USA players celebrate after winning their seventh match in a row, which earned them a spot into the six-team Final Round.
Lausanne, Switzerland, October 4, 2014 - United States and China have already claimed tickets to the FIVB Volleyball Women's World Championship Italy 2014 Final Round of six teams in Milan with two matches remaining in second round. Saturday's matches in Verona and Bari will go a long way in determining the final four spots.
China (5-0, 14 points) lead Pool E and three other teams competing in Bari are competing for the final two Final Round positions coming out of the group. Italy (4-1, 13 points) are in second place and will meet fourth-place Japan (2-3, 8 points). Should Italy win the match, the host country will advance to the Final Round as well as third-place Dominican Republic (5-0, 11 points). Dominican Republic face China on Saturday, and could lock up their slot into the Final with either a 3-0 or 3-1 win over group leader China regardless of the Italy-Japan outcome.
In Pool F, the USA (5-0, 15 points), the only team to have earned maximum points in all seven matches of the World Championship, have earned their ticket to the Final Round regardless of the outcomes in Verona. The worst they can do is finish in a three-way tie for third with a 5-2 record and 15 points, but the Americans would hold the tie-breaker (set ratio) over Russia should the worst-case scenario occurs.
Brazil (5-0, 14 points) can clinch their Final Round spot with a win over fourth-place Russia (3-2, 10 points) on Saturday. This will mark the 12th head-to-head meeting of the World Championship, and Russia have won the two most recent contests in the gold-medal matches of 2006 and 2010. Third-place Serbia (4-1, 11 points) meet the USA on Saturday. Should front-runners USA and Brazil win their matches on Saturday, an all-important Serbia versus Russia contest will loom on Sunday to determine the final Pool F slot for the Final Round.
While every Saturday match in Verona and Bari have meaning to the Final Round, teams competing in Trieste and Modena have all been eliminated from Final Round contention. However, that does no mean the matches will not have consequences for the eight teams as the matches will determine the final ranking position in the World Championship and be factored into the FIVB world ranking for future tournament seeding purposes.
Third place Dominican Republic (5-0, 11 points) vs. First place China (5-0, 14 points) - Their only two previous meetings at the World Championship came in 2006 and 2010. In both cases, they met in the first round and in both cases China won in straight sets. Dominican Republic have yet to defeat or take a set from Asian opposition at the World Championship. Four meetings against AVC adversaries resulted in four defeats and 12 lost sets. In major competitions, Dominican Republic have beaten China only once in 16 attempts. In the preliminary round of the 2010 World Grand Prix, the Caribbean side eked out a five-set win. Dominican Republic are one of only four teams that have won all of their seven matches in this tournament, which includes four five-set victories. The others are awaiting opponents China and otherwise Brazil and USA. Combined with their victory to close out their 2010 campaign, Dominican Republic have now won eight world championship matches in a row. They had won only 10 of their previous 38 matches in the competition. Dominican Republic's last failure to win a World Championship match came on 2 November 2010, when they were defeated by China in straight sets. China have earned a passage into the third round. Italy and Dominican Republic can still overtake them in Pool E, but fourth placed Japan cannot. Japan can still match China in points, however not in wins. China are guaranteed a top six finish. They finished in the top six in eight of their previous 12 participations and are certain to improve on their performance from four years ago, a 10th place finish. China have dropped only two sets in this tournament, both in their first round match against Japan. China's seven match winning streak at the World Championship is their longest in the competition since winning 20 in a row from 1982 to 1990.
Seventh place Germany (0-5, 3 points) vs. Sixth place Belgium (1-4, 4 points) - Belgium have run into German opposition twice at the World Championship. In 1956, they defeated West Germany in straight sets. In 1978, they were beaten by East Germany in straight sets. Belgium have taken on unified Germany (GER) once in a major competition. In the semifinals of the 2013 European Championship Germany emerged victorious in five sets. Belgium have lost eight of their last nine World Championship encounters with fellow European (CEV) sides, the exception in this run being their victory over Azerbaijan earlier in this tournament. Germany's three points in the Pool E standings result from three five-set defeats. Germany have now lost four in a row at the World Championship, their longest losing run in the competition since they started taking part as unified Germany. The last time a team representing Germany lost more than four in a row at the World Championship was when West Germany lost five successive matches from 1962 to 1974. Belgium cannot reach the third round, but they can still improve on their best performance in the competition, their 13th place finish in 1956. After seven matchrounds, Lise Van Hecke ranked fourth in the tournament in scoring, having racked up 128 points. That is 66 more than her next most prolific teammate, Laura Heyrman (62 points). Belgium have lost two in a row. They suffered successive defeats earlier in this tournament and ended that rut with a victory over opponents from Europe (Azerbaijan).
Second place Italy (4-1, 13 points) vs. Fourth place Japan (2-3, 8 points) - Each of the four previous meetings at the World Championship between these sides were decided in straight sets. In 1978 and 1986, the Asian side won by 3-0 and in 2002 and 2006 the Europeans triumphed without dropping a set. On 8 August of this year, they met in the World Grand Prix in a match that was played in Hong Kong. Italy prevailed in five sets. Japan have beaten Italy once on their turf in a major competition. In the 2003 World Grand Prix, Japan defeated Italy 3-2 in Gioia del Colle. Italy will advance to the third round unless they lose this match by 3-1 or 3-0. Italy have won at least two sets in each of their last 13 matches at the World Championship. Italy finished in the top five in each of the previous four world championships. Italy have won six of seven in this tournament, their only defeat coming in their last match of the first round, the 3-2 defeat against Dominican Republic. Japan need a victory to keep their hopes of reaching the third round alive. With a 3-1 or 3-0 victory they will extend those hopes to Sunday, but a 3-2 win might not be enough to do even that. Each of Japan's last three matches in this tournament have been decided in five sets. Japan lost to China and Croatia before successfully going the distance against Germany last Thursday. Japan took a bronze medal at the World Championship four years ago and finished in the top six in each of the previous two world championships.
Fifth place Croatia (2-3, 5 points) vs. Eighth place Azerbaijan (1-4, 2 points) - This is the first encounter between these two sides at the World Championship. They have met three times at the European Championship. Azerbaijan won the first two encounters, 3-0 in 2005 and 3-1 in 2011. Croatia won the 2013 match in straight sets. Azerbaijan have never beaten European (CEV) opposition at the World Championship. Five of their seven victories in the competition have come against NORCECA foes. Croatia cannot reach the third round. They can equal third placed Dominican Republic in points, but not in victories. Croatia are already guaranteed to improve on their finish from 2010, which was 17th place. Mia Jerkov is the most prolific server in this tournament, averaging 0.52 aces per set. Azerbaijan have lost their last two matches in this tournament, both defeats by 3-1. On Wednesday, they were topped by Italy and on Thursday they succumbed to Dominican Republic. Azerbaijan have never lost three in a row at a single World Championship. Their longest losing streak in the competition (across more than one edition) is four, when they lost their last two in 1994 and then their opening two matches in 2006. Polina Rahimova is the tournament's leading points scorer (after seven rounds). Her 174 points come from 145 spikes, 15 blocks and 14 serves and are 31 more than Russia's Tatiana Kosheleva, who is ranked second in this statistical category.
Third place Serbia (4-1, 11 points) vs. First place United States (5-0, 15 points) - Despite having played 123 matches and 38 matches at the World Championship respectively, United States and Serbia have never met in this competition. In major competitions, they have met on nine occasions with each match taking place after the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia. Team USA won six of those nine meetings and Serbia won three. Their most recent run-in in a major tournament dates back to last year's World Grand Prix, in which the teams exchanged victories. The USA won 3-2 in the preliminary round and Serbia won 3-1 in the final round. Serbia have won six of their seven matches in this tournament, their only defeat coming against Brazil in the first round. Serbia have won back-to-back matches in straight sets and have not recorded more than two successive straight sets victories in the competitions since winning four in a row by 3-0 in 2006 (when taking part as Serbia and Montenegro). Serbia can secure a passage into the third round, but it would involve a Russia defeat apart from Serbia beating the US. Serbia face Russia in their final Pool F match on Sunday. Team USA are already certain of reaching Round III. Even in a worst case scenario for them, they can no longer finish outside of third place in Pool F. The worst case scenario involves Brazil finishing top on 17 points and USA, Russia and Serbia on 15. With all three on five victories in Pool F, set ratio would be the next tiebreaker and Team USA's will always be better than Russia's should this occur. United States are the only team that has taken maximum points in this tournament, winning all seven of their matches by 3-0 or 3-1. In 14 previous appearances at the World Championship, USA's best finish is runners-up (in 1967 and 2002).
Fifth place Turkey (1-4, 4 points) vs. Seventh place Netherlands (1-4, 3 points) - This will be the first meeting between these teams at the World Championship. In major competitions, they have squared off on seven occasions with Netherlands winning five times and Turkey winning twice. Their most recent meeting in a major competition took place at the 2013 European Championship. In that match in Halle, Turkey emerged victorious in five sets. Despite their victory over reigning world champions Russia on Thursday, Turkey can no longer reach the third round, which will feature the six strongest sides. Turkey's best finish in the competition is sixth place, which they achieved four years ago. Turkey are easily the least streaky side in World Championship history. Fourteen of their 15 defeats in the competition were followed by a win. Twelve of their previous 13 victories were followed by a defeat. The only time Turkey achieved back-to-back wins in the competition was in 2010, when they defeated Dominican Republic and Canada in succession. Netherlands cannot reach the third round and cannot finish in the top eight either. Their best finish at the World Championship is seventh (1998). Netherlands won their first two matches in this tournament, but have since won only one of their next five. Netherlands' Judith Pietersen is among the best servers in this tournament. She has hit nine aces and has committed only one fault.
Second place Brazil (5-0, 14 points) – Fourth place Russia (3-2, 10 points) - This will be the 12th meeting between these two at the World Championship. Each of the last two were gold medal matches (2006 and 2010), which were won in five sets by Russia. Russia (includes Soviet Union) have won nine of those 12 World Championship confrontations with Brazil. Brazil's last World Championship victory over Russia came in the second group phase in 2006 (3-1). Three days later, Brazil lost the final of that tournament to Russia. Earlier this year, they met twice in the World Grand Prix. Both meetings were won in straight sets by Brazil. Brazil have won 17 of their last 18 matches at the World Championship, the only exception being their gold medal match defeat to Russia in 2010. The only team that has managed to take a table point against Brazil in this tournament are Turkey who were defeated 3-2 by Brazil. Camila Brait is the tournament's leading digger. She is averaging 5.08 digs per set. After winning 17 World Championship matches in a row, Russia have now lost two of their last three in the competition. For the first time since 2002, they have suffered multiple defeats at the world championships and they have not lost three times in a single campaign since 1986 (competing as Soviet Union). Russia are aiming to equal the competition record of three successive gold medals, the one they set competing as Soviet Union from 1952 to 1956. Russia have not lost back-to-back World Championship matches since 1986, when, competing as Soviet Union, they dropped successive matches against East Germany and China.
Sixth place Bulgaria (1-4, 3 points) vs. Eighth place Kazakhstan (0-5, 0 points) - These teams have never met at the World Championship. They met once in a major competition. On 16 August of this year, Bulgaria defeated Kazakhstan 3-1 in the World Grand Prix. Kazakhstan have lost all of their five World Championship matches against sides from Europe (CEV). They have lost four of the last five in straight sets. Bulgaria cannot reach the third round and cannot finish higher than ninth in this tournament. They are thereby missing out on their first top six finish since 1970. Bulgaria started out this tournament with two defeats, then won three in a row and have now lost their last two. In their previous World Championship participation (2002), they closed out their campaign with three successive defeats. Each of the last nine World Championship matches involving Kazakhstan have been decided in straight sets. Kazakhstan were on the winning side twice, whilst losing on seven occasions. Kazakhstan's two victories in this tournament are already a team record in a World Championship campaign. Kazakhstan are already assured of their best finish in the competition. At the 2006 World Championship they finished in 17th place.