Thu, Nov 16, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Brazil to face Russia in finals, US defeats Taiwan

AFP AND AP , OSAKA, JAPAN

Taiwan's Kou Nai-han, center, receives the ball as teammates captain Chen Shu-li, left, and Azu Hui-fang, look on during the women's final round match at the Volleyball World Championships in Osaka, western Japan, yesterday. The US defeated Taiwan 25-15, 25-20, 25-21.

PHOTO: AFP

Favorites Brazil face Olympic silver medalists Russia in the final of the women's world volleyball championships after they powered through their semi-final matches yesterday.

The Brazilians, gunning for their first ever major title, took advantage of a nervous Serbian outfit for a 25-17, 25-14, 21-25, 25-20 victory.

It was the 10th straight win at this tournament for Brazil who have never won the Olympic, World Cup or world championships before.

In the other semi-final match, Russia trounced defending champions Italy 25-19, 25-16, 25-20.

In placement matches yesterday, the US defeated Taiwan 25-15, 25-20, 25-21, while China defeated Cuba 26-24, 25-21, 26-28, 25-20.

Russian coach Giovanni Caprara said he was confident heading into the final but conceded Brazil were the favorites, after downing the Europeans in four sets in the earlier stages of the tournament.

"Brazil are the number one team in the world, but we have prepared very well mentally for tomorrow's final. They have won all the matches so far, but we are determined to beat them," Caprara said.

Lioubov Shashkova, who top scored for Russia with 21 points, said an injury to her thigh muscle was now "all right" for the Brazil showdown.

"The loss to Brazil already belongs to the past. We are in our top form right now and we are determined to win. That is the biggest reason why we reached as far as the final," Shashkova said.

"Today, we just tried hard to beat Italy, because Italy won the championships four years ago and we had been full of a feeling that we want to beat them. We played technically very well, too," she added.

Brazilian coach Jose Guimaraes said this was their chance to make history.

"This is our history. I won the Olympic Games with the men's team in 1992. We developed to improve the women's team through a lot of tournaments and learned how we can win," he said.

The Brazilians came into the championships as the favorites after winning their third consecutive and sixth in total Grand Prix in September.

Brazilian captain Helia Souza said that yesterday's win came despite a lapse in concentration in the third set.

"We didn't have difficulty in the first two sets, but we started to make errors in the third set. We were able to concentrate in the fourth set, and that's why we won," Souza said.

"Our goal was to reach the final and we made it. It will be difficult against either Russia or Italy. I just hope we can play as well as we did throughout this tournament," she said.

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