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 MVP Paula Pequeno and Berg’s superb setting in contrast to an ageing Brazil helped the Americans prosper and seal a second win in Pool B.
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.
South Korea’s number 10 Kim Yeon-koung was the top scorer with 34 points as her side defeated Serbia 3-1 for the first time 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 immense spiking ability.
“She is absolutely necessary for our team to win and I really trust her,” South Korea coach Kim Hyung-sil told a news conference with his counterpart Zoran Terzic just as gushing.
“She is one of the best players in the world - no doubt about it,” he said.
Asia also prevailed over Europe in the day’s opening encounter in Pool B at west London’s Earl’s Court Arena.
Medal hopefuls China outfought Turkey 3-1 with both sides being roared on by sizeable contingents of their own fans.
The venue was over three-quarters full but the area for the “Olympic family”, which includes seats for team officials and sports federation invitees, was again almost empty.
Italy face Japan and hosts Britain take on Algeria later on Monday.
Editing by Justin Palmer