Brazil retains volleyball
Brazil on Sunday remained on its throne as the world's top volleyball powerhouse.
The Brazilians, which have more-or-less dominated the sport since 2001, won their second straight World Cup by easily overcoming host Japan 3-1 before an enthusiastic crowd of 10,000, a match punctuated by the Brazilians' samba celebrations and high-flying game.
Tokyo has apparently turned into a "home venue" for the Brazilians as they also won the previous World Cup (2003) also in the Japanese metropolis, the same city where they were crowned World Champions in 2006 and where they won the Grand Champions Cup (2005).
The reigning Olympic and World champions are the second team to win back-to-back World Cups after the former Soviet Union, which won the trophy in 1977 and 1981, along with 1965 and 1991.
Russia and Bulgaria picked up the two other berths for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
Russia recovered from its previous losses to Bulgaria and Brazil by beating the United States 3-2 in the top match of the 11th day, and wild card entry Bulgaria easily defeated South American runners-up Argentina 3-0.
After an early struggle, World No. 1 Brazil put Japan in their place 3-1 in the last match of the World Cup on Sunday night. The reigning Olympic and world champions recovered from losing the first set to emerge victorious 23-25, 25-21, 25-19, 25-18 and defend their World Cup title with a 10-1 record.
Japan, playing before a crowd of 10,000, dropped to 3-8 but emerged from their last match with a lot of credit and pride in tact. They were also leading the fourth set 7-2, but the seven points were wiped out due to a technicality on the line-up rotation.
"It was a tough match after a tough match yesterday against Russia, which was like a final," said Brazil head coach Bernardo Rezende.
"We suffered from the beginning and lacked a bit of energy and focus. Japan played loose and calm with no responsibility, but we managed to fight to the end and win under this pressure."
"We have two World Championships, two World Cups and our aim isto end this cycle with two Olympic gold medals," Rezende added.
"Now we are at the end of the seventh year with this team, and one more year to go. This is a great conclusion to the seventh year. We have to party for one night and from tomorrow think about Beijing and improve what we are lacking," he said.
Bulgaria booked a place in the 2008 Olympic Games by sweeping Argentina 3-0 in the first match of the day at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium. The tournament wild cards, ranked seventh in the world, beat the South American vice champions 25-17, 25-22 and 25-23 to finish the 12-team round-robin with a 9-2 record, good enough to secure a podium finish and a place in Beijing.
"For sure this was not our best game, but the most important thing was to gain the victory," said Bulgaria head coach Martin Stoev. "The main goal was to gain the ticket for the Olympics. This was the key point, and we came up in this short period."
Russia joined Brazil and Bulgaria in the Beijing Olympics by beating United States 3-2 in a World Cup decider at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.
The Russians won 25-23, 20-25, 22-25, 25-17 and 15-8 to improve to 9-2 and leave the Americans stranded on 8-3 and out of the top three.
It was a wonderful match for the fans, full of crashing blocks and occasionally heating over due to the fierce rivalry between the teams and the massive prize at stake.