfect in World Grand Prix after beating Italy in Hong Kong; Brazil, USA hot on their tails

China's Feng Kun sets for her teammates in their 3-2 victory over Italy

Lausanne, June 29, 2008 - FIVB World Grand Prix champions of 2003 China are blazing a trail at the top of the standings in this year's competition with a 100 percent record after the first two weekends of competition. China won Group F in Hong Kong, while six-time champions Brazil won Group D in Vinh Phuc, Vietnam and two-time winners USA were triumphant in Wroclaw, Poland.

The Chinese and Italy came together in a clash of the remaining unbeaten sides in Hong Kong on Sunday and China prevailed in an epic five-setter, 18-25, 25-20, 21-25, 27-25, 15-8.

"I would like to thank the team for their effort during difficult times today, they were able to perform to their standard, but still some opportunities were not seized well enough," China Head Coach Chen Zhonghe said after the match against the Italians. "Zhao Ruirui has missed Volleyball matches for three years due to injury. This tournament gave her a chance to re-build confidence.

"We are going to face many strong teams in the Olympics, including six to seven teams that are of world standard. We have to strive very hard and the results will depend much on their performance in court."

Said Italy Captain Eleonora Lo Bianco: "Today, we have lost to China, which is a very strong team with outstanding players ... we realized our shortcomings through this match. We have made many mistakes and we understand that we need to perform to 100 percent in order to win. We will correct today's mistakes for the upcoming matches."

On the second weekend of the premier annual Women's competition featuring the world's best players, Japan had a bad time of it in Group F in the Hong Kong Coliseum as their archrivals China made merry. Japan lost in straight sets to Italy and China and only got one set off Cuba. Italy beat Cuba in five sets and have a 5-1 win-loss record overall to sit in fourth place in the overall standings.

In Group D in Vinh Phuc, Vietnam, Brazil won all three matches against Kazakhstan, Turkey and Germany in straight sets to win the group and sit in third place overall with a 5-1 win-loss record. On the other hand, the Kazakhs couldn't win even one set and sit in last place with no victories to their name.

"We started the game very well with hard serve and block," said Brazil Head Coach Jose Roberto Guimaraes after their 3-0 win over Germany on Sunday. "However, the second set was not good until the last moment. In the last set, we grew up and got a good result."

In Group E in Wroclaw, Poland, things went from bad to worse for the hosts, as they lost to Dominican Republic, Thailand and USA at Cetennial Hall. They now sit in second-to-last place with no wins. USA won the group, dropping just one set against Thailand.

"Today we played against one of the strongest teams in the world," said Poland Head Coach Marco Bonitta after their match against USA. "I'm not satisfied with the result but one or two players from my team showed me something good and this is important in the context of the Olympic Games."

Said USA Head Coach "Jenny" Lang Ping: "I know Poland didn't have their best team here. We knew that they wanted and tried to win, so I think we did well. Hopefully with each coming tournament we'll be getting stronger."

The third weekend of Preliminary Round matches are in Thailand, Chinese Taipei and Macau. The 2008 edition involves the teams playing a total of 69 matches over four consecutive weekends in 10 cities. The Preliminary Rounds end the weekend of July 4-6, with each team playing nine matches over the first three weekends.

The Final Round will be played in Yokohama, Japan, through July 9-13 between Japan as host country and the best five ranked teams after the Preliminary Rounds.

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