China lead race to join Thailand at World Grand Prix Finals


China have won their six matches and lead Russia by one point in World Grand Prix Group 1

Lausanne, Switzerland, June 22, 2016 - The Dominican Republic (Group 2) and Croatia (Group 3) have already claimed honours in this year's edition of the FIVB World Grand Prix. But this week the last 18 matches in the Preliminary Round will decide which five nations join hosts Thailand in the Group 1 Finals in Bangkok from July 6 to 10.

The Group 1 Finals could feature five former World Grand Prix winners who have all already qualified for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. After two of three Group 1 Preliminary Round weekends, China (they have one FIVB World Grand Prix title) and Russia (3) are in the lead, both unbeaten after six matches. They are followed by defending World Grand Prix and world champions USA (six World Grand Prix titles in total), who have recorded five wins. Olympic hosts and FIVB World Grand Prix record winners Brazil (10 titles) and the Netherlands (1 title) have chalked up four wins each.

Leaders China will enjoy home advantage for the final weekend of Preliminary Round matches. The team led by star coach “Jenny” Lang Ping will face rivals USA and the Netherlands in Hong Kong, as well as Germany, who are winless so far. Although they should have no trouble reaching the final round, having recently outclassed double Olympic champions Brazil 3-0 in Macau, China still have room for improvement. “I feel my players still lack consistency; our tactical approach and adjustment on court still require improvements. I also think that we need more work on reception against hard-serving opponents,” said coach Lang. Captain Hui Ruoqi promised: “We will prepare thoroughly for the future matches and we need to have more belief in our ability. We hope this win will help to build up our confidence to play even better in the next matches.”

They will need to keep playing well, especially as defending champions USA are improving with every match. Last week, the team trained by Karch Kiraly won their three home games. USA captain Christa Dietzen said she is looking forward to a challenging tournament: “I think each week we build on the previous week. We work on areas of weakness and take them into matches against Germany, the Netherlands and China. We are really excited to have the opportunity to compete as a team against the Netherlands and China, and will see them in Rio.”

Russia, also undefeated, take on hosts Japan, Thailand and Serbia in Tokyo. Russia coach Yury Marichev said: “We are ahead of the Final Six. I am very pleased with the results achieved so far in this round. But we have to become better each match and try different tactics for the upcoming highlights.” The coach was also referring to the Olympic Games, where Russia will again face their Tokyo rivals Japan and Serbia.

The Japanese players are looking forward to returning home after last weekend’s tournament in the United States.

Serbia, despite only having a theoretical chance of reaching the Group 1 Finals after just two wins, feel that progress is being made in the build-up to Rio, after beating Brazil. Serbia coach Zoran Terzic said: “It has not been easy for us as we played three five-set matches last weekend, but it has also been good for us because we keep improving. We expect we will improve even more when we play in Japan.”

At the third Preliminary Round tournament this weekend, hosts Turkey will face Brazil, Italy and the winless Belgium team in Ankara. Turkey still hope to reach the final round after three wins from six matches. Coach Ferhat Akbas said: “We need to look forward to the future as we have three very important matches at home. We will try our best to go to Bangkok for the Finals.” That is also the minimum expected of record winners Brazil, who arrived in Turkey after an 18-hour journey. They are working hard in training – the 3-0 defeat against China last weekend showed how much the team need to improve.

Brazil coach José Roberto Guimarães said: “We have to work hard to go to the Finals and find the right form for the Olympic Games in Rio. The FIVB World Grand Prix is the perfect preparation.”

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