In front of a sell-out crowd at Mediolanum Forum, World No. 5 kept the upper hand over host Italy 3-1. It's been an incredible night of volleyball in Milan.
Milan, Italy, October 11, 2014 – In front of a sell-out crowd in Milan’s Mediolanum Forum, World No. 5 kept the upper hand over host Italy 3-1 (25-21, 25-20, 20-25, 30-28) to advance for the fifth time in their history to the gold medal match of World Championship. In Sunday’s final of the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship Italy 2014, the Asians will take on World No. 2 USA at 20.00. China will attempt to win their third World Championship title with gold in 1982 and 1986.
China already met Italy in the 2002 semifinals, but lost 3-1 as Italy went on to win the title.
China are now 5-1 in semifinal matches. They won the first four semifinals in straight sets before losing to Italy in 2002.
Italy have now lost two of their three semifinal matches (win in 2002 and lost in 2006).
- China snap a two-match World Championship losing streak to Italy, which included a 3-1 loss in the second round of this World Championship. China are now 6-2 all-time against Italy in World Championship matches.
- 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.
- Both China and USA have two losses in the World Championship. Only Italy have won the World Championship (2002) with two losses.
- Italy are still guaranteed a top-four finish for the third time. They were fifth in 2010.
Best scorer of Saturday’s second semifinal was China’s super star Ting Zhu contributing 32 points for her team. Antonella Del Core scored 16 times for the hosts. The Asian side had the lead in block kills 14-10.
There was not much to separate the two teams in the early stages of Saturday’s second semifinal. Nadia Centoni gained the first lead for the hosts at 6-5. China immediately fought back to turn the tables at 8-7. The two squads enjoyed a huge party in Milan’s sellout Mediolanum Forum with 12,600 electrified fans cheering for their heroines. Chunlei Zeng moved China forward to a two-point lead at the second technical break. Three Chinese block winners and five Italian errors were the main reasons for the Asian supremacy at that stage of the match. Yuan Xinyue and Ting Zhu widened the gap to 19-15 to force Italy coach Marco Bonitta calling his players off court. However, it was already too late. China gradually continued their course to end the opening set 25-21 in their favor – with a huge kill from Ting Zhu.
Even though the loss of the first set seemed to be a big surprise for the home team, they came back powerfully in the beginning of the second set. Carolina Costagrande fired wildly to give Italy an early 5-4 lead. China super star Ting Zhu instantly replied with three kills to turn around the score in the middle of the second set. At the second technical timeout, World No. 5 China already led 16-11. Bonitta sent in Francesca Ferretti for starting setter Eleonora Lo Bianco to change Italy’s offensive patterns. Still, it did not help. The Chinese defense was just too brilliant at that moment of the match. A short serve of Antonella Del Core offered the Asian side a comfortable 2-0 set lead at 25-20.
The hosts – however – were far from giving in at the start of the third set. Valentina Diouf, who came in for Carolina Costagrande, blocked for an early 6-3 lead. At the first TTO, Italy were still three points ahead. Diouf, breathing new life into Bonitta’s squad, opened the gap to four points at 17-13. China rallied back to 17-16 and 21-20, but the hosts kept calm. Raphaela Folie blocked China captain Ruoqi Hui to make it 23-20, Del Core served an ace and Diouf closed it out at 25-20 - to narrow the gap to 2-1 overall. Diouf had contributed eight points to Italy’s set win.
It remained a close affair in the beginning of the fourth set with both teams working hard to gain momentum. The undeniable leader for China was Ting Zhu with 21 points in three sets, while Diouf had turned into the main force for Italy. The hosts led 14-11 in the middle of the set, but China immediately battled back to regain momentum 16-15 at the second technical break. It was the turning point of the set – and maybe the key moment of the match. Ting Zhu continued her show to make it 18-15 for the Asian side. It was the fifth consecutive point for China. Italy bounced back heroically, saved four match balls in an amazing finish, but eventually could not stop China’s run to Sunday’s gold medal match. Ruoqi Hui, after 117 minutes of tough battle, ended the fourth set 30-28 and the match 3-1 for China.