USA and China to meet in World Championship final


Volleyball was a work of art in Saturday's semifinals

Milan, Italy October 11, 2014 – The finals are set! United States out-played Brazil in front of electric crowd and China drained much of that energy by defeating the host Italians in the semifinals of the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship Italy 2014 on Saturday night in Milan.

An electric crowd witnessed No. 2 USA top No. 1 Brazil 3-0 (25-18, 29-27, 25-20) in a rumble of the top two teams in the FIVB world ranking. The Americans improved to 10-2 in the tournament while stopping Brazil’s undefeated streak in this World Championship edition.

After a break in the action because of the quick three set opening semifinal victory by the USA, the Italians re-energized their crowd at the start of the match but was short-lived as China won the first two sets and went on to win 3-1 (25-21, 25-20, 20-25, 30-28). China improved to 10-2 overall in the World Championship while Italy will head into the bronze medal match against Brazil with a 10-2 mark.

USA will not have much time to enjoy the win over Brazil as the semifinal win is not the overall goal.

“We have to refocus,” said USA captain Christa Dietzen during the post-match press conference regarding tomorrow’s final. “We are very happy with the win, but there is more business to handle.”

USA could become just the second team to win the title with two losses (Italy in 2002) if they win the title. The Americans’ two losses in this World Championship were to Brazil (in the second round finale as both teams rested starters with each having qualified for the third round) and to Italy (in the third round opener in Milan).

USA have reached the World Championship semifinals for the second time in row (fourth in 2010 in Japan). However, the Americans have never won a major international title (FIVB World Championship, FIVB World Cup, Olympic Games).

One streak will continue - the winner of the FIVB World Grand Prix has never won the FIVB World Championship in the same year. Brazil won the 2014 FIVB World Grand Prix in August.

In front of 12,600 fans, China controlled most of the first two sets before Italy awoke from their slumber. Italy looked poised to win the fourth set and move into the tiebreaker, but China rallied for the 30-28 win that included saving one set point.

China will attempt to win their third World Championship title with gold in 1982 and 1986. China also met Italy in the 2002 semifinals, but lost 3-1 as Italy went on to win their only title. 

China, which will now play in the gold-medal match for a fifth time, was on brink of being ousted from the World Championship in the third round as they lost to Brazil 3-0 on October 8 and lost the first two sets against Dominican Republic on October 9 before coming back to win in five sets.

“We just think about this game,” China captain Hui Ruoqi said after the semifinal victory. “I think we can enjoy the gold-medal match. We are all winners so we will just enjoy the game.”

Sunday’s medal round starts with Brazil facing Italy in the bronze medal match at 17:30 followed by the gold-medal match of USA versus Italy at 20:00.

Semifinals on October 11
USA def. Brazil 25-18, 29-27, 25-20
China def. Italy 25-21, 25-20, 20-25, 30-28

Semifinal #1
First World title dream continues for USA, ends for Brazil - World No. 2 United States scored an amazing 3-0 (25-18, 29-27, 25-20) semifinal win over World No. 1 Brazil to earn a spot in Sunday's final. Both teams have never won the World Championship. USA improves to 10-2 in the tournament, while Brazil was the last team to lose in the tournament and are now 11-1.

USA had balanced scoring from their wing hitters as Jordan Larson-Burbach tallied a match-high 15 points, while Kelly Murphy and Kim Hill each contributed 13 points in the victory. Brazil were led by Fe Garay’s 14 points followed by Sheilla’s 11 points.

USA out-spiked Brazil 52-41 and American setter Alisha Glass ran the offense to a 48.6 attack percent and .374 hitting efficiency with just 12 attack faults. Brazil’s potent offense was held to a 39.4 attack percent and a .240 hitting efficiency. Overall, Brazil had 19 errors to the USA’s 15.

“It is always an honour to share the court with the Brazilian team,” USA coach Karch Kiraly said. “They are a legendary team having won the last two Olympic gold medals. They have won so many tournaments and they are very well coached by Ze Roberto. We love to compete against the best that is out there. Tonight we had a good plan and we executed it.”

USA’s best finish in the World Championship is second in 1967 and 2002. This is the second time they have reached the gold-medal match since the World Championship went away from the round-robin format.

USA have never won a major tournament title that includes the World Championships, World Cup and Olympic Games. USA ended their six-match losing streak to Brazil in FIVB and Olympic competition that started with a 3-1 loss in the 2012 Olympic Games. However, USA won all four matches against Brazil in the USA Volleyball Cup this past July. Overall, USA and Brazil have faced each other eight times in 2014 with USA winning five of the matches.

USA and Brazil have met nine times in World Championship competition with USA having won five times. They have met at least once in each of the last four World Championships.

Brazil had won 32 of their last 34 matches in the World Championship with the only setbacks coming to Russia in the 2006 and 2010 title matches. Brazil defeated USA in this year's second round of the World Championship as both teams rested their primary starters having already qualified for the third round.

Brazil was attempting to become the second team to reach the gold-medal match three times in a row after China in 1982 (gold), 1986 (silver) and 1990 (silver).

Semifinal #2 - 
China dampens enthusiasm of Italian home crowd - China defeated Italy 25-21, 25-20, 20-25, 30-28 to improve to 5-1 in semifinal matches and will play in the title match for a fifth time.

China were led by their young star Zhu Ting’s match-high 32 points and her teammate Yuan Xinyue added 16 points. Italy was led by Antonella Del Core’s 16 points and Nadia Centoni’s 15 points, while Valentina Diouf came off the bench to start the final two sets for 15 points.

China held a 14-10 margin in blocks to help offset Italy's 10-2 ace advantage. The Chinese out-spiked the Italians 62-53. 

“The game was going to be difficult because there were a lot of fans,” China coach Lang Ping said. “It was a great chance to get experience against an experienced Italian side. I told my players to learn about each other. We made sure we followed and didn't go with a second tempo. We didn't want to worry about errors, just kept our positive thinking.”

China converted 44.6 percent of their attacks into points with a .324 hitting efficiency and just 17 errors. Italy managed just a 38.1 attack percent with a .223 hitting efficiency. Italy had 22 attack errors and 12 serving faults in the match.

China now have a team-record 10 wins in a single edition of the World Championship. They had eight wins in 1974, 1982 and 1986.

Italy have now lost two of their three semifinal matches (win in 2002 and lost in 2006). They are still guaranteed a top-four finish for the third time. They were fifth in 2010. Italy were attempting to become the first hosts to win their semifinal match since Brazil won their semifinal at home in 1994. The only two times the host nation won the gold was in 1952 (URS/RUS) and in 1967 (JPN).


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