Pressure mounts in Milan as semifinals start Saturday


Brazil and USA will meet in the first semifinal at 17:30, followed by host Italy versus China at 20:45

Milan, Italy, October 11, 2014 – The Mediolanum Forum will be sold out for the highly anticipated FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship Italy 2014 semifinals that pit No. 1 Brazil against No. 2 USA in the first semifinal followed by host and No. 4 Italy against No. 5 China in Milan.

Brazil and USA are in search of their first World Championship title, and the next step toward that goal will begin Saturday at 17:30. Brazil won an earlier meeting in this year’s World Championship second round, but both teams rested their primary starters as qualification into the Final Round had already been secured.

Brazil, the only undefeated team in the tournament at 11-0, advanced to the semifinals by winning Pool H. They blanked China 3-0 and shut-out Dominican Republic as they averaged allowing just 17.8 points per set in the third round.

“It's one more step forward,” Brazil captain Fabiana said. “We are happy to reach the semifinals. We played well and we worked very hard for this. I always go into matches with a lot of confidence.”

USA, 9-2 in the tournament, bounced back from a 3-0 loss to Italy in the opening match of the third round to down Russia 3-1. The Americans then advanced to the semifinals on Friday after Italy won the first two sets in their showdown with Russia.

After facing Brazil seven previous times already in 2014, USA are very familiar with Brazil. The North Americans defeated their South American counterparts four times in the USA Volleyball Cup in July, but Brazil have won three straight times with two victories in the FIVB World Grand Prix and a third win to end the World Championship second round.

“Obviously they are a great team, and we just have to come out and play our game and focus on our side,” USA outside hitter Jordan Larson-Burbach said.

The second semifinal, which starts at 20:45 (note new match time for this match only), pits an interesting rematch from a dozen years ago. In 2002, Italy defeated China in the World Championship semifinals en route to winning their only World title. In that same 2002 edition, Italy defeated the USA in the gold-medal match and could perhaps be another rematch should both win their semifinal matches.

For Italy, they are 10-1 with the only setback a 3-2 loss to Dominican Republic to end the first round in Rome. The host Italians defeated USA 3-0 and Russia 3-1 in the third round and have won six straight World Championship matches going into the semifinals.

“The reality and truth is that maybe we are the surprise team in the semifinals,” Italy coach Marco Bonitta said. “Maybe there were teams better than us. We have strong luck here because he have our fans here cheering for us.”

After learning Italy’s semifinal opponent, Bonitta was quick to discuss past matches with China will be a distant memory as today’s China team has quality up and down the lineup.

“China are very tough because every player is high quality,” Bonitta said. “We have already played with them three times, but we do not think about their previous matches. Now it will be another story and we have the same chance to go to the finals.”

China, 9-2 in the tournament, was on the brink of elimination from the World Championship falling to Brazil to start the third round and falling behind 2-0 against Dominican Republic. However, China found new live and came back to win in five sets against Dominican Republic. The Chinese gained entry into the semifinals following Brazil’s win over Dominican Republic on Friday.

Semifinals on October 11
Brazil (11-0) versus USA (9-2), 17:30
Italy (10-1) versus China (9-2), 20:45

Semifinal: Brazil – United States

As successful as both Brazil and the United States have been over the years, neither have won the World Championship. Brazil have finished with the silver three times, while the Americans have two silver medals in the event. In fact, the USA is in search of their first major international women's tournament (Olympic Games, World Championship, World Cup).

Brazil are the only unbeaten team in this year's competition with 11 victories so far. In 12 of the 16 previous editions the winner of the tournament did not lose a single match.

USA's win over Russia ended their two-match losing streak. Italy are the only team to have lost two matches en route to the gold medal in 2002.

Brazil and United States have met eight times before at the World Championships and have played each other in each of the last four World Championships. Their last meeting was at this World Championship when Brazil won the Second Round encounter 3-0.

Brazil have won the last eight matches against NORCECA countries, including their last World Championship match against Dominican Republic (3-0). In these eight encounters, Brazil only conceded two sets. United States have lost their last three encounters against CSV countries. All three matches were against Brazil.

Since the format changed to include a semifinal (since 1978), Brazil have won three of their four semifinals, in 1994 (vs RUS), 2006 (vs SRB) and 2010 (vs JPN). They lost to Cuba in 1998.

Brazil can become the second team to reach the final (gold medal match) three times in a row after China in 1982 (gold), 1986 (gold), 1990 (silver). Soviet Union and Japan also recorded 3+ successive top two finishes at a time when the Worlds did not feature a gold medal match and were contested in round-robin format. Japan (six times from 1960 to 1978) and Russia (four times as URS 1952-1962) finished in the top two in more consecutive editions, but the format in the years prior to 1978 did not include a specific final match. 

Since the World Grand Prix has been held (1993), the winners of the WGP have never won the World Championship gold medal in the same year. Brazil have won the WGP in 2014.

Brazil's women can equal their male colleagues in reaching the gold-medal match three consecutive times and in the same years: 2006, 2010 and 2014. They are guaranteed a top-four finish for the fifth time in the last six editions. They only finished seventh in 2002.

United States have qualified for the semifinals for the second time in a row. It's the first time ever they qualify for the semifinals in two consecutive World Championships.

United States have now lost exactly 200 sets at the World Championship and are the third team with at least 200 sets conceded, after Germany (including East and West) (325) and Netherlands (221).

Semifinal: Italy - China

The second semifinal on Saturday will be not only a rematch from this year's second round stage, but from the 2002 World Championship semifinals when Italy won 3-1 en route to winning their only World title.

Italy and China have met seven times at the World Championships. China won the first five encounters, Italy the last two. The last match between these two at the World Championship was in this year's second round as Italy won 3-1 after losing the first set.  

This is the third time Italy have reached the semifinals. In additional their 2002 semifinal win over China, Italy lost 3-0 in the semifinals to Russia in 2006.

Italy will finish in the top four for the third time after 2002 (gold) and 2006 (fourth). They were ranked fifth in 2010.

Italy can become the first hosts to win their semifinal match since Brazil won their match in 1994. In 1998, 2002 and 2006 the host team failed to reach the semifinals and in 2010 Japan lost to Brazil in the semifinals. The only two times the host team won the gold was in 1952 (URS/RUS) and in 1967 (JPN).

China have reached the semifinals for the first time since 2002, when they were defeated by Italy (3-1). Their defeat against Italy was China's only loss in the semifinals ever. They won their previous four, all in straight sets.

China have set a team record of nine wins in a single edition of the world championship. They had eight wins in 1974, 1982 and 1986.

Last match against Dominican Republic was the 22nd time China were 2-0 down in a world championship match, but the first time they turned it into a 3-2 victory.

China have already lost twice this in this tournament. Italy are the only team to have lost two matches en route to the gold medal in 2002.


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