By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – The Brazilian volleyball team looks certain to qualify from Pool A of the 2010 FIVB World Volleyball League and book their place in the finals in Argentina after defeating group rivals Korea. Brazil also share the Pool with Bulgaria and the Netherlands, with only the winner going through to the final group of six playing for the 2010 title.
The side, also defending world champions, comfortably defeated Korea 3-1 ( 25-18, 25-23, 23-25, 25-15) on Sunday, in front of a crowd of almost 5,000 to maintain their dominance at the top of the group, and their performances throughout the competition have indicated they have a real chance of taking the world title come July 25th.
The Koreans now have no chance of qualifying for the final round, which will begin on July 21st. Only Bulgaria can now halt Brazil’s progress as they continue their march towards the crown after comprehensively beating the Netherlands 3-0 on Sunday to stay in with a shout of progress. They must, however, secure an unlikely 3-1 victory against favorites Brazil to make the final round.
The two countries will face each other next weekend in what should be a thrilling encounter which will see only the winner progress, though not many are betting against the favorites continuing in the tournament having won the FIVB world title eight times, more than any other nation.
The team’s quest for glory has been helped significantly by the continuing presence of 2008 Olympic champions Giba, Sergio and Rodrigao, as well as experienced coach Bernardo Rezende, affectionately known as ‘Bernardinho’, at the helm. His 1,991-to-eleven win record as coach has inspired deserved confidence in his squad, which has plenty of experience of competing at this level besides the three Olympic gold medal winners.
In the three other groups, Italy and Serbia are tied at the top of Pool B, and will play each other in Belgrade on Wednesday and Thursday to determine who will makes it to Argentina at the end of the month. Serbia, last year’s runners up, beat France 3-1 on Friday before losing the second match 3-2 in a thrilling tie. However, Serbian captain Bojan Janic is still confident his side can beat Italy this week to continue their progress.
“Everything is in our hands, and with victory over Italy we are good to go to Argentina. We will do our best to achieve that goal,” he said.
Meanwhile, Russia’s shock defeat to Finland on Saturday still means they have it all to do against the USA at the weekend in another winner-takes-all match. Meanwhile the U.S.A narrowly defeated Egypt twice, 3-2 on both occasions, to keep the pressure on the Russians.
And in Pool D, Cuba look on track to win the group and move into the finals following comfortable 3-0 and 3-1 victories over Poland to move onto 24 points, five clear of Germany who are second after two 3-1 wins against Argentina.
With no group decided going into the final Intercontinental round this weekend, there is still everything to play for. Bernardinho, however, will be pleased with the position Brazil find themselves in as they prepare to face Bulgaria.