European champions Italy pulled out a hard fought victory against Brazil to earn their ninth straight win in women's World Cup volleyball yesterday and almost ensure a spot at the Olympics.
The Italian women swept past silver medalists Brazil in three sets, 25-20, 25-23, 25-19, to stay undefeated in the 12-team round robin competition where the top three squads qualify for next year's Games in Beijing.
Meanwhile, world bronze medalists Serbia outgunned the US 28-26, 23-25, 25-20, 25-23 to keep their Olympic hopes alive.
"I think today we played a perfect match against one of the strongest teams in the world, I respect them very, very, very much," said Italy's coach Massimo Barbolini. "We played a very good match in defense and we were very careful not to make mistakes. We've made another important step to our target to qualify for Beijing."
Brazil's coach Jose Roberto Guimaraes said it was "a shame to play such a game."
"It was one of the worst game we've played in this tournament. I've never seen my team play like this. Of course, Italy played really well, but we played too bad," Guimaraes said.
Serbia's coach Zoran Terzic said the key to their victory against the US was that they had a strong will to win.
"I think the most important reason why we won the game is our motivation, it was very high tonight," Terzic said.
US coach, Lang Ping, said her players were not focused.
"In the last three matches, all the teams are very tough. We have to concentrate to do our job, we need to play better and play very calm. When you are at a difficult moment, you must control your temper," she said. "I think the results can go either way, because all are the best teams."
In Komaki, Japan, Asian bronze medalists Thailand posted a historic first win in their debut World Cup by beating African champions Kenya 25-15, 23-25, 22-25, 25-13, 15-10, while Poland whipped the Dominican Republic 25-14, 25-14, 25-18.