Volleyball: China dominate in HK to close in on Grand Prix Finals
- Updated: August 11, 2014
August 11, 2014: China boosted their chances of qualifying for this month’s FIVB World Grand Prix Finals in Tokyo by winning all three of their Pool F matches in Hong Kong, where teenage star Zhu Ting was named MVP.
China – runners-up to Brazil in last year’s six-team Finals – beat Italy 3-1 (25-20, 25-18, 22-25, 25-16) at the Hong Kong Coliseum on Sunday, with Zeng Chunlei top scoring with 20 points and Zhu contributing 19, including five blocks.
China had opened with a 3-1 win over Asian champions Thailand on Friday and added a 3-0 win over Japan, and their three straight wins vaulted them to third place in the 12-team preliminary round.
Coach Jenny Lang Ping was pleased that her team were able to avenge a 3-2 defeat to Italy in Pool C a week earlier and continue their winning run in Hong Kong, where they haven’t lost a Grand Prix match since 2010.
“Italy are a very strong team in Europe and their attacks and defence are well rounded,” Lang said. “In the previous pool in Italy, our attacking was not smart enough, but today we attacked quickly. Italy played very well today as well and I’m sure it was a nice match for the audience.”
China captain Hui Ruoqi added: “We’re very happy to win the pool in Hong Kong. It’s good recognition for us. In our last game against Italy, we lost 3-2, but today we supported each other and were determined to win.”
Japan – who automatically qualify for the Finals as hosts – beat Thailand 3-1 on Sunday, with captain Saori Kimura top scoring with 18 points. Japan moved to 10th in the standings, while Thailand are bottom in 12th place, having also won only one of their opening six matches.
China, who also lost to Brazil in Pool C in Italy, next head to Macau for Pool I. Lang’s side will again face Japan, as well as fourth-placed Serbia and a seventh-placed Korea side looking to make the top five to join the hosts in the six-team Finals.
Korea beat Russia 3-1 on Sunday to finish third in Pool D in Brazil, where they earlier lost 3-0 to both the hosts and USA.
Korea captain Kim Yeon-koung scored 42 points against Russia and is the event’s leading points scorer with 148 from six games, while Zhu is a distant second with 118.
“I owe this performance to the team, which played very well today,” said the 26-year-old Kim, who stands 1.92-metres tall. “We wanted to win at least one match in Brazil and we prepared very well to play against Russia. It was really good to play here.”
Korea coach Lee Sun-goo said: “I am happy that we won the last match. The players had big pressure on them, but they handled it pretty well with it and that’s why we won. We were also very lucky that Russia made so many mistakes.”
Korea started the three-week preliminary round at home, beating Thailand and Korea 3-1 before losing 3-1 to Serbia to finish second in Pool B, so have won three of their six matches so far.
The FIVB World Grand Prix Finals will be held in Tokyo’s Ariake Coliseum from August 20-24.
Source: FIVB (www.fivb.org); Editing by SportAsia