LONDON (Reuters) - An almost robotically focused United States women’s team proved revenge is a dish best served cold when they got their own back on 2008 champions Brazil with an emphatic Olympic volleyball pool victory on Monday.
The Americans lost out in the Beijing final to their yellow and blue clad foes but prevailed 3-1 in one of the ultimate grudge matches of these London Games to lay down a marker for later in the tournament when the pair could meet again.
As the teams rattled through the points and pop music blared out every other minute to tire out the cheerleaders, the U.S. showed nerves of steel amid some unsporting jeers from the Brazil fans with only captain Lindsey Berg affected on serve.
A highly successful blocking strategy against off-form 2008 Most Valuable Player Paula Pequeno and Berg’s superb setting in contrast to that of Brazil’s helped the Americans prosper and seal a second win in Pool B.
“We had some good touches but we’ll have to get better for our next game with China,” demanding U.S. coach Hugh McCutcheon told Reuters.
“Any time we play Brazil it is very special. We are two strong teams that compete hard,” the New Zealander added.
Brazil captain Fabiana Claudino thought the duo were still likely to meet in the final again despite her side’s drubbing.
“We will think about our mistakes but then move on,” she told reporters.
With the top four in each six-team pool making the August 7 quarter-finals after their five group games, world champions Russia also made it two wins from two but were pushed hard by the Dominican Republic in a 3-1 victory.
The Caribbean nation matched their huge rivals in height and heart in a close 25-23 first-set loss and then stunned everybody by winning the third, only to come up short in the Pool A clash despite a series of desperate dives.
Russia are top of Pool A alongside Italy, who battled past Japan 3-1 after a string of enthralling rallies, while hosts Britain recorded their first Olympic victory in only their second Games match ever with a nail-biting 3-2 triumph over Algeria.
The British side, put together especially for the Games, prevailed against the north African minnows at 12.40 a.m. local time (11.40 p.m. GMT) with most of the vibrant crowd having already headed to their beds amid mumbling about late scheduling.
South Korea’s number 10 Kim Yeon-koung was the top scorer with 34 points as her side defeated Serbia 3-1 to register their opening win of Pool B.
Kim, whose only real blemish came when she was penalised for smashing the ball into an opponent’s face, is set to be one of the stand out performers at the Games with her spiking ability.
“She is one of the best players in the world - no doubt about it,” Serbia coach Zoran Terzic said.
Asia also prevailed over Europe in the day’s opening encounter in Pool B at west London’s Earls Court Arena.
Medal hopefuls China outfought Turkey 3-1 with both sides roared on by sizeable contingents of fans.
The venue was over three-quarters full early on but the area for the “Olympic family”, which includes seats for team officials and sports federation invitees, was again almost empty.
Editing by Justin Palmer