Brazil take on Belgium, the Netherlands and USA in Week 3 of the 2017 World Grand Prix
Lausanne, Switzerland, July 19, 2017 - Currently ranked seventh in 2017 FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix Group 1, Brazil will chase a place in the Finals in Nanjing when Week 3 of the Preliminary Round takes place from Thursday to Sunday.
Brazil's lowest finish in the World Grand prix came 14 years ago. Back in 2003, the Brazilian ladies finished down in seventh place – the same position as the defending champions find themselves in this year, with just three victories to their name after two of the three weekends of Group 1 Preliminary Round matches.Quick links - Volleyball:
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Seventh place would not be enough for successful coach Jose Roberto Guimaraes’ team to qualify for the final round of six teams in Nanjing, China (August 2-6) and captain Natalia Pereira and her team will be under pressure to perform in front of their home crowd in Cuiaba from Thursday to Sunday.
Brazil may need three wins to progress to the Final Six. However, after a first match against Belgium, they face an uphill challenge against the Dutch and the United States. The Netherlands are currently second overall, courtesy of five wins and just one defeat. And the third potentially all-important match throws up a huge clash against arch-rivals the USA (who have four wins so far). The USA are world champions and have six FIVB World Grand Prix titles, while Brazil have won the competition a record eleven times.
“The attitude of our team in our last match against Japan was better and we have to keep training to evolve. We have to play like a real team, only then we can succeed,” said Brazilian coach Ze Roberto.
The race for the five tickets to the Finals, where the teams which qualify will join hosts and Olympic champions China, promises to be one of the most dramatic finales to the Preliminary Round ever.
As well as the Netherlands, Olympic silver medallists Serbia also have five wins to their name and are well placed to progress. However, outstanding hitter Brankica Mihajlovic and her team face three very difficult matches in their tournament in Hong Kong: against hosts China, Japan (four wins so far) and Russia (two wins so far).
“We have taken first place in our group on two weekends and we want to go to the Final Six,” said Serbia coach Zoran Terzic. It goes without saying that Japan have also set their sights on qualifying for China, particularly after a magnificent 3-2 victory over record winners Brazil in Week 2.
In Bangkok, Italy will also play for a ticket to the Finals. The Southern Europeans defeated Olympic champions China and world champions USA last week, thanks in particular to Paola Egonu's scoring exploits. With 117 points to her name, she is the top hitter in the twelve teams in Group 1. The Azzurri now face Turkey, the Dominican Republic, and hosts Thailand on their route to the final round.
Davide Mazzanti, coach of Italy said: "Our last successful weekend has significantly improved our chances of qualifying for the Finals. Now we want to take the last step.”
In Group 2, four teams seem likely to claim a place in the Final Four, which will be played on July 29 and 30 in Ostrava. Group 2 Finals hosts the Czech Republic, Korea, Germany, who were relegated from Group 1 last year, and Poland each have five wins to their name. They are well clear of Bulgaria, Peru, Colombia and Puerto Rico, who are all on three wins.
Korea also have home advantage for the final weekend of Preliminary Round matches in Group 2. Their opponents in Suwon are Kazakhstan, Colombia and Poland. The fixtures include a rematch of last weekend’s top match, which Korea won 3-1 against Poland in Poland.
Korean coach Kim Sungjin said: “We host the tournament and we will again play against Poland, so now we know what we have to improve in our game.”
Two teams likely to qualify for the final round go head to head in Richmond, Canada: the Czech Republic and Germany. German player Louisa Lippmann said: “We always have to remember to be focused and be aggressive.” The other teams in action in Canada are the hosts and Peru.
In Varazdin, Bulgaria and Puerto Rico will play hosts Croatia and Argentina as they look to keep their hopes of reaching the final round alive.
While the top two Groups are set for an exciting finale to their Preliminary Rounds, the winner of Group 3 of this year’s FIVB World Grand Prix will be decided this weekend in Australia. Hosts Australia will welcome Grand Prix newcomers Hungary, France and Venezuela to the capital Canberra on Saturday and Sunday.