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Roundup: Host China suffers first loss, favorites Brazil, Cuba undefeated
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09:49, August 14, 2008

Zhao Ruirui (R) of China spikes the ball during the match China VS Cuba in women's preliminary pool A of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games volleyball event in Beijing, China, Aug. 13, 2008. Cuba beat China 3-2. (Xinhua/Zhao Zhongzhi)

Three-time Olympic champion Cuba staged an inspiring comeback from two sets down to give the host China its first loss in women's volleyball preliminaries on Tuesday.

It took the South Americans more than two hours to claim their third consecutive victory 18-25, 14-25, 25-23, 32-30 and 15-13 despite the overwhelming cheers of more than 15,000 home fans for the Chinese.

Feng Kun (L) and Zhao Ruirui (R) of China compete during the match China VS Cuba in women's preliminary pool A of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games volleyball event in Beijing, China, Aug. 13, 2008. Cuba beat China 3-2. (Xinhua/Zhao Zhongzhi)

"My players have given their best at the court and played well at the first two sets, but Cuba is more experienced than us to handle the crucial points. Their powerful serves also caused great troubles to our reception," said China's head coach Chen Zhonghe.

Showing satisfaction with his players, Cuba head coach Antonio Perdomo also gave credit to their rivals.

"We had to play with extraordinary effort to reach the high level of China. If we meet again in the future I'm still not sure who will win," said Perdomo.

The two teams, both unbeatable after two preliminary rounds, need to win this match to ensure a better position in the quarterfinals. However, Cuba's high jumpers were proved a cut above the host, especially on defending in the latter part of the match.

Rosir Calderon and China's Wang Yimei are best scorers of the two teams, both contributing 26 points.

Earlier in the day, World's No. 1 Brazil showed their great potential for its first-ever gold medal after romping past European runner-up Serbia 3-0.With the third consecutive straight-sets win,Brazil has the quarterfinals.

Following easy victories over Algeria and Russia, the Brazilians continued to show their dominance in the 25-15, 25-13 and 25-23 sweep of the Serbian women, who stunned the world by winning the bronze medal at the 2006 World Championships.

Even Roberto Guimaraes, who led Brazil to the victory in the 2008 World Grand Prix Finals in July, was surprised by his players' superb performance.

"We have improved our blocking, defense and serving since the World Grand Prix final round and I don't know what else we can improve on," he added. "I just hope that we can keep playing like this."

As Brazil and Cuba heading confidently to the quarterfinals, another favorite Russia still have long way to go.

After losing to Italy and Brazil in its first two matches,Russia trounced Kazakhstan 3-0 to revive its chance to enter the quarterfinals.Kazakhsta has yet to record a win in three tries in the round-robin play.

"I am very happy for the victory, we played better and better in the last two games," said Russia head coach Giovanni Caprara. "I am confident that we can make the quarterfinals and even go further."

Like the Russians, the United States staggers in women's volleyball preliminaries with risky victory over Olympic newcomer Venezuela 3-1, keeping their hope to the quarterfinals alive after this second win.

The Americans, beaten by Cuba 3-0 on Monday, could barely realize their goal of "bringing a medal home" if they lost this match, as they are facing much stronger China and Poland in the rest two preliminaries.

"It's going to be a very tough game. China is the host and they play very well," said China-born U.S. head coach Jenny Lang Ping. "Though I do know well of the Chinese team, it's the players to play the game, not me. We just get well prepared and try to play the best."

Venezuela is hardly to get survived from the preliminaries after losing their third match, but the team's head coach Tomas Fernandez sees the future.

"Our players have an average age of just over 18. In the next Olympic games, when the other teams have to change over their players, we won't have to change our squad," said the coach.

In the first match of the day, Italy powered to a straight-set victory over inexperienced Algeria. The north Africans, however, showed great fighting spirit to score 20 points in the second set, the highest in their three preliminaries.

Japan ended Tuesday's fierce competition with a 3-2 victory over Poland. The hard-earned win saved Japan's hope to enter the final eight with a 1-2 win-loss record. While Poland's chance to go further turned slim after the third loss.

Twelve teams are competing in two groups in the preliminary round with top four finishers from each group to qualify for the quarter-finals.

Host China is in Pool A together with Cuba, Japan, Poland, United States and Venezuela, while Italy, Algeria, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Russia and Serbia are in Pool B. The knockout stage runs from Aug. 19 to 23.
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